My first baby turns ten this year. The moment he was born, after I finished shouting ‘Oh wow! I just had a baby’, I wondered what our journey would be like.
I’d never been a parent before, and I’d never felt such intensity of love for anything in my life.
It was, and still is, the most amazing and overwhelming thing I’ve ever done.
Learning to parent, and to be responsible for a tiny human being, is so daunting.
Whether we seek it out, or whether it’s given to us, there is literally no end to the information and advice about every aspect of the subject.
The best way to birth. The only way to feed a baby. Where babies should sleep (and how, and for how long). When to pick them up and when to let them cry.
How often you should say no. Why you should never, ever yell. And why mother guilt is a thing, and you should get used to it.
I read it all. I mashed it all up and I used whatever felt comfortable for me and my baby. Then I had another baby. And another baby after that.
And now, as my eldest turns ten and my youngest starts school, I think I can safely say this: everything we’re told about parenting is a load of rubbish.
The Motherhood Lie
They – the nameless and faceless ‘they’ – have done nothing but lie to us. They’ve written books and blogs, pointed the finger at collective motherhood and said, ‘You’re doing it wrong. This is how you should do it’.
And it’s not true.
Ever noticed the sheer amount of conflicting information out there? Pick any topic about parenting, plug it into a search engine, and watch the differing expert opinions unfold.
A long time ago, I figured out something. We literally can’t get anything ‘right’ in parenting, according to the so-called experts, and so it’s not worth aiming for ‘right’.
If I try to co-sleep, sure enough I will have one baby who hates it.
I can choose to breastfeed for as long as I want but my babies will eventually decide when enough is enough (even if that’s when they are toddlers).
Whether they are babies, toddlers, or children, I can cuddle them if they cry because I don’t need a reason.
No one knows my babies like I do.
I’m mother enough for my babies.
I haven’t nailed parenting every day. Some days, I’ve been lucky to have five good minutes.
I’ve been ‘shouty’ and consumed with terrible rage at how unrecognisable I’ve become. Who am I now? Will I ever be someone I know again? What is my identity beyond ‘mother’?
I don’t always brush my kids’ teeth and I sometimes buy them junk food just to end the whining. I’ve been so tired of the groundhog days of parenting and the endless grind of giving, and so broken by it all I’ve cried over the smallest things.
But I do what I have to, to get through. We all do. If that means pulling a fretful toddler into bed with you because it’s easier than getting up fifteen times a night, that’s ok.
Feeding your baby to sleep because it’s quicker than rocking him for an hour. No problem.
Serving up chicken nuggets three nights in a row because that’s all your child will eat. Perfectly ok.
Going to the park every day so the kids can let off steam while you sneak half an hour of social media contact. Absolutely fine.
It’s not for other people to judge how you parent because they’re not you. No one has the right to judge, because each of us has to do what it takes, to get through the intensity of parenting.
I never wanted to be the perfect mother. Frankly, that idea scares the living heck out of me. What sort of pressure is that to place on yourself?
It’s not achievable anyway, thanks to the constant bar raising society does. It’s hard to achieve perfection when every other day someone comes along and ups the ante so there’s an even higher standard to reach.
I don’t want to be perfect because I know I’m the best mama I can be. I do motherhood my way.
Simply put, parenting isn’t a straight line. The baby you gave birth to (and it feels like it was only yesterday) needs to you to change, to evolve and to be imperfect. As your baby grows, you grow. As you make mistakes and try again, your baby learns to do the same.
I was told picking up my baby when he cried was making a rod for my own back. Yet here I am, almost ten years later, wishing I could pick him up and hold him close. Because he’s growing now, completely into his own person, he doesn’t always seek me for comfort. And my heart hurts to know it’s happening, even though I always knew it would.
I hope I’ve shown him how perfectly imperfect humans are. It’s ok not to try to be anything you’re not, but to be true to yourself. And to be honest about who you are and what you’re capable of.
So mamas, don’t buy into the lie. Be your true mama self, whatever that looks like to you.
Don’t strive to be the perfect mother. Be the mother you are, and let that drive your parenting choices.
Embrace the knowledge and power you have in you, and choose your own path.