I was planning on returning to the subject of writing with this post, since I haven’t written anything about writing since I started blogging again a few weeks ago. Writing is what this blog is supposed to be about, in part at least. But two things changed my mind. Firstly, not a great deal of writing has taken place in this house recently (kids not napping at the same time, blah, blah). Secondly, I received a lot of lovely, positive feedback to my previous blog post, “Great Expectations and Familial Frustrations”.
Firstly, I am thankful to everyone who takes the time to read my blog. And I am humbled and honoured that many of you take further time to offer me your feedback and encouragement. Okay, so most of the feedback I received was from other Mums that I know personally, so part of me feels that you are just saying nice things to me because you are such lovely people. But I also received feedback from a few people I don’t know, and that makes me hope that something in what I wrote struck a chord. And, because it can be a lonely, isolating transition from working, socially active woman to stay-at-home milk machine, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you wonderful Mums out there who have been there for me since I first got into this parenting gig.
Over the past two years, I have met younger Mums and older Mums, working Mums and stay-at-home Mums, breastfeeding Mums and bottlefeeding Mums, Mums who co-sleep and Mums who don’t, Mums who feed their kids activated almonds and Mums who feed their kids pork scratchings. And I have learned something from every single one of you awesome mothers. Some of you are new friends, others I have known for years, and some of you I have never met, but you have all influenced me, and hopefully made me a better parent for it.
Look, it’s not easy being a Mum, we all know that. (Dads, this blog post isn’t about you, but you are awesome too, okay? We love you, we appreciate you, and we couldn’t do it without you.) Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Motherhood. Here we are, thrown into a job we’ve never done before, with no training and no manual, expected to work a 24-hour shift seven days a week, and with a boss (or bosses) who make Pol Pot look like a laidback, easygoing kinda guy. But while the physical side of being a new Mum is hard in itself (let’s not discuss chronic sleep deprivation, cracked nipples, or what it feels like to rock a 10kg baby to sleep in your arms for forty-five minutes at 3am, shall we?), much harder than that is the mental strain it puts us under. Those without kids can disagree all you like, but raising children is not like caring for a pet dog. Trust me, if I was allowed to make my kids sleep outside all night with a blanket and a shin bone for company, I would, but I’ve done the research and it’s not okay, apparently. Children are our creation, they are literally a part of us, and the emotional investment which goes into not only caring for them, but raising them to be (we pray) content, emotionally secure, well-adjusted, kind adults, can be exhausting.
To make matters worse, we are bombarded on a daily basis by ‘expert’ opinion telling us over and over again that we are Doing It Wrong. Swaddle your baby? Their legs will drop off. Allow them to take a bottle to bed? Their teeth will fall out. It doesn’t help that these parenting ‘experts’ change their mind about what we should be doing more often than the rest of us are changing pooey nappies. And there’s no escaping the labels. Watch your pre-schooler doesn’t hurt themselves at the playground? You’re a Helicopter Mum. Allow your kids to go to the park by themselves? You’re a Free-Range Mum. Help your kid with their homework? You’re a Snowplough Mum. Enrol your kid in piano lessons? You’re a Tiger Mum. Teach your two-year-old to sing “nana nana nana nana BATMAN”? You’re a Dad.
On top of all this ‘expert’ waffle, many of us are receiving well-intentioned but totally useless parenting advice from older relatives, many of whom last did this parenting-of-littlies gig several decades ago. Teething baby? Drop of arsenic will fix that. Toddler tantrum? Clout around the ear will fix that. YOU ARE NOT HELPING.
So, with all this insecurity and self-doubt swirling around our sleep-deprived brains, it is comforting to think that we can all, you know, be cool with each other and not give each other a hard time.The media would have us believe that we Mums are a nasty bunch, always judging and criticising each other for doing things a different way. I haven’t found this to be the case. I have heard differently from other women, but I for one have not (yet) met a single Mum who has made me feel like I’m completely stuffing things up. What I have found – personally and online – is a supportive and inclusive community of women who are just trying to do a decent job of bringing up their kids. And I wouldn’t be the mother I am today without the friendships, the kindnesses, and the words of wisdom you have all offered me over the past two years.
So, in a roundabout way, what I want to say is:
To all the mothers I know personally, who have listened, comforted, commiserated, and laughed with me: I salute you.
To all the mothers out there writing brilliant blog posts on motherhood, and causing me to have many wonderful laugh-out-loud moments of recognition: I salute you.
To all the mothers campaigning at grassroots level for the right of all mothers to breastfeed in public without fear of discrimination: I salute you.
To all the mothers who believe a mother should be able to bottlefeed in public without being judged: I salute you.
To all the mothers who allow your daughters to play with toy trucks, and your sons to play with dolls, or the other way around, on any given day, whatever: I salute you.
To all the mothers out there: here you stand, raising the next generation of humans who will take over this world we have created. And I feel honoured to stand amongst you. You are doing a wonderful job.