Practically everyday at some point, the thought will cross my mind that, “I am not enough…” that “I don’t know enough…” or that “I am not smart/knowledgable/wise/patient enough…” That I’m not doing enough outside of the children. That my ‘career’ is not progressing, that I’m not doing enough for the community, that I don’t maintain connections with my friends enough, that I’m not helpful enough for my parents, that I’m not showing my care and concern for my husband enough… ETCETERA.
I worry that I don’t do enough for the children. That I don’t spend enough quality time with them, or that I don’t organise enough activities for them, or teach them enough (I want to homeschool them, but haven’t really started doing anything homeschool-y yet).
I face up to the gaping holes in my knowledge and wonder how on earth I am even going to homeschool my kids.
And with a third on the way, I wonder how I’ll find the time to organise a homeschooling curriculum for them, or even lessons to do with them.
Beyond just the homeschooling though, I often find myself questioning whether I can even mother them properly. So many times a day I catch myself in ‘bad parenting’ moments/ACTIONS and I feel that guilt.
That ‘mum guilt’. That creeping sense that I am totally traumatising my children with my horrible parenting, with the impatience, with the shouting, with the harsh discipline that I can mete out…
I also have major control issues. I totally overthink many aspects of how to parent them, and I struggle to let them go, to be carefree, to be easy with them…
For example, my eldest (she’s 4.5 years old), does not go to a childcare of any sorts, at all. She hasn’t since she was around 1.5 years old.
I struggle to take on help from people outside their grandparents. And even with the grandparents I’ve spent years trying to control how they are looked after by them, when in their care.
It’s exhausting, you know.
Knowing my controlling ways, I wonder if I’m constricting my children too much and possibly stunting their development, character-wise. Am I giving them enough opportunities to learn things on their own?
Another part of my strongly believes that although children should be tested, and allowed “out in the world”, that this also has its own time and place, and if it happens too early, the consequences on their development can actually be harmful. You have to know your child well enough to decide when they are ready to exposed to certain things.
So I vacillate between trying to control their surroundings and allowing them *limited freedom to experience different things, and be exposed to different people.
When J (my eldest) was around 10 months old, I decided to go back to work. Full time high school teaching. It was a difficult decision. I panicked for weeks before I started work. I drove my husband crazy by being concerned about minute details of how J would be cared for. I was an emotional wreck at the thought that someone else would be caring for her, feeding her, playing with her for long hours. My mind conjured up horrible scenarios where things would go wrong and she’d suffer short and long-term impacts of being separated from her mother, or from watching too many hours of tv, or eating foods that I had not “approved”.
At the time my husband took it all in his stride and his advice is one that I still try to remind myself of today.
He patiently told me that first of all, I needed to calm down lol. Then he told me that the reality is that I could not be everything, and teach everything to my daughter. That her being looked after by her grandparents, extended family, even childcare could teach her things that I had no capacity to, simply because I am just me, and not them. That every person who cares for her has their own unique qualities, knowledge, life experience etc. that J could benefit from. That they all make up the patchwork of life lessons for her.
And most important of all, my husband reminded me that she would be in the care of those who loved and cared for her dearly, completely and sincerely. And that therefore, she would not be at risk of any major harm. That in fact, she will grow to be a more rounded, fuller individual having been exposed to this love.
Armed with this advice, I threw myself back into teaching, and I do not regret it. Sure there were challenges, but all in all I could see J flourishing, I could see that she was happy, she had no major anxiety or stress, or problems adjusting to the fact that I was no longer around full time.
Ultimately I did make the decision to quit work at the end of that first year of going back. The reasons were myriad, and not all connected to my child, but one major consideration in relation to her was that I felt it was important for me to look after her full time at a time when she was approaching 2 years old, a time that would require an emphasis on disciplining her, on dealing appropriately with her tantrums, and in establishing a diet that was nutritious and quite frankly, low in sugar.
I did not want the grandparents to have to take on this burden, when they’d already raised children themselves and I knew that what they really wanted with their grandchildren was to simply love and enjoy them. Not to raise them.
As her parent, that was my responsibility.
So, I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that as parents, particularly as mothers, we need to find that balance between doing our part as being our children’s primary source of parenting, discipline, love and so on, especially in the first 7 years of their lives, but also of fully understanding the importance of reaching out to extended family and trusted community members for help.
To admit that no, we can’t be everything for our children by the very limitations of who we are. That no, we can’t do it all. We can’t juggle our households, our jobs, our children, ourselves, on our own.
We need help.
The very nature of our existence is hinged on dependence on others. We could not function in this world without other people. From the rubbish that gets taken out every week, to the roads that we drive on, to the shopping centres that we shop from, the maintenance of our suburbs…everything requires us to depend on others doing their bit.
Why do we try to function as mothers on our own?
We need to let go of the fallacy of perfection. Perfection lies only with One Being, and for us to strive for it is a form of arrogance.
Knowing our own innate limitations as human beings, in comparison to the Absolute Perfection of our Creator should comfort us. Not cause us anxiety.
So yes, we should reach out to our family to play a significant role in raising our children. And we should do this with tact, with wisdom, and with trust. We shouldn’t be giving our husbands (yes, I totally went there) instructions on how to look after our children, or hold them, or feed them, or play with them… We shouldn’t reprimand him for doing things differently. We should trust him to do it in his own way because hey, he is also an intelligent, thinking human.
If we have extended support in grandparents, aunts and uncles, we should be grateful for this support system and also give them the opportunity to teach our children that which we cannot. For our children to experience and grow and be nurtured with their love as well.
And if we are fortunate enough to have a community beyond family, we should also reach out to them and be honest enough to admit that we may need help, and to be humble enough to ask for it.
Being a mother can be an incredibly constricting experience, because of the depth of our love for our children, because of the nature of our concern for them, and at times, this can make it difficult to sustain over years of parenting. It may manifest in controlling behaviours, it may prevent us from taking on the advice from other concerned and sincere people who should have a role in raising our children as well.
We, on our own, are not enough… ultimately, left to our own devices, we will do something wrong…but this is how it should be, and we should respond accordingly and reach out for help.
We should allow people around our children to contribute to the richness of their lives, and to help us nurture them.
Not only will it result in children who are better rounded in their characters, but it will also go a long way to help ourselves do this thing called parenting…