MOTHERHOOD IN SILENCE
Shush…don’t speak…don’t let them know…they’ll find out.
Some days I wonder how I got here. It is 22 years in on this journey called ‘Motherhood’ and I can’t seem to grasp that I am a Mother.
When I fell pregnant at 19 years old, the need to be better, do well and right the wrongs of what I had got myself into automatically activated ‘the wall’ that is my defence system. I don’t think I ever took it down.
Even though I started out supposing I’d take on the world, on my own of course, it didn’t pan out that way. I fell at the first hurdle. I walked straight back into the mess that created this very situation. My Motherhood had no chance. It was fighting for air for the next eleven years.
Being quiet. Be quiet. Stay quiet.
In my experience it doesn’t make a difference if you live with a monster or the monster is firmly rooted in your mind. If you believe you are not worthy you will believe anything. And that I did.
Whether I drummed up the courage to join a mothers group or wander down to the park. I always felt complete inadequacy as I watched Mothers with their children. When I overheard conversations about breastfeeding triumphs [I totally crashed and burned on that front] and how they cooked up the next month’s baby slop before breakfast – I just wanted to fill my ears with that slop and shut out every last super mummy word.
Oh and don’t share advice with friends Sam – how utterly stupid of me! Heaven forbid the five years head start you had. Means zilch - you know nothing.
To be honest I think that was one tiny situation that I took to heart. But why wouldn’t I? As a friend, you want to give added fuel that helps this Mother steer the way with some hope.
Oh and smile sweetly when you get given advice. Because of course, YOU need it!
Don’t let them know.
In my mind, I have this very clear vision of what a Mother should be. The way she looks, the way she speaks – the way she loves. I just can’t fit myself into this mould I have made for myself.
This Mother, I speak of, was never a Mother herself. She had no children. And yet everything she did was magic.
She was as pristinely presented as any French woman. An apron wearing kitchen goddess, who would win any bake-off, hands down, even against Nigella. She was jolly, yet fierce (with complete grace).
My (step) Grandma had breakfast on the table ready every morning. I’m not just talking bowls and spoons here. The table would be dressed with a tablecloth, salt and pepper, glasses, cups, saucers and teapot, with cosy, in readiness for a full-on feast.
And during the day we would learn everything. From the names of the birds in the garden to flowers scattered along the woodland floor. We would make coconut ice and fudge and delight in licking the bowl. She would tell us tales of fairies and arrange for us to take the magic home. She even made me a beautifully fitted and embellished fairy dress and crown. I truly believed too.
If Disney had known about her, they would never have created the wicked step-mother, as we know her today.
As I grew up, this woman became my marker and the lighthouse I needed to find my way home. Albeit, the mould, still a very tight fit.
They’ll find out.
It’s so very hard to aspire to be this ‘Mother’ whom I have imprinted so perfectly within my mind. I have fallen quite publically from grace on many occasions. My children have witnessed me at my most vulnerable, whilst I lay hopelessly sobbing on the floor waiting for a miracle. They have seen me fail day after day. They have seen me hold my hand up and say no more - very quietly.
I thought to myself raising children singlehandedly must be the hardest thing of all, I’m not actually sure about that. If you take my first attempt at co-parenting - well let’s not include that at all.
When I met my now husband, it wasn’t expected, I had signed myself off men for life. The ‘battle the world’ alone woman had returned and, I thought, I was planning on keeping her.
I attempted to be graceful as he navigated this ‘new thing’ called parenting – it was certainly hard to establish new boundaries in a team that were already so sure of themselves. Those hierarchal dynamics took a battering as each of us tried to re-find our place is this Newdom.
This was not a quiet experience.
With all of these loudly silent experiences, a kind of magic began to stir.
I realised along the way, especially as the girls got older (and more vocal), that silently; both my husband and I, as we muddled it through, without words of wisdom from peers or family – actually created some rather wonderful human beings.
Embracing the silence.
I’d forgotten, this free spirit, who as a child would run wildly through the wilderness (parents frantically looking for her daily), this ray of light who would have taken on the world. She had allowed the ‘silence’ of this outer world to leak out her fear, which had overcome her. Sweeping her into this dark nothingness where she fought hopelessly with all the things she was supposed to do.
She couldn’t recognise herself as a Mother.
The world had told her that her vision of what a Mother is ‘these days’ is most certainly nothing like the apron-wearing goddess – and by the way, teaching was a thing of the past (only professionals allowed) and love for fools (no we can’t have any of that).
All along she was looking the wrong way and listening to the wrong silence.
To have all the messy and glorious thrown at me, and, the moments when all that ‘stuff’ all that unknowing hugs you back with the most unconditional love you have ever felt.
That is when Motherhood no longer sits in silence, it shouts. And I realised it was time to listen.
I am a Mother, surviving Motherhood in Silence. (Along with my man)
I share this with you now because it has taken me this long (those 22 years) to know myself.
Here I have stood in silence, wondering if I am doing it all ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, considering why nobody asks my advice and why I never give mine.
As a Mother, surely you have so much to give, don’t you? To have all this experience, wisdom sat quietly in a corner – is simply a catastrophe.
As a Mother you have this quiet courage, you create, you are wise every day – you are nurturing the future generation. (That’s pretty big stuff!)
When I began to realise that I could be, and am indeed the vision of what a Mother is, that was the day I stood up for my Motherhood.
As a Mother and a co-parent, let not another Mother (or Father) sit in silence next to you.
We have much more to give. Take credit. Listen. Embrace loudly your jolly and fierce grace.
If you would love to delve into a longer conversation, my door is always open, for tea and nattering about the messy and glorious. There will be silence, but that will be because I will be listening to you with an open heart and that look, of knowing.
First published in Wildling Magazine, Issue 7.