THE WAY OF THE MOTHER PART 2
To answer my own question posed in the previous post – e. Not always all at once. But whatever allows us time to move away and find an island somewhere that we can get back to calm. And if a packet of Smarties are involved, all the better. We love a bit of sugar laden high after a meltdown.
There’s a few things which have disturbed me in blogland recently about the way we mother. Perhaps I’m being oversensitive to things, or just reading in the wrong places, but there’s a growing number of comments (in comments sections, just to be clear) on very wonderful blogs written by wonderful mothers suggesting either a conformity to a set of stereotypical principles of “right” mothering, or non-conformity to those principles based on simple everyday decisions and actions which are in theory highly personal.
I take great exception to people assuming your right to being a mother – or more simply your degree of ‘good mothering’ because of something you show on your blog, or a decision you’ve made, or more importantly, because you tell of the reality of mothering that is your experience. There is one blog I have been reading recently written by a lovely, articulate and funny lady who has just had a baby. She’s had a rough go so far – but nothing unusual in anything that’s happened – it’s the real experience of, I suspect, a great majority of mothers. She’s put herself out there to express the way she feels about some things and involved her readers in some painful decisions she’s been making. And she’s dared to suggest that, you know what, some of this really isn’t fun, and actually I really don’t like some aspects of this. I give her 100% credit and respect for standing up and saying this, particularly at the point she is with her baby, and a lot of her readers are following her every word because they too are going through the same thing, or about to.
Does this make her a lesser mother for writing all that she does? Does it make her a worse mother than the one who finds sheer delight in every moment of their child’s life and doesn't outwardly acknowledge the time when it’s rough? Does it make her child less loved? Absolutely not. She loves her child. She enjoys her child. All of that is clear, and transcends the rougher moments of her days. Yet, someone thinks she ‘lacks a maternal gene’, and suggests she should never have become a mother (yes, they suggested she should never have become a mother). Now this really irks me. Where in any baby book does it say we must all be in raptures at our children every single moment of every single day? Where does it say ‘thou shalt not mention the rough bits’?? Where does it say there is no choice but the righteous choice no matter how much physical and emotional pain you’re in? Because somewhere along the line, once we have given birth, we aren’t supposed to talk about the rough bits for a period of time up to, but not limited to, the age of 18 months, and to do so means we really haven’t got the hang of being a mother, or are somehow not entitled to the name. Must we all be martyrs?
I read comments on blogs, and for those posts on blogs which I feel an affinity to, I take great personal strength from the comments as well as the writer. That’s why we all read blogs we like and feel close to. To see and understand another person’s experiences which are similar to your own, and to draw strength from unity and justification of choices is confidence building, even for me who has already had one child. I find great joy in the positives of parenting and the love and hope a child brings to people's lives, but I also know it's not like that all the time, for anyone, and it's good to see that. It somehow makes the joy even more exceptional:: there is nothing so beautiful as a smile after an afternoon of crying in pain. However at the moment I feel like I, as a normal, relaxed mother with strong ideals, am doing a really atrocious job, or that somehow you’ve all got the wrong idea in the other extreme because of the fragments I choose to show. I’m really grappling with strength of conviction – should I be stronger, should I be more rigid in my thinking, will it make a better outcome and if so for who – me or the child? If I do this what will people think, if I do that what will people think? Does it matter if 100 people agree with me and 1 person doesn’t?
I’m a real mother. I may do nice craft work and sew well and knit well and I do a lot of it out of sheer love for my children and the joy of giving something back to them made with love and my time. But the house often goes uncleaned for the week. We often don’t have fresh fruit in the fridge. I loose my patience with Max some days. And some mealtimes he goes without food because he’s not hungry and I’m tired. Given the choice of a 3 year old and a pooey bottom, and a crying baby, the pooey bottom wins. Yes. Sometimes I must let Pia cry because I have to make value judgements as to whose needs are more important for that 60 second period of time. Does this make me a bad mother? According to some people, Yes. It does make me a very bad mother. In some people’s eyes, I should never have gone down this path and I should never have taken the right to be a mother that some people will never have a chance of knowing. And that just breaks my heart to even think that someone could form that judgement about me, or anyone else. If I rewrote those sentences and said we make an effort to go somewhere interesting every day he’s not in daycare, he eats as much fresh fruit as we can give him and that he wants (which is a lot and that’s why we sometimes don’t have it in the fridge), he has access to craft materials and paper constantly and he involves us in his imaginative play, and we spend a great deal of time encouraging and promoting his use of the toilet and he now has the confidence to wipe his own bottom, does that make me a better mother in your eyes? All of that is true – just depends how I present it as to what value judgement is give on my mothering qualities.
I’m speaking in overzealous generalizations here and I know that has the potential to be taken the wrong way and cause offence, but I think the concept remains – assuming the right to being a good mother has to be earnt by some stringent adherence to some set of ‘rules’ about what you should or should not do or say is really hard for those people who do struggle, who do find it hard and who look for compassion and encouragement and familiarity of situation amongst fellow bloggers, friends, and family. I always remember the moment a very good mother friend turned to me just before our children turned two, and said she was so grateful for me saying we had rough days, because she thought she was the only one and that she felt much better knowing she really wasn’t alone and that it took a huge amount of pressure off her. I am forever grateful for her turning to me and telling me she had rough days as well.
I will end by saying that thankfully the majority – the overwhelming majority – of people are compassionate, and without the support of many of you I would have found many of the things I have gone through much harder and I love every one of you because of that. I’ve never personally been on the receiving end of any of this, I make my rant based on what I’ve seen on other blogs, and I just feel saddened that a new mother has to go through such a blind learning curve.