Being a mum means I am protector, teacher, nurse, carer, counsellor, coach, taxi driver and I worry more about my children than anything else in my life – the moment they were born, I was also handed a bag of guilt and a bag of worry.
As a parent, I am a wonderful mixture of laid-back and panic-worrier, there’s not much in-between apart from the occasional nag. As my children have grown older I have had to adapt to their freedom – whether it is being on top of the climbing frame, going out on their own with friends, sleepovers and going to parties – and I have never held them back unless I have felt it was inappropriate or unsafe. Since having teenagers, I have had sleepless nights of anxiety and worry, sometimes accompanied by panic when my imagination has immediately gone to the dead-in-a-ditch scenario.
Being a mum has meant a heart full of love, which can sometimes be hurt with worry and loss and fear. I have worried that I am doing the right thing, I have worried that I have shouted too much, I have worried that I worked too much, I have worried that I have not been a good enough parent.
Being a mum is being invested in another human being – physically and emotionally – because they need us, they rely on us and we also need them. As mothers, we may have made, grown and birthed our babies, we may have fed them from our body, we will have spent hours cuddling, rocking, soothing, loving, caring. And we are emotionally invested in our children – we feel some of what they feel, so we can respond to their needs to keep them safe, happy and secure. This gets harder as they get older, when we can’t soothe with just a cuddle and some tender words, when we are no longer their world and our role expands from looking after them, to better equipping them for the world.
Being a mum is also about feeling exhausted and frustrated, children can be demanding and we can feel overwhelmed and lost and unsure about who we are anymore. Life with children can be about juggling a range of responsibilities, needs and desires – kids, work, home, partner and then, somewhere near the bottom, is us, the mum who is wondering what to do for herself and how to look after herself. This affects us all differently, we all do it differently – some mums are able to have more balance than others but it’s not a competition about who is doing mumming better, despite what the social media images try to tell us.
Mums rarely switch off, we are always thinking about the next day, the next responsibility, the next thing to do. It’s not all about idyllic pictures.
Sometimes it is important to reflect on how we are doing and how we parent, especially as our children grow and the challenges change. How do we want to parent? What type of mum do we want to be? What does our child need from us? What do we need for us?
Being a mum can be a tough gig, filled with the most wonderful love, pride, laughter, happiness, fulfilment and wholeness. In order to love and care and protect we must also worry and invest, be tired and put ourselves last which is why mums needs support and understanding and a chance to say “I love my kid but, fuck, this is hard”
Janine – mum of three, wife to one and friend to a few
Plus a specialist in pregnancy, birth and parent support