Motherhood has definitely been the most humbling experience in my life. It just turns your world upside down… over and over again. It gets you places where you can prove that you are a Superhuman: you can live on no sleep and barely any food for days… right after you have withstood the immense pain of giving birth. But it may also take some of us to dark places where we act like Under-humans; we can feel so trapped and overwhelmed that we just lash out. Motherhood will give you your most precious memories, but it will likely also present you with your most regretful and difficult moments.
And the pressure is high. The pressure from the society, from the family, from your partner, from media, from your kids, from other mothers and ABOVE ALL from Yourself! It can be immense. You may never get motherhood right in all other peoples’ eyes. But you CAN try to get it right in your own eyes. At least sometimes. Maybe even, if you’re really, really lucky… most of the time?
Before I had kids I thought I was going to be a good mum.
The only explanation I have for having those delusional thoughts is that I was young and stupid :-). I had NO idea what I was getting myself into. Now that I’ve been a mother for 11 years, a mother of THREE boys, I have quite some experience to share with fellow mothers. And it all comes down to:
SCREW being a GOOD Mum
What does it even mean to be a good mother? It’s such a ridiculous phrase. To start with … it simply means something different to everyone. Be yourself, listen to your guts, try your best and forgive yourself for all the mistakes. REALLY!
There is NO MUM that gets it right all of the time! Ok, that’s just my opinion. Maybe there is a mum that never makes mistakes, never regrets anything and for whom motherhood is just rainbows and daisies. I have never seen, heard or read about that mum. If you have met that UNICORN mum, please do send her my way, I’d love to meet her too :-).
As a mum of 3 boys, I’ve been through a lot, and it just humbles me over and over again to realize how much there is still for me to go through. But so far, I’ve been through those 5 steps:
Step 1. I realize that I know NOTHING about motherhood yet I still know so much
First years of motherhood: whatever vision of motherhood I’ve had in my head… the picture of what kind of a mum I would be… has simply nothing to do with reality. I pictured myself as this always patient, full of love and understanding mother, who can take it all. And sure, I have been able to undertake countless hours of walking & rocking an ill/colic/ teething baby. But I also remember waiting at the door for my husband coming back from work, to hand him the baby before he was even able to take his shoes off… and rushing off to lock myself in the bathroom, because I simply couldn’t take all the fussing anymore.
I realize there are so many things I don’t know, so many things to learn and to deal with and there are also plenty of old convictions that need solid re-work. But at times, I am also surprised how much I do know, even though I haven’t dealt with a baby before. If I just allow myself a bit of a trust and listen to my guts, some kind of internal knowledge or maybe even wisdom surfaces. There really is that natural part of us, something in our genes that tells us how to care for the baby.
Yet… I often feel like a headless chicken or frog behind the steering wheel.
I have no idea what I’m doing and if I’m doing something, is that the RIGHT thing to do?
Step 2. I thought I had it all figured out and then I realized it was bullshit. I have to start all over again.
The rebellious times of a 2 year old toddler take me by surprise. The full-of-energy-but-still-mostly-cute kiddo suddenly turns into a monster. An unknown creature that throws himself on the floor and starts hitting his head hard…. because I helped him put his shoe on. It’s tough! But I talk to an experienced mum, watch a couple of Super-nanny chapters on TV, I put some effort in and we manage to have the tantrum thingy solved pretty quickly. By the time my oldest is three years old, motherhood becomes a rather pleasant experience. Most of the time. Really. I get to have a couple of harmonious years of motherhood, where I am pretty happy with myself as a mum and I establish a solid, satisfying relationship with my kid.
I think I have it all figured out.
That’s when my husband convinces me that the time has come to welcome another family member. I think yeah, sure… why not? Next month I’m pregnant.
Pregnancy is all cool and the first 1,5 half goes pretty well. The second kiddo is an “easier baby”, he can entertain himself and sleeps well during the day. The big brother is happy with the little brother and I discover baby-wearing which makes it all a nice experience. The only issue is that the not-so-new-anymore-baby continues to wake -up at night. A lot. But that must end one day, right?
When my second child becomes 1,5 years old, he starts to show a completely new face… he starts the rebellious phase very early and the tantrums… OH MY GOD! that kid has a pretty damn strong will. That kid never gives up! I try all the methods that worked so well with the first kid. Nothing works.
I can’t do anything else but admit that I haven’t had it all figured out…. The process of re-definition of me as a mum starts all over again.
Step 3. I try to see if I can learn from the books how to become a good mum, just like I’ve learned how to be a good business process specialist
I am clueless. I can’t help the poor kiddo that is unable to deal with his overwhelming emotions. We don’t know how to make it through the never-ending attacks of pure hysteria.
