photo by kama catch me
I read, quite a lot actually. Which surprised me, especially in those first few weeks with Rafa (who didn’t sleep much). In those early weeks I was devouring books at a pace that surprised me. It’s in my nature to turn to books: for solace and for information. I’ve since read a lot of books about child development and yes, parenting. Growing the human seemed like the easier part. The more I read I notice sometimes subtly and other times more obviously how “that mum” is often mocked, and how that ”other” mum is praised.
It seems easier for people to hear “parenting is hard, this shit sucks, today my baby screamed, pooped on the rug and vomited on me.” This mum seems to be congratulated for her honesty. This mum is the mum literature suggests is an accurate representation of motherhood and the realities of parenting.
Much harder, it appears, for people to hear is “I’m so tired, but we had a great day. I managed to get to the green grocer, got a healthy meal on the table, took my child to the art gallery and got a fluffy and hot chocolate on the way home.” This mum, no one wants to know her. And if they do, it’s only to ridicule her unfair, and dishonest representation of motherhood.
After reading many version of the latter description and the ensuing analysis that this type of mum is unrealistic to aspire to, and the suggestions that this mum is somewhat fictional and not good for herself or her child. I felt disheartened and was left feeling that my experience of motherhood shouldn’t be shared or spoken about beyond my absolute inner circle. Or that if asked how things were going, I must under no circumstance talk about that latter description. No. I must instead mention how tired I am, and then society will comfort me, offer me ‘support’ in the form of tremendously unhelpful words.
You see, friends, I did find parenting shitty – those first few weeks. I didn’t find them joyful. I was over the moon and so in love with my child, but there was no magic in it. He cried, he didn’t seem to want to sleep anywhere other than on me, I was so tired and so sore. It wasn’t until later that he started engaging with me, doing things, interacting with the world that the magic began. Back then, there were so many messages from new mums saying thank you, I was too scared to say this, or yes, this is what it’s like for me too.
Now. Now things are very different and they have been very different for a while. I absolutely love the days that Rafa and I share together. Sure we argue – like in any relationship. But I cross my heart, we manage splendid trips to the greengrocer, read, play, make a mess, get dinner done, enjoy an outing (either the museum, art gallery, or the park, or some place, any place), and then a cafe date, and then at around 4pm we clean up the toys together. Lately, Rafa has loved vacuuming so we vacuum. I might spend the early evening baking. There’s a little bit of time of read, a little more to work (either creative or professional) and some for Patrick and I.
I’m by no means the perfect mother. I’m learning so much from other parents, from books, from Rafa. From failing, spectacularly (often). The reason that I write this is because I truly do not feel like one type of mother should be placed on a pedestal. I can’t talk about shitty, crappy days if I don’t have them (the same way I can’t talk about a child that naps for 3 hours in the day, because I’ve never had one that does that). And being dishonest about my experience would be a disservice to my child, to our children. But for so long I shied from talking about our days because they weren’t full of poo explosion, vomit down my clothes or drama. I felt that, that was all people wanted to hear about. No one wanted to know that Rafa and I spent almost 40 minutes sitting and putting stickers on paper (which really is a wonderful activity to strengthen hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills).
I want to be able to freely express my mothering and my motherhood experience. And you should be able to freely express yours. Whatever it maybe. And however you choose to express yours (expletives and all, if you choose). What I don’t want to do is say “so tiring” in answer to “‘how is it going?”, I want to answer honestly, which at this point in time is “wonderfully! I feel like we’re both thriving!” The mum that I AM, that’s the mum I want to be and to talk about. “THAT MUM”, is the mum that I am at this point in time. I want to hear about the mum that you are, whatever and however she maybe. We might have a thing or two to learn from each other, or perhaps, we’ll just sit quietly with nothing to offer the other except silent strength and a safe space to be “that mum”.