I’m definitely not a natural.
My mothering instincts seem to have got lost and underdeveloped.
I do, at times, find parenting hard and sometimes an uphill battle.
When my first was born, I was only 16. I had little in the way of knowledge about myself, although the 16-year-old me would probably disagree. I hadn’t yet learnt my limitations and my strengths, and I had yet to experience the stresses of ‘adulthood’.
Our second was planned, but still, we fell pregnant quicker than we thought, which was a complete blessing! But he was born, and our battle with his health continued. From his first scan, noticing the problems with his kidneys, to his continual stay in the hospital, which ended with eight months of antibiotics, my parenting revolved around keeping him healthy.
This last year I have noticed a shift in my approach to parenting. No longer am I parenting in a responsive state, but instead, I am engaging with them in ways I hadn’t before. The less I had to distract me, the more I realised where I placed my priorities and my efforts. I didn’t berate myself for this, I hadn’t been neglecting them or intentionally being reactive rather than proactive, I had been trying to be a better mum. to get A-levels, to gain my degree, to provide financially for them. But I came to see that all this came with a price.
I’m going to be vulnerable here. I recognised I was trying to prove everyone wrong. To not be a teenage mum which the daily mail talks about! My drive wasn’t necessary for my boys, although it was, it was also for the respect of other people. I had my priorities in line with others opinions and expectations; there is nothing like a throw sway comment off someone to make you worry for the next month!
My alignments have changed and evolved this last year. I no longer feel I live under the anxiety of other peoples expectations, whether that because I now don’t ‘look’ like a teenage parent (thanks wrinkles and black bags over the 20kg limit) or because of this renewed strength within me. My mental health is no longer my identity but rather a badge of honour I wear and own. My motherhood is mine to embrace and run with.
As a result of this change in view of motherhood, so my parenting has changed. I no longer parent with fear and anxiety but be a mama who wants to embrace joy, simplicity and love. In reflection, so much of my fears and anxieties, although rooted in genuine issues, had become a crutch I had clung to. My boys are now 3 and 7 and present many new challenges than when they were babes. Sleepless nights have been replaced with tantrums; issues with feeding have been replaced with attitude. My mum always said that you return one worry over your child with another worry, you think you’ve found the magic cure and then something else pops up, the endless wackamole. Instead of feeling dread, I see hope. I have done a 180 and seen the positives in parenting and teaching two young babes to grow and mature. I mean, are we ever fully mature? Aren’t we all growing in different ways and learning new things? Last year I wanted to be more present, and as I intentionally cultivated that, my love for the boys developed, matured and grew.
As someone who suffered from PND, I struggled to build a bond with the boys initially. I found it hard to be in the seas of uncertainty and uncontrollability. Yet it no longer gives me a rise of panic. Instead, I get on the floor and get out the glitter glue! We build Lego buildings and play ‘Hot Lava’ (mainly, you jump over the furniture and not let your feet touch the floor!). I am embracing the ever-changing emotions and challenges of motherhood by embracing the fear of the unknown with fun and viewing it through the abundance of possibilities. No longer do I dread days on my own but become excited at the things which we can do.
This post is probably more therapy for me than anything else. The admittance of my failings and attempts to become a better mama. Life is never perfect and controllable, but instead of living from that place, I am living intentionally in a position of purpose and joy. I hope that for anyone who doubts themselves, who thinks that it’s too late to change, I want to encourage you that you can make changes and grow a new way to parent.
Parenthood is definitely a roller coaster, from being 16 with no idea of what I was doing, to being nearly 24 with still no idea! I have learnt that its all about love and grace. We will never be perfect, and we will never measure up to our expectations we place upon ourselves, we will make mistakes. However, we can learn from these moments; we can nurture these little babes and show them unending love and grace. We can press reset, each hour if necessary, to get back down on the floor with the lego, and regain the connection again.