I look for tips & tricks on the internet, but the kiddo just proves them all useless. I don’t give up. I start reading one book after another. I find those wonderful books the messages of which align with my internal vision of motherhood: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk and Playful Parenting. I don’t really get any results, but I’m convinced that it’s just a phase. He’s two. He’s rebellious. It will pass.
I still wonder how crazy it was to take a decision of inviting a third kid into our family. It was a now-or-never kind of a decision. Next month I’m pregnant.
Those parenthood books which promote love, acceptance and mutual respect really help me through the different ups & downs of my role as a mother of my first kid. The problem is NOTHING works with the other one. Ok, some fun games help me through individual situations, but most of the time it’s a struggle. A bit of an effort and I get good results with “the first one”, humongous efforts and I get pitiful tiny results with “the second one”. I feel horrible as a mum. Most of the time. I am very pregnant and I can’t seem to find an answer to the mother of all questions:
How will I be able to make it with three kids, if I am barely alive with two?
“The third one” is born and it all… becomes better. I am at home, I have much more time for the big brothers than when I was working full-time. I start to see the light in the tunnel of my relation with the rebellious kiddo. Maternity leave is a wonderful period. It’s not always easy with three boys, but it is wonderful.
Then I go back to work. Three kids start to fight for the scarce resource… parental attention. The second kiddo turns four and gives us yet another year of “parenting nightmare”. I decide it was probably too naive to think that reading a few books can make me an expert on parenthood. I decide to take a course! That must work, right? I am reading books, articles, and I am following a few really good blogs, on top of that I take a course in Positive Parenting Solutions and I have an opportunity to practice everyday, with three very different kiddos.
The course is great! I get immediate results. Things get better (in my own eyes) for a while…
And then it all gets so freaking difficult all over again. Kids are fighting. ALL THE TIME. I have three wonderful and strong humans, half-Slavic and half-Latinos. That’s a handful. I struggle to get any “peace and quiet” into our every day life.
Five years go by and I haven’t slept a single night through.
I work full time, my husband travels quite a lot and my 3 kids need much more attention than I am able to give them. Shit!
Step 4. I realize that no book or course can fix me as a parent. I go for fixing Marta as a human being first.
I wake up one day realizing that I am not happy. Most of the time. I have a Wonderful husband and great kids (maybe not when they are all together, but each of them separately is definitely great :D). I work and take care of kids, I still don’t get to sleep the nights through. I stop doing sports, watching movies, even reading books don’t make it into my busy calendar anymore. I feel like a total failure as a mother, I am really not happy with myself. It strikes me that I am 34 years old and I still haven’t figured out who I want to be when I grow up.
I start asking myself: why am I doing what I’m doing and is this what I want to do until I die?
I start searching for my life’s purpose. It sounds so grandiloquent, but it is something I feel I need to figure out (If you are there too, and you like some good sarcastic humor, you have to read Mark Manson’s piece 🙂 or a whole series :-))
I go through a lot. So much, that I’d probably have to write a book one day to be able to convey the message. The bottom line is:
I don’t manage to fix myself as a human being either.
Step 5. I accept that motherhood is a journey and I am not going to be a Good Mum. I go for becoming a Good Enough Mum.
I definitely don’t manage to have it all figured out, but on my quest to better motherhood, I manage to get some answers:
- There’s no such thing as a good mum– that’s what I started with- you know my opinion. But you can definitely find your own way to do the things right. You can decide to embrace yourself with all the good and the bad and be a Good Enough Mum.
- You’re not going to feel happy as a mum if you’re not happy with yourself- if you forget about yourself and your needs, if you’ll continue investing all your time into your work and family, you’ll simply burn out. Some of us sooner, others later. But it’s pretty much unavoidable. You need to find a way to charge your batteries if you want motherhood to be a positive experience.
- No matter how hard you try you will be making mistakes- Loads of them! And… that’s actually good! We learn much more from our mistakes than from the successes. Going through lessons learned, forgiving yourself and dusting yourself off as soon as possible after a failure is the best you can do.
I haven’t got all my answers yet… many things are still to be determined. But you know what?
Life is a freaking school and motherhood is one of the toughest subjects.
We really are learning all our lives! (I know that’s breaking news :D). So screw all the external pressure and opinions! Life’s not easy and being your own best friend is a much better option than being your enemy. Beating yourself up is never really helpful. If you feel horrible, try treating yourself like your best friend. If your friend was struggling with being a mum would you be trying to put her down or help her out of her misery?
Being a good mum is a unicorn scenario, “we’ve all heard about it, but no-one actually saw it”
(my favorite quote from our 5 ways to break-up with your girlfriend episode? :-)).
So why not decide to be your own true version of a Good Enough Mum?
That’s definitely something I am going for :-).