To all those suffering with 'mum guilts'

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To the mothers reading this, I want you to know that you don’t need to feel guilty.

We all do it to ourselves, we all allow those thoughts and feelings to build up and overwhelm us – usually at 2am and it leads to a restless night.

The ‘mum guilts’ I have named them. The I should have, shouldn’t have, could have etc…about any situation to do with our children.

Mine tend to focus around photos and momentos. I should have had casts made of his hands and feet. I should have started a memory scrapbook by now, I should have taken more photos.

I had a revelation this evening that all my ‘should haves’ have nothing to do with my son. None of those things are detrimental to him. They are about me and my needs.

What he needs from me is for me to focus on interacting and enjoying him. He doesn’t need a lens stuck in his face every five minutes. I have very few pictures of me as a child – it doesn’t make me feel deprived or affect my memories of my childhood. I don’t hold my parents accountable demanding why they didn’t take more photos!

I tie myself up in knots about it and I don’t know why I can’t be rational but I’m going to make more of an effort to try.

I get ‘mum guilts’ when he is awake too long and gets over tired, when he wakes in the night and I feel shattered in the morning and am grumpy, when I don’t live up to the expectations I have set myself as to what a mother should be.

I hesitate about going out to Zumba or for a meal if he is not settled before I go.

A week ago I went out to see a comedian and he cried for the first 45 minutes I was out but then slept until I was home. I battled and won against the ‘mum guilts’ then. He may have cried if I had been there anyway. He was fine when he woke up – he wasn’t holding grudges!

That’s the thing, that’s what I want you to remember. Ultimately your child wants to be loved. You are doing that every single day. You are loving them in the best way that you can and they don’t hold you even a fraction as accountable as you hold yourself.

So, whatever your ‘mum guilts’ are about. Whatever triggers them in you – let it go.

You are a mother but you are not guilty.

Guilt is such an ugly, all consuming thing and frankly you don’t have time for it. You are far too busy loving your child.

So tonight, get some sleep while you can, don’t re assess the whole day picking on your faults but instead remember the smiles and laughter that were just for you, remember the hugs, the holding of your hand and know your little one sleeps feeling cherished by you.

You are loved. You are not guilty.

Letting go of 'perfect'

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So, my son fell asleep and I placed him in his cot for his nap and I thought that I would make a cup of tea and sit quietly for a while…
Then a large lorry drove up, parked outside the house and now incessant drilling echoes.

It made me smile because I realised how often life is like that. You have these intentions you carry around with you each day about what you are going to do when you have a moment and then the moment arrives and… Roadworks, the phone rings, there is a knock at the door, an unexpected email hits your inbox or a random thought takes hold and distraction kicks in, the moment is gone, disappearing into the ether.

But, does it have to? My initial reaction was one of annoyance that this loud, unnecessary noise would dare to ruin a time I wished to spend in quiet contemplation.

Now, I realise it has given me an opportunity to face up to the fact that there are no ‘perfect’ moments. Things are never going to be exactly as you want them and coming to terms with that can be hard – we create this delusion that perfect moments can be obtained and work so hard to achieve them when in reality they cannot be.

I don’t mean to sound depressing, of course we have moments we enjoy, that we love, that we want to hold on to and desire to capture – these days we do it in a filtered photo that we have re-taken three or four times to ensure the ‘perfect’ shot. The fact is, if we wait for the right time, the ‘perfect’ time it is unlikely to come and we hold ourselves back. We put limitations on ourselves that don’t need to be there.

So today, instead of having my time of silent contemplation, I wrote this post. If the drilling hadn’t been going on maybe I wouldn’t have as I tend to wait – ‘I won’t write yet.’ It’s almost like the drilling woke me up a little to a weird mindset I had fallen into and I wondered if other people may have fallen into it too?

I wonder what I have been missing out on because I have been waiting for the right circumstances.

Sometimes, I wake up not wanting to see the world and feel like hiding because I don’t feel I have anything to offset.

Sometimes, I tie myself up in knots about ‘what ifs’ and ‘what do people think’

Sometimes, it takes every ounce of my being to get going and walk out of the front door.

I am not perfect, far from it. My hair needs a cut, I wear it tied up all of the time to avoid thinking about it and because it is far easier as a Mum to keep it out of the way. I can get overly emotional, I can be quite antsy at times and negative.

There are people who will tell you I don’t care enough and people who will tell you I care too much. Some people would describe me as clique-y and some as inclusive.

I can’t get it right for everyone all of the time and the only pressure to do that comes from myself and this striving for perfection and the perfect moment and perfect circumstances.

This post could be better no doubt and it would have been so easy to delete it but I didn’t because it’s time to accept that there is no ‘perfect’ and to stop hiding, holding back and avoiding.

Where are you with this concept of perfect?

I am reminded of the song ‘Perfect’ by Alanis Morisette that ends with the line :
‘We’ll love you just the way you are, if you’re perfect’

I will admit that is how I often feel and I know it’s not right.

I don’t want to pass these ideas and feelings on to my son. I don’t even want him to entertain them – so why do I allow it for myself?

