Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where’s My Band-Aid? (What They Didn’t Tell You During The Welcome To Motherhood Seminar)

We, as mothers, are a special group of creatures. We are no longer fully human, and we (in most cases) are no longer ever alone. Even when we are not in the physical presence of our children, they are always with us. ALWAYS. Don’t believe me? Ask a mother who has lost a child. Regardless of whether the loss was a first trimester miscarriage, full term still birth, infant death, or death at any age due to terminal illness or tragic accident, that mother will tell you that she will forever carry her child in her heart, and on her soul.

The ability to find a balance between all parts of life is something every Mum struggles with and usually never achieves. Mums are often their own harshest critics, and while others may think a Mum is doing a great job, she will find a fault or flaw in her performance every time. She can (and will) try to be all things to all people, but in the end she is shorting everyone, including herself. Before long everyone starts feeling the effects of an overworked mother and that’s when the Mum Guilt really kicks in.

The guilt, ahh the sweet, sweet guilt. That may actually be the hardest thing to deal with as a Mum. Do you know there are actually shits out there that think that working Mums are selfish, and that every Mum should stay home with her children? That if someone can't afford to stay home with their offspring, they shouldn't have them, and what's worse is that these idiots take it one step farther and actually tell working Mums this rubbish. Talk about guilt. As if a Mum doesn't have enough guilt of her own in the first place, now she has some wanker telling her that her decision to bear children was selfish and her choice to go back to work to help pay the bills was selfish as well. Then there are the people who tell stay home Mums that they should go out and get a real job because they need to buy everything under the sun for their child, and they are a bad parent if they tell their child "No". Mums are bombarded on a daily basis with guilt from outside forces, from their children, and whether they realize it or not, from their spouses as well, and it often seems that you can’t win for losing. You're damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

We are conditioned to think that to be a good Mum; we HAVE to be everything to everyone. That we have to do it all perfectly, without complaint, and damnit you better have a big happy smile on your face the whole time. Well, it’s time to wake up and realize that the reason Donna Reed and June Cleaver were so complacent all the time is because they were self medicating with a bottle of red, a bottle of white, and a few gin and tonics in the kitchen while they were fixing dinner.

Mums have to be the caretaker for the whole family. They have to be there to pick everyone up when they fall, Band-Aid in hand, arms ready for the soothing hug and pat on the back. But who's there to pick Mum up when she stumbles? In most cases, no one. Some women are lucky to have a very supportive husband, or a Mum of their own who is there for them, but a lot of women don't have that.

That's when your friends show who they really are. Every Mum needs a strong circle of women to support her. To pick her up, put the Band-Aid on the injury, and tell her she’s going to be ok. To tell her it’s alright to call the nanny, and go off on a shopping trip or to the library or the movies by herself. That yes, it’s ok to not love every bloody minute of being a Mum, and that no matter how much you love your children, they are still people with personalities of their own, and that as such, there is no way you could possibly be happy with them at all times.

My daughter and I clash on a regular basis. She may only be five, but she has a definite personality, and it does not mesh well with mine. I came to terms with the shouted accusation that I’m a “mean Mum” a long time ago. That doesn't make it hurt any less, but I know that someday she will be the mean Mum, and she’ll look back on her childhood and realize that I really wasn’t that mean after all. That someday, in the future, her daughter will be reflecting on her childhood and thinking the same thing. At least that’s what I tell myself, so I have the strength to get through her third meltdown of the day because I wouldn’t buy her the shiny/sparkly/pretty/though ultimately useless piece of plastic that she suddenly can’t live without.

So, for all you struggling Mums, hang in there. I’d like to say it will get better, but I honestly don't know if it will. I've only been doing this for five years, so the jury is still out at my house. I think it changes as they age. It becomes a different dance. Not really better or worse, easier or harder, just different. All I can do is hope I can learn the steps fast enough so I don’t stumble and fall, because I'm fresh out of Band-Aids.

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