I was woefully ill-prepared when I had my first baby. I had never really had much to do with babies and children. Being faced with the first few intense weeks of motherhood felt like one of those nightmares you have as a teenager where you’re in an exam you didn’t study for. Except this was for real and in front of an audience. While being stuck on the couch for days on end, I figured that I had better start cramming for this exam – I read countless books on sleep, on breastfeeding, on settling your screaming baby. Until one day after seeing me in a flood of tears poring over the pages for answers, my husband took my pile of baby manuals and threw them away. I was never one for following the rules anyway – I was going to figure this parenting thing out my own way, by making mistakes, by being myself, by responding to my cranky baby with as much love has I could.
I looked back to the mothering role models of my childhood (in the 70s) – my mum’s friends and sisters. I always liked the slightly chaotic families where the laundry would be constantly piled high on the couches. Where the mums would sit around a drink endless cups of tea with each other without bothering to supervise the hoards of babies, toddlers and children that were running wild throughout the house. What strikes me the most about those times was that all of these women had their own identities apart from being mothers – they were consumed with life, not just the parenting bit. Being the retro chick that I am, I decided to model my parenting on the 70s – but without the cigarettes and with seatbelts.
What that means for me is that I strive to be a good parent but I’m also aware of my shortcomings. And I’m happy to share them with others as well. There is nothing that will endear me more to another mum than an open conversation about how difficult motherhood can be, about confessions that I can totally relate to – “I’m terrible at playing with my toddler, I find his games boring”, “I feel really bad that I yelled at my kids yesterday”, “when will my 8 year old be ready to sleep in her own bed by herself”, “for Mothers Day I just want to be away from my kids and spend 3 hours by myself”, “I really don’t like the baby phase – the days just drag by”. Because when I’m reminded that I’m not the only imperfect mother out there, I feel like maybe I’m not doing such a bad job after all. I may not get an A+ for this exam, but I’ll settle for a B-.