When I was pregnant, naturally I was excited, but you clouded that by bombarding me with information on how badly the labour could go and by telling me how much I had to do to get motherhood right.
I questioned my belief in my capabilities as a mum because you kept telling me that breast is best and that was the only way that I could do the right thing by my baby and be a good mum.
You didn’t even bother to find out how hard I tried and how many times I sat there crying on the couch because I couldn’t get my baby to feed properly. You have no idea how hard it was for me to give him formula and how bad I felt because I thought I was doing the ‘wrong thing’.
You judged me at the shops when my child was having a tantrum yet you do not know that the reason for his tantrum was because he was sick and in pain, but that I still needed to get food on the table to look after my other children.
I felt useless and incompetent when I wasn’t able to put a smile on my face and enjoy motherhood like I was supposed to – like those celebrities in the magazines you kept showing me.
I felt like a failure when I couldn’t even bond with my child, or even get out of bed and face the day, for fear of messing it up and being a bad mum.
You continually made me feel unattractive because I couldn’t look like my pre-baby self, but you have no idea how much sleep I’ve been lacking and how I’m struggling to get into any type of routine that is even slightly functional let alone concentrate on exercise, eating healthy and all the other things I am fully aware that I need to do to get back to a weight that I’m happy with.
You see, society, you are so quick to judge me, to hurt me, to make me feel like a bad mother, but you have NO IDEA who I am and what my life is like. You have never walked a single step in my shoes and you don’t know what life I’ve lived up until now.
You don’t bother to help me with this transition into motherhood by telling me the real truth about motherhood – you know, the reality that I’m going to make mistakes and that I’m not going to know (instinctively) all the answers to every single challenge that I experience as a mum.
You didn’t even think to teach me that I’m always doing the best I can and that if I’m struggling with something that’s challenging, then all this means is that I need to learn something new and to seek help or advice from those that have overcome these same challenges. And that I’m not a useless mum because I’m having troubles in some areas of parenting.
Instead, society, you bombard me with your information on how to get parenting right and how I am messing up my child’s life if I get it wrong.
Because I know that I love my children and every minute of the day I am being the best mum that I can be with the current knowledge that I have.>
I have learnt that being a parent is a learning curve and sometimes I’m not going to know what on earth I’m doing, but you know what? I’m going to learn. I’m going to find out what other parents are doing to overcome those challenges and I’m going to try different things to get through those times, because that’s what life’s about.
Parenting is full of ups and downs, just like anything in life, so there are going to be days when I look like death warmed up, am cranky, tired, feel flabby and pretty much feel like I have nothing to smile about and also times where I don’t particularly feel like being a mum at all.
There are also going to be days where I feel like motherhood is the best thing I’ve ever done and feel eternally grateful for my beautiful children and the opportunity to be a mum. I’m going to feel the most intense love and affection that one could possibly feel and be brought to my knees by the precious unconditional love I get in return from my gorgeous children.
And finally, whether I feel great or feel like crap, my self-worth will NEVER change and I will no longer allow you to tell me that one way of doing something will make me a good mum and the other way will not, because the truth is that I am a mother and that in itself makes me valuable to my child.
So I’m not going to listen to your ‘rules’ of how to be a good or bad mother, because when I can’t live up to these things, you just make me feel like a bad mother and that what I’m doing is wrong. Instead I’m going to look at the reality of life and my true self worth – that I am valuable as a mum and as a human being simply because I exist.
Because in every moment I am here in life contributing to others and my child, what I know about life through my actions, through my knowledge and through my experiences in life and I am learning and growing as a human being.
I can only ever give what I have inside me to give and this is changing all the time with my personal growth, as it is with everyone in this world. I have come to learn that everyone is valuable to this world, simply by being in it and your message that getting life right determines my value – is simply not true.
As a result of this new understanding and this commitment to resisting your inaccurate lessons, I will teach my child what I know and, as I grow and learn as a person and as a human being I will attempt to pass those lessons onto my child too. I am aware that they will only take on the information that they want to and that I have no control over how they ultimately perceive life and thus how they respond to challenges in their lives.
I will continue to be aware, despite your lessons otherwise, that my child’s behaviour is never an indication of my self-worth or a definition of whether I’m a good parent or not, but simply an indication of how they are processing life in their own individual minds. I will be aware that their behaviour is an opportunity for me to help them through the ups and downs of their life because I need to teach them that they, too, will experience them and that they are NOT worth-less if they don’t get life right.
I will be aware of this society that I live in and how you will keep trying to tell him that he needs to get life right and achieve all his goals to be valuable and I will continue to teach him that this is not true.
I will teach him the reality that sometimes life doesn’t go to plan and that every event is an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. I will teach him that he is always doing the best that he can based on the knowledge he has and the most effective way he knows how to live.
I will teach him that if he doesn’t know how to do something or something isn’t working, it doesn’t mean anything about him, it just means there is something he needs to learn and to seek the resources he needs to overcome his challenge.
Most importantly, I will continue to teach him the reality that he is ALWAYS 100% worthy as a human being simply by being here and existing in the world, contributing his presence to mankind and through his own personal journey through life.
And finally, I will teach him to pass this message onto his children and anyone else he has the privilege of influencing so that we can attempt to change you, society, and perhaps change the world to see that everyone is valuable, everyone is doing the best they can and everyone is learning and growing.
And then hopefully, society, you will learn and grow too, and become accepting, loving and compassionate towards each and every one of us and start to see the value in the contributions that everyone makes, rather than judging, hurting and making them feel like a bad person.
To all of you parents out there who are always making a difference
Jackie Hall – Parental Stress Centre