Monday, 17 October 2011

Being a Mama is hard

This something I think we all have to get out in the open. Being a mama is probably the most difficult thing I've ever done. It's basically signing up for a 24/7 job with no previous experience, no idea of what the job will entail, and no salary. You get no sick days/ leave, you have no job-sharing option and your promotion is when you have another child and you get more responsibility but no raise. Of course there are perks. The smiles, kisses, hugs, smell, cuddles you get or take from your kids, but we all know about the rosy side to parenthood. Mothers have a barrage of media-driven images of "yummy mummies", perfect lives in blogs and their own high standards to live up to. We all do our best to be washed, dressed, made-up, in clean clothes, even looking after ourselves is a full-time job, then you have to have your kids groomed to the same high standard, not to mention keeping the household chores ticking over, feeding everyone, and working outside the home if you do that too. Breastfeeding is a full-time job. Everything is a full-time job.

Mothering is hard. Everyone has a crash after the first child arrives. For some like me, it's immediately following the birth, a sense of panic at the huge responsibility, the unrelenting thankless role you're suddenly in. I can honestly say it took about 5 months until I could look at my first son and say "I'll be your mama, I'll mind you every day and night until you can mind yourself" It was still about 6 more months until I really believed I really had to / could do it. Some mothers get on fine for a few weeks or months, but the crash hits everyone the same. You have to rethink who you are as a person. The old you is gone. You're living a new life, and you have to figure out your new identity. I started this blog because it took me about two years to realise I'd lost touch with who I was, I'd completely immersed myself in mothering my child, and I needed to focus a little on myself. Even now, at the end of a busy day tandem feeding, playing and caring for two babies, I love thinking about fahion, surfing other blogs and just being "me" for a while. Too often, though, mothers think the way round this panic is to remove themselves from the baby, like rushing back to work, or putting the baby in a creche so they can have time to themselves. Yes, that solves the short-term panic of having to be responsible 24/7, and puts it onto another caregiver's shoulders, but you are still their mother, the buck stops with you, so you have to reconcile that and learn to relax and enjoy mothering too, not always look for an "out". The first thing anyone says to a tired, overwhelmed mother is "I'll take the baby, give you a break / you go for a weekend away" etc. This is not the answer, not all the time. The mother needs someone to look after all her other responsibilities, like chores, cooking, to let her be free to just mother the new baby. That's where she'll find her happiness, in just enjoying the baby and bonding with him. She had the baby, she wanted the bond, and she needs support to create the bond. "Bonding" is not something that happens in the few hours after birth, it takes days, weeks, months of caring for your child until you realise someday that you would die for them because they are part of your heart. A lot of mothers think they should feel like this the very same day they give birth. This is another "rosy view of motherhood" from the media, which fails us as mothers.

In the fearful early days I couldn't even think "just take each day one at a time", I had to take each breastfeed at a time. I remember my husband saying to me when Charlie was about 3 weeks old, "God, imagine some day he'll be going to school" I said I can't even imagine having to be still caring for him this evening", I'm just trying to get through this feed. I'd never kept a plant or pet alive, how was i to keep a child alive and safe, especially taking on the responsibility of making his milk from my own body, something I'd never done before. The blind trust in the process of breastfeeding was very shaky at the start. I remember standing in the kitchen when Charlie was 5 weeks old, feeding him, and saying to my mom and midwife "I don't think I can do it" (referring to breastfeeding and the whole responsibility of mothering). My midwife said "But you're doing it". This is something I think of at times when I'm feeling overwhelmed, that just have to concentrate on this feed, this hour, this day, and not worry about the huge job of mothering two children.

Every new mother I know has had a period of fear and overwhelming panic about her new role. Most agree it isn't until their child turns one that they settle into mothering properly. Some have a harder time of it than others. I think a lot depends on your personality, your level of "control freak"ery, your support system, your relationship with your partner, your attitude to changing events in general, etc. All these factors mean you can't compare one mother with another. We invariably do though, wondering why what works for her doesn't work for me etc.
Children teach you to live in the moment. They don't care that you were cranky before breakfast as long as you're having fun with them now. They don't care about what tomorrow will bring, they only need to be fed and loved now. You learn to relax about the big questions, and work on being happy and content now, in this moment, and to enjoy this very second with your babies. I can honestly say that I've never been happier than I am now, as a mother of two. I'm completely content with my life. I 've ticked off everything on my "to do before I die" mental list, and I don't need anything else. It's been a long road getting here. Even with my first son, I was so happy being his mom but I knew I needed another baby to make our family complete. You know you're happy when you find your mind is at peace, and you aren't living another life in your head where something is different. It takes a lot of talking and thinking to reinvent yourself as a mother, you have to come to terms with being an adult first, but when you do you reach a whole new level of freedom and self-confidence, and you thrive.
Now enough of the deep stuff, let's talk lipglosses!

3 comments:

  1. *stands up & claps*

    Wonderful post. Really wonderful. Going back to read it again in fact!!

    Áine

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  2. Thank you for all your kind comments, Aine! It's really validating sharing all these personal experiences when I get feedback like this. I'm totally in awe of all you've achieved with your blog and am honoured you're reading mine,
    Niamh

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  3. This is the best explanation of what I went through when I had my daughter in 2010. I could not have put it better myself, so I sent to my husband. I hope that it helps him understand me better. It has already helped me feel not so alone.

    Thank you,

    Steph

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