I became a ‘mother’ at the age of 25 and boy what a shock that was. I felt I was prepared for the arrival of my son, after all I’d had 9 months of knowing he was to arrive.
But I soon realised that I was not quite as ready and prepared for what was to come. As far as births go it was pretty textbook and all done in a matter of 6 hours from the first trickling of the waters breaking. Weighing in at 4lb 5oz my little bundle was soon taken off to the special care unit for some extra support as his size, although only two weeks early, was due to the failure of the placenta working.
From this point of giving birth I then assumed that I had adopted the ‘role’ of a mother. It is here that I shelved me, and life became all about my new baby. I buried a lot of feelings of inner unrest about my mothering skills that I was having at the time and tried to ignore the tension that was building in my relationship.
Looking back I now see that post-natal depression had taken a hold but I chose to accept feeling a bit miserable was to be my norm and told myself that I had to get on with taking care of my child and strive to be the ‘perfect mother’, even though I was not quite sure what that looked like, and from where I was standing it felt pretty darn uncomfortable.
As the years passed it was very much a scenario of head down and get on with it for me. Due to the tension and pressure I felt, I chose not to have more children as I felt I would not cope. Into my 30s and I could not escape the fact that my self worth was on the floor. This was not solely due to my role playing as a mother but many other life factors which culminated in becoming a single parent when my son was 10 years old.
Here I reflected and eventually came to see that I had put all the value of how I felt as a woman and measured it by the success or demise of my son. If he did well at school, I felt I had done well – if he behaved well, I thought I had done well – if he was misbehaving I took this as a failure of mine. This way of being was a huge weight to place on him, for my whole value relied entirely on him, delivering to the world the picture of what I thought was a perfect son, in truth making parenting all about me and how I was seen to have succeeded, and not so much about him and how he was feeling.
Turning It Around
But with support I turned this picture upside down and came to appreciate what true mothering was about. It wasn’t about becoming selfish and abandoning responsibility as a parent, but what I did was to look at all the areas where I had become unloving and uncaring with myself and as a consequence with others too. One example was in the way I spoke to my son. We once had a conversation about how unkindly we spoke to one another and realised that we were quite rude and not very caring with each other. We both felt that we could be more caring as we admitted that we would not speak to anyone else in the way we spoke to each other.
In taking more loving care of myself it brought a different quality to the relationship with my son and everyone else too. In being more gentle, loving and caring with myself it was easier to say no to things, situations and behaviours that would disturb the loving care I was now choosing to live.
This became my new marker to build on and not the identification of being a mother or a wife. The bar was set by how I was taking care of myself. This is one thing that is often deemed as a no-no in mothering, as we fall for sacrificing ourselves for our children as the done thing. But what if taking true loving care of ourselves promotes a loving and caring relationship with our children and all others?
My son is now 21 years old and we have an ever-developing loving relationship where we communicate more fully and honestly with each other. There is an ease between us and anything that is not a loving exchange stands out and is openly talked about. In adopting the approach of treating him as an equal with feelings just like me, it opened up a whole new way of communicating. I stopped communicating from an autocratic mothering role and began to speak with understanding, and as a result, we both relaxed into being who we are, people who share a relationship as mother and son, but don’t hold the roles over each other or hide our vulnerability or sensitivity behind them.
We have become two people that lovingly care for each other and enjoy each other’s company.