Just a short while ago my son turned 18 and he has just finished school. My daughter is almost 22 and goes to university in England and somehow I keep wondering how this all happened so fast. I see women and men with babies and smaller children and I have no idea where time has gone. But the more pressing question I keep mulling over is: How did I do it? So I thought it was about time to write something about MOTHERHOOD as there are so many amazing women out there that have embraced this role, grown into it and struggle with it as I have done for so many year now.
“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”—Sophia Loren
No one is born as a parent or as a mother. I must admit when I was expecting my first child I was convinced that I would be a total failure as a mother. I was simply terrified. Everyone around me was telling me
a. how I am supposed to feel,
b. what kind of magical connection I should have with my unborn child,
c. what ailments I would most certainly get…
…just to name a few.
When I heard all of this, MOTHERHOOD did not seem all that appealing to me because
a. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt. It was all so very theoretical. Don’t get me wrong, I was far from naive and knew very well what was happening and what a tremendous responsibility was awaiting me in just a few months time. And yet it all felt completely abstract. One of the reasons I was convinced that I might possibly become a terrible mother.
b. I simply did not feel any magical connection with my unborn child. I would be lying if I claimed that I felt this deep love everyone was talking about – again it was very real and yet I did not know what to really expect. Of course I did all my check ups and did not give in to every craving (thankfully most of mine were rather healthy, except for my craving for beer in the first trimester). It was an amazing feeling when she started to move and I could even identify with which limb she was punching or kicking me.
c. I did not get any of the predicted ailments. I had no morning sickness, I had no water in my hands or feet, I did not get haemorrhoids or any of the other things I was warned about. I was healthy as a fish. Ok, at a certain point my unborn daughter danced tango (it could also have been break dance) on my bladder regularly and I got to know the bathrooms of pretty much every store I visited and had many a sleepless night.
For all of these reasons I never went to any courses offered for pregnant women – there are so many of those – as I didn’t need to hear any more horror stories from strange pregnant women – I had enough of those stories from the people close to me. I was very much convinced, that as so many have managed to give birth before me, I would probably do just fine – and I did! Let’s face it, in the end they must all somehow come out.
All my worries were completely in vain. The first birth was really no walk in the park but the very second my daughter was placed in my arms something truly magical happened to me. I will never forget that moment as long as I live and I had the privilege of experiencing this twice (my son was born almost four years later) and that feeling has not changed an iota.
What I am talking about is that with the first touch of this being, my daughter and years later my son, I knew for the first time in my life (I was already 31 years old) what absolutely one hundred percent unconditional love is. I knew, for this being I will do not almost everything but absolutely EVERYTHING. This is where my personal journey with MOTHERHOOD began.
“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” ―Agatha Christie
Theory is very different from reality. I was unbelievably lucky with both of my children. They both slept through the night within a few weeks and before that only woke me once a night for feeding – amazing, right? In the beginning I often went to check on my daughter if she was still breathing as I somehow expected more crying. No one can really tell you what it is like when you become a parent. I knew that I would be alone with this enormous responsibility and I didn’t mind. I was so infatuated with my newborn child and she was so easy going – most of the time. I think I did most things on instinct trying to do my best and what I thought was right and what felt right. Looking at the result so far, I must say that I am rather pleased. I must admit that I was a lot more relaxed when my son was born. The birth was a lot easier and he was absolutely perfect. I went straight home on the same day and I felt this same overwhelming unconditional love again. It really is true what people say. You do not share the love between the children you simply double it.
Did I make mistakes? I made a gazillion of them!
Did I do things right? I must have done some things right!
“I’d like to be the ideal mother, but I’m too busy raising my kids.” —Anonymous
When you become a parent, whether a mother or father you have to juggle the responsibilities, you have to cope with your fears, you give all the love you have, get through the pain, cherish the joy and hope to give your children the best possible start into life. The one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that I did everything very, if not completely different from my parents, especially my mother. My mother was not very maternal, but that is a different story. I knew with seven years that if I ever have children I will raise them very differently than I was brought up. To do that I had to be very deliberate on how I should raise them, what values I give them and as I did this more or less on my own, it was tough at times.
But being a single parent also had a very decisive advantage for me as well as for my children.
For me: No one ever interfered with my parenting (with one exception but that is also a different story).
For my children: They always had a clear line and knew where they stood.
