“Motherhood is the choice you make every day, 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
Having recently lost my own mum and going through a lot of change and growth over the last few years, I’ve been reflecting on motherhood. My daughter has just become a mum and as I watch her slip into the role of motherhood, I take a moment to really understand the role of us mums (of course this relates to dads also, however, I’m writing from my perspective as a mum).
Motherhood is the most challenging, difficult, at times anxiety ridden, terrifying, rewarding, loving, joyful and privileged role we can ever have. I use my experience, mistakes, training (attachment theory, childhood psychological development, trauma, relationships, grief and loss, emotional mind integration, crisis counselling and my learnings around the stress response and the nervous system). I’ve done a lot of work on myself and come to a place of deep self awareness. I’ve put together a list of what I believe motherhood entails
Through my own journey I came to the stark realisation that I was on the spectrum of “helicopter parenting”. I wanted so desperately for my kids to be safe and happy, that I oftentimes didn’t allow them to fall and pick themselves back up. I had a need to fix things and by doing this I realise now, it placed my kids in the victim position and removed their confidence in fixing problems themselves, problems they were more than capable of fixing. It was a painful realisation and I felt immense guilt, but my parenting came from my beliefs and I understand now I parented the best way I knew how at the time, but I know better now. I have spoken to my kids at length about this and I have apologised for my shortcomings as a mum and how my need to fix things and overly protective parenting effected them. I’ve asked them to always tell me if I’m crossing any boundaries they have and to always be honest with me, so we can continue to grow and work on anything that needs work. It has created a space of openness and deep understanding and I now have an even closer relationship with them.
The thing is, we should always be working on ourselves, our relationships and our self awareness. This is how we grow and become better people, better lovers, better friends and of course better parents. We should always want to break any generational cycles that are unhealthy.
So here’s my list:
Our love should not be conditional – a mothers love should not have conditions or strings attached. A child should never feel they have to behave in a certain way, hold back their feelings and emotions, get certain grades, achieve in sport or other activities to be worthy of love. They should never feel they have to not be their authentic selves to vie for love. If you think as a mum that your child needs to earn your love- please do not have children.
Safe and secure– our children should ALWAYS feel safe and secure in our presence. We should always provide a safe space for them to communicate any fears, anger, sadness and anything else that’s bothering them. I’m not just referring to physical safety, but also emotional, mental and spiritual safety. Our children should feel safe and secure around anyone in our lives, including family, friends and partners. If there’s someone causing fear and anxiety in our child, this needs to be addressed immediately. This is our most important role. We need to validate our child’s feelings and the situation needs to be promptly investigated. If someone is hurting our kids in anyway it’s our job to remove that person from our kids life. Not doing so will cause lifelong trauma, trust issues and potential mental health issues. If we are not prepared to put the safety and needs of our child first, again don’t have kids.
Our kids don’t owe us anything– it is not the responsibility of our kids to pay us back for bringing them into the world. They did not choose to be born, we chose to have them. I know this one may cause some controversy because some parents believe they are entitled to have their kids “owe” them something for bringing them into the world. They don’t. They need to be able to live their lives and the relationship you build with your kids will determine the closeness you have.
Respect needs to be earnt– being a parent or older then our kids does not entitle us to respect. We need to earn their respect like anyone else in life. When our kids feel safe, loved, heard, validated- they will feel respected and in-turn respect us. When we teach our kids about respect, non-judgement, compassion, differences, honesty, openness, that their opinions and thoughts are important and that they can trust us as we’ve earnt that trust by protecting them and validating them, respect will generally flow from that.
Boundaries- we need to teach our kids boundaries and we need to learn not to cross their boundaries. This is so important as with boundaries kids have more of a chance of protecting themselves and also are more likely to confide in us when they feel their boundaries have been crossed. Ignoring our kids boundaries teaches them that their needs and what they feel as safe and comfortable, is not important. It invalidates them and forms a belief system that they cannot speak up or establish rules for themselves. It’s a terrible disservice to our kids. And to continue to cross boundaries with our adult kids is just complete and utter disrespect and disregard for their wishes.
Expectations- we all have dreams for our kids but those dreams should never interfere with what our kids actually want. Encouragement is necessary and beneficial but expectation is toxic and dangerous. We should not be “living through” our kids, we should be sharing the experiences and life they choose. Expecting our kids to have a particular education, a certain job, earn a certain amount of money, be a particular sexual orientation or live a life you deem worthy is not unconditional love. Being embarrassed or ashamed of our kids if they are struggling in life, is more a reflection on our own lack than it is on our kids. I want to know my kids struggles so I can support them and we can work together for the healthiest outcome. My kids know there is nothing they cannot tell me, I will never judge them. If you can’t accept that your child will be their own person, suffer struggles and make mistakes or choose a lifestyle that makes them happy, rather then fitting into your mould- perhaps parenthood is not for you.
I would never assume I am a perfect mum, I’m far from it but I will say I’ve learnt from my mistakes and I’m always open to feedback and more work where it’s needed. I will never underestimate the importance of my role and the role I will play in the life of my granddaughter. Working on ourselves and growth can be at times painful but the rewards are incredible because it improves all aspects of our lives.
Some people maybe triggered by this article, and if you are I would say reflect on that and see what you can learn from it. Usually when we are triggered it’s because some belief or behaviour is underpinning how we are feeling. This is not to judge people but rather make those thinking of having children think if having kids is the best choice for them and those that already have children, reflect upon their parenting and the relationships with your kids.
As a parent we have the lives of our children in our hands, let’s be the best parents we can be. Let’s ensure we fully understand the role we play in the emotional, mental and spiritual development of our kids. Let’s protect our kids by ensuring those who are around our kids are safe, especially in our own homes. Never dismiss a child’s concerns or fears and never put your child in a known unsafe position. The well-being of our child and the relationship we end up having with our kids depends on this.
“What a privilege and responsibility it is to be someone’s mother. Though I have my share of trying moments, I know that being a mum affords me more opportunities for learning and growth than anything else I have ever done in my life”- unknown.