Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Why all mothers are liars

motherhood, parenting, truth about parenting, pregnancy, what to expect when you're expecting, lisa maltby, mindful parenting, parenting advice
© 2015 www.lisamaltby.com

I read an interesting post the other day from the perspective of a woman who was tired of hearing negative comments about motherhood while she was pregnant. She wrote in defiance against the doom and gloom bestowed upon expectant ladies, expressing how her experience of motherhood was actually extremely positive. I resonated, in part, with her words. I remember the countless times I would be told to "enjoy my peace and quiet while it lasted" and the looks of amusement as I told them I'd had a lie-in at the weekend. "You won't be getting any more of those!" They would say. It got to the point where I couldn't say anything without my words having connotations about motherhood. Facebook statuses about how I hated the rain led to comments about how I'd soon be at the park in all weathers, and saying I was nipping to the shops led to remarks about how I'd never be able to 'nip' anywhere again. Ever.

Then there were those from the other side of the camp who told me how amazing my life would be. They told me to 'enjoy every minute' and how I would 'love' being a mum. Although initially encouraging, all this talk left me feeling uneasy. Either motherhood is the best thing or the worst thing In life. Well, which is it?

I remember the day I became a mother and how amazing this little person was. I remember feeling incredibly lucky to have this chance, to be a mother. I wondered how anyone could ever dare talk someone out of having such a wonderful gift. I remember thinking that all those mothers had been lying to me when they moaned about being a parent. I remember the challenges and the joys of the months that followed. I remember the sleepless nights, the seemingly endless crying. I remember thinking that all those mothers had been lying when they said that they enjoyed every minute. I realised how parenting was both the best and the worst thing I'd ever done.

The problem with telling new mothers what it will be like for them when they enter into the world of parenting is that you are giving them completely false expectations, whether good or bad. Sure, you can say how much you love being awoken at 4am to cuddle your baby but that does not mean another mother won't feel like a bus has hit her in the early hours. You can say how much you hate the relentless feeding but that doesn't mean another woman won't find it a completely bonding experience. Since becoming a mother it's made me extremely careful about how I speak to expectant mothers or to those who do not have children. It's great to share honest experiences, as long as you're not telling someone how it will be for them because essentially you're feeding them lies.

In my experience of parenting I have experienced the good, the bad, and the downright ugly (especially when I look in the mirror after 3 hours sleep). I still have nights out, albeit rather less frequent. I still have the occasional lie-in if my husband is feeling generous. I am more fulfilled. I still paint my nails. But alongside those things I have struggled with my identity, retaining a work-life balance and keeping sane. I have been overwhelmed with the weight of the responsibility and the capacity my heart has for love. I'm tired. Really tired. But I'm happy. Really happy.

Those things may or may not be true for you if and when you become a parent. Your experience of parenting will be entirely different to me. In fact, parenting a baby for the second time is extremely different again. I used to think I was hard done by the first time around, that I had a difficult baby which led to my misery. I couldn't change his crying and I couldn't make him into someone he wasn't. I would look at all the other mums with their seemingly placid babies and think, "my baby would never do that," and I've noticed that phrase a lot in new mums since, comparing their babies to others and feeling like maybe they got a raw deal when God dished out baby temperament. Whether that's true or not it's not going to help you deal with the baby you got given either. 

I can't tell you how parenting is going to be for you but I can tell you what will give you more of a chance of being a happy parent. It's accepting your current situation and being realistic about what you can and can't achieve. It's seeing the good in the chaos and knowing that it won't last forever. It's giving yourself a pat on the back that you made it through another day. It's being less than perfect and being okay with that. It's being honest that you need help. It's being in the moment – not distracted by tasks and cell phones – but getting high on the feel of your baby's skin against your face. It's not comparing yourself to other mothers and thinking you should be the same. You are unique, no one else will parent how you do and that's all part of the journey. 

So I would tell you that you're going to find parenting a blast, but the truth is, I don't know. What I do know is it has the potential to make you the happiest or the saddest you've ever been. I hope it's the former, but hope is a shallow word where happiness is concerned, as though we can leave deep joy down to the hands of fate. Become a cultivator of contentment. See the wonder in the ordinary. And cut yourself some slack for those down days too. But promise me one thing the next time a childless lady tells you she had a lie-in at the weekend. Smile and nod and keep your trap shut. 

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