When I first had children, I was a parenting advice magnet.
Close friends, long-lost aunties and strangers alike all chimed in with their two cents about motherhood.
Breast is best.
Stick to Supernanny’s bedtime routine.
Never give a three year old a hot glue gun!
Some advice was helpful; some not so much. But none of it could prepare me for the late nights, early mornings and exceeding joy that being a mum brought. Nor could it ready me for the experience of parenting through crisis that was just around the corner.
Like countless women, I allowed my husband to manage our finances while I juggled my business and raising my young children. But things came unstuck when I noticed that figures weren’t adding up. I discovered that my husband had borrowed from a seemingly infinite list of lenders. Devastatingly, this list included members of my family.
After I kicked my husband to the curb, my kids and I experienced a total life change. I lost my award winning business, filed for bankruptcy, and had to accept that my marriage was a lie.
I was in shock; totally blindsided by the change in my life just a few weeks could bring about. I felt betrayed. I was totally self-critical for failing to see the signs. But in the end, I couldn’t succumb to the voice in my head telling me that I was helpless. Like so many women in crisis, I saw no other option than to keep fighting. I had to make it work for my kids.
This driving instinct is, to me, what makes mothers so special; almost magical. We make the impossible possible. We pull the rabbit from the hat and always seem to have another card up our sleeves – one that even we didn’t know about until it was time to play it.
No amount of advice columns or information booklets can really define what makes up a mother. There are no words to describe the unwavering love or utter selflessness that caring for kids really entails.
But if I learnt anything about motherhood from parenting through crisis, it’s that sometimes this instinct can get us into trouble.
The very desire to be a good mum can mean that you stop taking care of yourself; that you forget to ask for help. You play a role that no one else can quite fill, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone.
For years, I was constantly exhausted. My closest friend had to be content with a high five for her birthday – twice. My dentist gave up on sending me reminder letters.
To be the best for our kids, mums need to take care of ourselves. There is no shame in asking for help, and no harm in handing over the reigns for a while.
My strength and safety came from my own mum. She was the one holding the glue gun (not my 3 year old) as I stuck the pieces of my life back together. She gave my kids consistency when their world was turned upside down. She has always been my soft place to fall. And she cooks a lasagne that I will never be able to beat – and I’m not complaining.
Wherever you are, grab hold of those you love most every day. In crisis, they will steady your ship until the storm settles. In life, they will help you to stay the amazing mum you are.