So today, I am not re-editing, I am not waiting, I am not engaging with myself in striving for perfection. I am going to be my unadulterated self and I am going to love it just the way it is!

5 things new mothers should know

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1. You will never take enough photos to satisfy yourself.
A strange thing happens when you have a baby, you suddenly become obsessed with photos and having records of every moment – remember that they are for you to enjoy – don’t miss them all hiding behind a lens!

2. Every baby is different.
No matter how many books you read, advice you listen to or experience of other babies you have, your baby will be different and that’s ok. You will become an expert in your own baby. It is completely normal to obsess about feeding, sleeping and nappies and despite what you think, you will.

3. Develop a thick skin.
Whether you breast feed, bottle feed, use disposable or cloth nappies, wear your baby, co sleep, put them in their own room, wean with a spoon or do baby led weaning, post photos or don’t post photos, you are going to upset somebody. Unfortunately, there will be plenty of comments that will smart a little, there may be some snarkiness and you will unintentionally touch nerves. Be prepared for this and build up a network of people you can discuss unhelpful comments with so they don’t take root.Choose your forums carefully, what’s app and FB private groups can be great places to vent and discuss intricate details out of the public domain.

4. Don’t do it alone and be honest.
You don’t have to do it all alone. There are plenty of groups, meet ups, baby classes, forums, social media communities, friends and family members who want to help you – let them and be honest. No one expects you to enjoy every second of motherhood and if anyone says they do they are lying. Be honest about things and ask questions!

5. You are doing a great job.
You won’t get it right all of the time. You won’t feel yourself all of the time but you are doing a great job. No one else can care for your baby like you – trust me you’re amazing.

The 'I'm not good enough' mantra

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I’m currently lying in bed attempting to sleep and failing miserably.

My issue is I have the ‘I’m not good enough’ mantra playing on repeat in my head. I have managed to pause it for a while but then that wave of sickness hits my stomach and off it goes again.

I have always had it, ever since I can remember and I spent years believing I was the only one.

The fact is, we all have it at some point. In some way, about a particular part of our life or perhaps all if it. Sometimes it quietens for a period but then it rears its head once again and traps us in a spiral of self doubt.

Being a new mother mine currently stems a lot from my belief that I’m not good enough at it. I replay my labour, the first days and weeks of my son’s life and mentally berate myself – the ‘should haves’ fly around and are slowly fought off with the realisation that all is well and all was well. Just because I don’t have a hundred photos of me in those first days doesn’t mean I have failed. I did in fact cuddle my son enough, I do interact with him enough and yes sometimes I take him out of the house in his pyjamas but why is that even an issue? Why is it something I feel I have to explain, as if it even matters?

Before motherhood became my all consuming ‘I’m not good enough’ it was work, marriage, family, friendships, faith. They still arise sometimes just so I don’t get too complacent.

There are a whole barrage of thoughts that I wade through on a daily basis that seek to wear me down and sometimes they do, if I leave them in my head.

This post is raw, it is unadulterated vulnerability and it is scary to write but I have to. Fear tells me not to. Fear says to keep quiet.

I write this to dispell the lies I tell myself about not being good enough and I write this for you.
I write this for every single one of you who is hindered each day by a sense of not good enough.

You are good enough.

Whatever is playing on your mind right now, whatever you are in secret turmoil about, whatever pulls you down.

It’s a lie. The mantra is a lie.

You are good enough.

Behind the scenes life… Living unedited

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I posted this image on my Facebook page recently –

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It seemed to resonate with many people and yet we all continue to do it.

It started me thinking about how I could live more of my behind the scenes life in the open. I don’t want people to think that they know me, or create a version of me from my highlight reel.

Truth be told much more of my behind the scenes life can be seen on Twitter rather than Facebook. This is partly because of the nature of the sites and also personal choice. I have made attempts to be more open by sharing my blog posts on Facebook, something I never would have done a year ago.

I also decided I needed to show more of my behind the scenes life day to day too. It’s scary and it makes you highly vulnerable but there is something really releasing in it. The realisation that there are people who accept you just as you are, exactly where you are.

I experienced this on Friday firstly with friends from our antenatal class – It had been a tough night with little man and my energy levels were at an all time low which in turn affected my conversational ability and a I felt a wreck but I walked to our baby sensory class and was met with hugs and support. We then had lunch and I could just sit and be, nothing was expected of me.

I then visited a friend, another mum, someone who doesn’t quite realise how brightly she shines in what can be a very grey world. Someone who despite feeling rough herself was happy to hang out ‘warts and all’ and who without knowing it reminds me who I am and can be every time I am around her. I truly live my behind the scenes life with her and it is when I am most alive.

I lived unedited, unfiltered. I need to do it more and I think you do too.

It scares me, it’s uncomfortable, it’s far easier just to hide.

But…

It becomes all consuming living a highlight reel. The desperation to post the beautiful photo, the clever status, to come across as the perfect mother, sister, wife, friend, worker, Christian. It’s tiring. It’s unsustainable.

It’s a waste, a waste of us.

I am not your enemy – why is motherhood a battle?

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I have a four month old son. I am a mother.

