March 17, 2017

In Defense of Becoming Mum.

Something has been happening to me for a while. It feels like I’m coming full circle—like I’m finally settling into a newer version of myself. A little battered around the edges perhaps, but one that still bears a strong resemblance to the old me.

Except now I have two crazy kids in tow. And if I had to put a title on it, I’d say this thing that I was experiencing was a feeling of “becoming mum.”

Haven’t I been a mother for nearly five years? Yes.

So, what’s all this talk about becoming a mum? And before you ask, no, I haven’t any surprises to share! *Mops one’s brow, as the husband runs screaming for the hills.*

What I’m talking about here is the birth of a mother. It’s the stuff they don’t tell us about in the books—the volumes that “prepare” us for pregnancy, labour, routines, and night feeds—the ones that give us an overview of the mechanics of motherhood. But what these books don’t quite set us up for is this unbelievable journey of change. A transition that will take the old, cozy, familiar you, and shake it up, turn it on its head, and rattle it around. It’s a voyage that will stretch our bodies and minds. It’s a rite of passage that will challenge us to surrender to a multitude of life changes, often when we don’t feel quite ready to let go.

In truth, I’d like to say I took to motherhood like a duck to water. But I’ll admit I found it incredibly tough. In those early years, I often compared myself (and still do) to other mums who seemed to effortlessly roll with the changes. Mums who appeared to take to the task with a spring in their step, without any sign of the struggles I felt I was facing. I often remember feeling overwhelmed by thoughts that I wasn’t quite good enough at this motherhood malarkey.

I’d look in the mirror and wonder constantly what I should be doing better. I’d torment myself over the feeling that other people were coping much better with this huge life change. I’d cry many tears, mainly out of guilt that I kept thinking of the old me and all the freedom I thought that stood for. The long yoga practices, the days by the pool, my quiet time, my early nights—no one to answer to but me, myself, and I.

When I look back, I can clearly see the immense pressure I placed upon myself to quickly and effortlessly shift into the role of mother. This feeling that just because we’ve given birth, we should automatically know what to do. That we should right away be able to find that space in our lives to surrender to all the chaos and beauty that motherhood entails. That pressure to show a strong outer core, even when our hormones are in turmoil or we’re downright exhausted. Pressure to be that matriarchal figure that we think we should be—ever patient, selfless, happy, and calmly authoritative—even when our toddlers are screaming on the floor of the supermarket.

I realise now that that person doesn’t exist. And if she does, I’d like to know her secret!

As I write, my shoulders are relaxed, my breath is steady. There’s no sign of the ball of stress I used to feel tucked tight into my belly. I’m finally willing, as a mother of two, to forgive myself. For having crap days when I feel like I want to retreat to the Himalayas. For sometimes feeling frustrated at being in constant demand. For shouting the odd expletive when the going gets tough.

“I’m f*cking fed up! I’ve seen this Paw Patrol episode 16,000 times!” my four-year-old daughter Molly said casually this afternoon.

Molly! That is not the way we talk as little girls and ladies! Who told you how to talk like that?” I cry.

“You, Mummy.”

Gulp. Guilty as charged.

Yes, I’m finally admitting to myself that this becoming mum business takes time. It’s not just nine months and a wham, bam, thank you mam. We’re not supposed to be great at this from the get-go, or indeed, ever great at it at all. It’s human to feel like we have no idea what the hell we’re doing. It’s a constant evolution. A daily practice of making mistakes, letting go, dusting ourselves off, and starting all over again. And while I have loved my children from the moment I gave birth to them, I’ll admit it has taken me a long time to feel more comfortable in my new skin.

Sometimes I catch the smiles of my pair and I can’t quite believe I’m a mother of two. I’m actually a mum. I’ve created these amazing little people who teach me more about life and myself on a daily basis than I’ve ever learned before. And, if you don’t mind me saying, that kind of makes me a bloody legend. I know I’m certainly one in their little eyes. And that to me is one of the coolest things about motherhood—the huge capacity you have to adore and to be adored.

If you’re experiencing your own birth as a mother, then I hope this serves as a little reminder. To stay strong. To smile. To laugh. To have a good moan to your friends. To know that it’s perfectly normal to have a shit day or week, or a rant at the husband for his ability to escape so freely for a pint. To forgive yourself for feeling like you might just want a little peace from time to time.

Yes, I hope you can remember to pause, breathe, and enjoy this becoming mum business in all its crazy, chaotic, unpredictable glory.

Because you’ve got this. We’ve got this.

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” ~ Donna Ball


Author: Cheryl Parsons

Image: Courtesy of author

Editor: Nicole Cameron

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