The first word I can think off to summarise motherhood is exhaustion. After having my son, I naively though I would fall into a blissful slumber with a mild Diazepam hangover. Silly me. Screaming and hungry when we both returned to our home I was delirious with sleeplessness. That first night I sat in our kitchen sobbing uncontrollably while trying to attach a big suction contraption on to the vast surface area where my nipple had once been. A taxi ride to Asda by the Greek and a bottle of formula later I slept for three blissful hours before being awakened by mastitis. Every mother of young children knows the exhaustion that I refer to. Young children are balls of energy. Awake and ready to learn, to experience, to assimilate, to grow. My son said to me last night in bed, “You know mama; I doubt I will sleep long. I already feel full percent charged”. He must have been, he was up at 4am and ready for his day ahead.
Yet I would not change this for the world. I run behind them every day. Answering their never-ending questions in the best way I can. Jumping into the air when a space ship descends in the living room, walking back and forth with a fleet of tiny prams as my daughter and I “go shopping”. Resembling Quasimodo for the reminder of the day, I make sure they eat a balanced diet. I offer them picnics, mezzes, mince and tatties. I keep them safe; I try to keep them clean. I tuck them in and wait patiently until they drift off to sleep. I search in the dark for their cups of milk. I try to resist the urge to hang them upside down, batter their wee bums like a piggy bank, and let all their thoughts and impressions of their day to scatter over the carpet, ripe for me to gather. Did they have a good day, did I do well. I remember my son’s words about charging and I retreat, hunchbacked and hobbling downstairs to my Notre Dame.
I suppose the exhaustion that we mother’s experience is also a mental exhaustion. The power that we hold as a mother can be overwhelming. Are we doing this right, should they play with that? Nowadays more than ever this pressure is on mothers. Advice and guidelines are thrusted at us from all angles. Dummies are a no no! Breast is best. Do not swaddle. Not too much TV. Society constructs a race that we all have to compete in, and look to our fellow runners as our yardstick.
I am not a girly girl so when I take my daughter to nursery, I give myself a pat on the back if her bobble is still in and her Primark bow intact. I marvel at the mums who have found the time in their morning to French plait their daughter’s hair. I want to reach out and touch it but I fear it is a mirage. I meet mums in the corridor who are wearing jogging clothes. When and where are they jogging to I marvel. When a mother enquires, “How are you”? I always reply the same, “I’m good”. Really what I should be saying is “shattered. Annoyed about the roll and sausage I ate this morning. Yet peckish. I’ve been up since 5 but I’m still running late, and I’m unsure if I have any knickers on”. Perhaps the runner in the next lane would be surprised, but I suspect she would confide, just as I did.
Children are wonderful in their innocence. They are largely untouched by these unspoken rules of society. They are simple in their needs and desires. All they really need is to have someone there who is their person. Who smells familiar, who knows them better than they know themselves. I have concluded that all these external pressures are inconsequential in the end. The person who has taught me this is my daughter; Morena.
Morena was diagnosed with a rare brain condition when she was almost two. Modern advances have seen the condition of ACC becoming correctly diagnosed and identified. Its affects can be wide ranging. For Morena this has meant she has been late to walk. She is three and a half and has just started walking independently. She also struggles with fine motor skills. As a mother, I struggled for a long time with the loss of control I felt, the future, the obstacles. The scrutiny I feel as a mother of a child who uses a walking frame is also immense. Am I being the best mum I can be for her? Do others think I am doing the best for her? Do the many agencies involved in her case think I am a competent caregiver? Morena has taught me that none of this matters.
Milestones are a generic guideline. The OT is presently concerned about my daughter’s pincer grip. You go right ahead love. She does not see the Morena I do. The Morena who sings happy birthday to me every day without fail. The Morena who is such a joy and socialable child I puzzle why she cannot fly. The Morena who can speak three languages. The Morena who makes the best mushroom pakora. The Morena who I am so proud of. The Morena who is such a light in my life, I am astonished when I turn off the light that she does not glow in the dark.
My point? Our kids are all different. They all have strengths and weaknesses. All of their achievements should be celebrated, whether it is transferring themselves independently to a wheelchair, or landing on the moon.
Be easy on yourself. Put your bra on and go forth.
Happy Mother’s Day xxxx