I must admit though that many times I would have loved to have a little more help. Often I had to wing it and I really got lucky a lot of times. What made it essential to be very well organised was that I had no support from my family and I always worked. One ability helped me very much in trying to do what is best for my children and helping them find their own direction in life. I always tried to remember how I was at the age they were momentarily in to really respond to my children’s needs and understand them better. Sometimes that was not so easy. If you need to know, most of the time I counted my blessings for these wonderful children, as I was definitely not that easy.
Being a mother is the most challenging job in the world. Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t want to underestimate the role of fathers here, but I am explicitly writing about MOTHERHOOD today.
So, MOTHERHOOD begins with pregnancy (ok, hopefully with the fun of getting there) and I know that for some women this is the best time of their lives and they loved it. Unfortunately I was not one of them. It continues with the birth of the child – definitely not a piece of cake. I wonder who started the myth that women forget what birthing a child was like; I remember absolutely everything and it was certainly not pleasant, and yet I dared it a second time. And from that day a child enters your life, MOTHERHOOD continues for the rest of your life.
“We are born of love; love is our mother.” —Rumi
When you become a parent, the life as you knew it is over and a new one begins. It always makes me smile when I hear someone saying that they will continue their life exactly as it always was when they have a child. It is a cute thought but it just doesn’t work like that (or I did something wrong). Having the responsibility for a tiny human changes pretty much everything. Take driving for example. I was never a reckless driver but with the birth of my first child my style of driving definitely changed, becoming a lot more defensive, even when I was alone in the car. I could start a big list with all the things that changed for me when I became a mother but as it is very different for everyone, I will spare you. What I can tell you is that I never saw any of these changes as a sacrifice. Perhaps I was lucky to have become a mother at the, for me, perfect age. I never had the feeling of having missed out on anything.
As parents we play different roles in the lives of our children but essentially, even when the job seems to be finished, it never really ends. I love being a mother and can say with absolute certainty that it is my greatest achievement in life being allowed to be a part of my children becoming the amazing young adults they are today. They are as imperfect as I am and I am as proud as a mother can be.
After the bumpy start, I embraced MOTHERHOOD, at least most of the time. I don’t want to hide from you that there were times when I was overwhelmed, times when I was so afraid I wouldn’t make it – especially when you are sleep-deprived. There were so many uncertainties during this journey to MOTHERHOOD and a lot of tears and sometimes even despair. It’s not always pretty or easy and you shouldn’t have too glorified or romantic ideas of MOTHERHOOD. Every child is different, every child has different needs. There are the quiet children with whom it is more relaxed. But there are also very challenging children who cry a lot and push you to your limits. Most of the time, however, this is alleviated by a laugh, a hug or something else nice that we experience with our children. One of the most important lessons I have learned from my children – the hard way – is patience.
So looking back on the past 22 years and looking at my children today I didn’t do all that bad. Over the years, I have given my children many images and there is one that they will probably never forget. As a child, I was always annoyed when the big people explained to me what would happen if I did something I wanted to but probably shouldn’t do. The most annoying part was that they were right 95% of the time. Did it stop me from trying something? No, almost never. The thought that I could be one of the 5% who did well made me do it anyway. Spoiler; that was almost never the case. Back to the image though…
Of course, I warned my children and told them what would most likely happen if they did certain things (man did I have a lot of experience). But I didn’t stop them (unless it was too dangerous) from trying it. It was just important to me that they make their own experiences and learn from them. The image I gave them on all their doings was an image of me standing on the sidelines with a big first aid kit in my hands. I just wanted to give them the assurance that if they fall, if it hurts, they are never alone. However, I also made it clear to them that I would only come to the field with my first aid kit when it really did hurt.
“A mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled.” —Emily Dickinson
All in all I can say that for me MOTHERHOOD has been a crazy adventure with so many joys, with a lot of pain and some sorrows along the way. Would I do it all over again with the knowledge I have after almost 22 years of MOTHERHOOD? Absolutely YES – of course provided I was in my thirties again! This feeling of unconditional love, the joy of watching them grow is so worth it. The next adventure will one day hopefully be that I become a grandmother.
So to all the mothers out there I have just one bit of advice. Learn to put yourself first. I know so many mothers that live only for their children and have completely forgotten that they are also amazing and beautiful women. Make sure you know that, as wonderful as MOTHERHOOD may be, there is so much more to life. And the craziest thing is, if you take care of yourself first, you are happier and can make the people around you happier as well, your children included. Putting yourself first – at least once in a while – does not make you a bad mother, it makes you a fabulous mother!