This post may be somewhat contentious, it is not my intention but nonetheless it may be. The reason being? I am writing about motherhood and little did I know until four months ago what a minefield that is.

Pre motherhood I was oblivious and I am glad, I came into this arena wholly unprepared for the battle it would be.

Many of you think I am talking about the trial and tribulations of raising a child, the lack of sleep, the nappies, the concerns over health, development, growth etc… I am not. I am talking about other mothers.

Before I begin, l must stress that if you are a mother – I salute you. You are amazing, you do great and wonderful things every single day and you are doing an awesome job and I mean it sincerely.

I want to tell you something though…

I am not your enemy.

When I walk through the door of a play group, baby group, coffee shop, church or shop, I am not there to compete with you. I am not there to make you feel inadequate, I am not there for you to measure yourself against and feel smug about because you feel you are better.

I am like you.

I am learning as I go along. I had to drag myself into the shower this morning and make attempts to look presentable so that I could leave the house. I am afraid of making mistakes, of being too grumpy, too much, too little, over-involved, under involved.

I take a while to re engage in the world of adult conversation at times and so I may seem stand offish but I don’t mean it. I just need those extra five minutes to warm up. You know exactly what I am talking about.

My natural conversation topics are now baby related. So when I talk about my son’s sleeping habits it isn’t an attempt to seem as though I have a perfect child and have it all together but simply an attempt at opening a conversation and finding a common ground.

Can I ask why as mothers we look at each other with such suspicion? Why if your child is older than mine do you not deem me worth speaking to? Why do we often like to put each other down or be scathing about the little things we celebrate?

Can I ask you what you love about being a mother? Can I ask you why you don’t talk to me about that? Why don’t you tell me about all the things I have to look forward to rather than running down what I enjoy.

I am not your enemy.

If you breast feed, formula feed, have a strict routine, go with flow, bath your child every night, bath them every few days, stay at home, go to work, post selfies, keep your photos private, are part of an NCT group or not, have a child who is under a year or over a year old…

I am like you.

We are all mothers – why make it a battle?

I choose nurture

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My one word for 2014 – Nurture

#oneword365 @oneword365

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Choosing one word is difficult I had considered a few others and how they would play out if I focused on them for every day of the nest year so why nurture?

Type nurture into google and it offers the following –

Definition: care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing.

help or encourage the development of.

cherish (a hope, belief, or ambition).

synonyms:bring up, care for, provide for, take care of, attend to, look after, rear, support, raise, foster, parent, mother, tend; encourage, promote, stimulate, develop, foster, cultivate, further, advance, boost, forward, contribute to, be conducive to, assist, help, aid, abet, strengthen, advantage, fuel

Being an English teacher I find synonyms useful in helping to understand the scope of a word, the many facets that it holds. Words are not just one dimensional after all. The list of synonyms inspires me and is aspirational – it opens up so many possibilities in how this one word can become a lifestyle.

As a ‘new’ mother ( my son is 14 weeks old) nurture features heavily in my vocabulary and I see the daily benefits and effect of nurturing a person. This is something I am actively doing with my son each and every day and it got me thinking about how to apply it to all areas of my life.

Nurturing people involves encouragement so I need to approach each day with that it mind. What can I do and say that actively encourages those around me and more importantly what do I choose not to do and say which may discourage?

What can I nurture within myself? My blog posts have been conspicuous by their absence recently. Why? I have neglected my writing. My to read book shelf has stayed full. Why? I have neglected my reading. Both of these things are important to me and who I am as a person, I have not looked after myself in this respect and subsequently by ability to nurture and look after others has been hindered.

That’s a thing isn’t it? One we don’t often acknowledge. Is it fear of sounding selfish or self indulgent? I am not a fan of ‘me time’ as a phrase but I do like ‘be time’. We all need time to ‘be’ sometimes and that will look different for us all. For me, it’s taking some time to write or read. This replenishes my sense of being and restores my nurturing abilities. The tension is that I love to be sociable and find it energised me. Reading and writing are not social activities – they can become so but initially it is a solo activity. So, I need to develop some solo time into my life. The key is ensuring balance.

What am I going to do – actively. How will I live with nurture as my word?

Below I am going to bullet point some ideas – things to aspire to. Ways that I can incorporate this word in my life without it becoming a chore but an integral part of my year.

Continue to create memories and traditions with my family
Take part in the #emptyshelf challenge ( see @jonacuff) this will encourage me to read and be accountable for what I have done – not in a negative way but motivational one.
Aim to blog once a week.
Send that text, email, card, note to someone when I initially think of it and not procrastinate.
Embrace my role as a mother as part of my whole not all of my whole.
Develop new and existing relationships through meals and social time.
Re start my book club.
Take care of myself and others.
Remember that nurture is ultimately all about love.
Cultivate my relationship with God.

Now a list may seem a little clinical perhaps? Or maybe arduous but when I look at it I am excited about getting going and reviewing my progress. I am inspired and encouraged by it. For me, it It is all about nurture and I can’t wait to get started.

What does nurture mean to you?

When was the last time you experienced being nurtured?

What would be your one word?