Some of you may be reading this thinking that the ‘WE’ in the title of this post is a typo, bought on after trying to blog after yet another disturbed night or one too many medicinal G&Ts. I assure you it’s not a typo and that the emphasis on this one tiny word will become clear once you’ve read the post.
Last week I met a friend who I’ve not seen in a while and we both stopped to have a few minutes chat. Like me, she’s a nurse she has children although her children are now teenagers and so her parenting challenges are very different to mine.
We talked about trying to balance school and childcare with shift work and home life and how difficult and stressful it can be. We also discussed how wonderful it is when our darling offspring decide to wake up in the small hours and refuse to go back to sleep, insisting that they need to get into bed with mummy despite the fact that mummy has to get up in five hours to work a 13 hour shift.
Squidge decided to do that to me last week on the one night that the Northern One also didn’t get home until the early hours, having been on a (very rare) work night out. He came home to find Squidge crawling around in our bed and me still half asleep, begging him to just put his head down and, for the love of God, go to sleep.
I regaled my friend with this tale and she said something that I’ve thought about a lot over the past week; that they can be little horrors and such hard work, but that we love them and wouldn’t change them for the world.
It wasn’t so much the sentiment that stuck with me; there have been plenty of people who, when I’ve related Squidge’s most recent escapades, have give me a knowing smile and told me how I wouldn’t be without him. Don’t get me wrong, it’s entirely true but the thing my friend said that has really lodged itself into my brain is her use of the word ‘we.’
We are Mothers
Until quite recently I didn’t really identify myself as a Mum. Obviously I was (am) mummy to Squidge but I didn’t feel as though I belonged to the huge community of mothers, despite being one. I would take Squidge to nursery or playgroup and feel like an impostor, even though Squidge was quite clearly mine and playing just a few feet away from me.
It’s not that the other mums I met didn’t try to make me feel included or deliberately sought to leave me out, far from it. It’s just that I struggled for so long to even get my head around the fact that I was pregnant and then when Squidge arrived I was expected to instantaneously make the transition from being my own person to one whose every action, word and thought was based around how it would affect the tiny, wailing, helpless person who now relied upon me for everything. Despite looking after Squidge by myself for at least two days every week since he was born, it’s only been in recent months where I’ve actually felt like a mum.
Something that has helped enormously with this eventual acceptance is the support of the blogging community. Women (and the occasional man) who I barely know besides the name of their blog have reached out with open arms to welcome me into the fold and to help me in any way that they can. In return I have been completely open and honest with them, sharing with them the best and worst times of being a mum and of my life in general. I will admit this isn’t entirely altruistic; not only is sharing very cathartic but seeing everything written down in black and white helps me to organise my thoughts and work through things in a calm and sensible manner.
Equally, I also use my blog as a type of semi-conscious self sabotage; trying to prove to myself that actually I am not worthy of love or support or acceptance. I am not proud of this and I am well aware that it is an awful habit that could quite easily be interpreted as attempting to thrown the help and support I’ve recieved back in the faces of those who have been so generous. But by writing down every detail, no matter how badly I may come across, I set out to try and push people away by attempting to prove to them what a truly awful person I am.
And yet it hasn’t worked.
Through blogging I have met so many amazing women whose daily battles are just as difficult as mine (if not more so) and yet they have always been there to tell me that, no matter how badly I may think of myself, they know better. Apart from the very occasional negative comment, this wonderful online community of mothers of all ages and backgrounds have refused to share this opinion that I have formed of myself. There has been no competition, no battles of wills or clashes of opinions over the various things that mums up and down the country worry about because, at the end of the day, we just want to do what it best for our children.
Instead of berating me for my ‘failings’; telling me that what I’m doing is ‘wrong’ and what I should be doing instead, these mums have instead helped me pick myself up, dust myself off and to keep plodding onwards even though there are days when even the simplest of things seem nigh on impossible. They have been there to share the hard times, offering me an (online) shoulder to cry on, hugs sent through the ether and words of empathy and compassion when I most need them. They have also been there to share the joyful times, of milestones reached (by both Squidge and me) and the seemingly unimportant things that only parents can appreciate the true value of.
I recently read a wonderful post by Yvette at Big Trouble in Little Nappies (http://bigtroubleinlittlenappies.com/motherhood/mother-wars-really/) where she talked about the so-called ‘Mummy Wars’ which she had yet to see any evidence of outside of the media. It was this post I had in mind when I started writing this one because, like her, all I have received from other mums is love and acceptance.
Before Squidge was born I was so sure that other mums would look down on me for my decision to continue taking antidepressants and sedatives during pregnancy, knowing that they were better mothers because they’d refused to take even paracetamol. I thought that they would shun me when they learnt about my pregnancy related mental health issues, convinced that they must love their babies more because their pregnancies has been filled only with joy and anticipation.
I’ve reblogged a few lines from Yvette’s original post because I couldn’t have put what I want to say any better than she already has.
Stop telling us not to judge other mothers, we don’t.
Stop reminding us that we need to stick together, we already do.
Stop feeding the myth that we are competing, we stand together.
We are Mothers
Louise is a full time mum and a part time neonatal nurse who has battled depression for many years but particularly during her pregnancy. She lives with her husband (the Northern One) their little boy (Squidge) and their three guinea pigs who live in the kitchen.
Louise blogs at 23weeksocks (http://23weeksocks.com) about lots of different (and seemingly unconnected) topics that she’s passionate about, including mental health, antenatal depression, neonatal care and baby loss.
In 2015 she was shortlisted in the ‘Fresh Voice’ category for the BIB (Brilliance in Blogging) Awards and the ‘Bereavement Worker’ category for the Butterfly Awards. She was also one of the keynote speakers at BritMums Live reading’Twinkle Twinkle’ which was her account of caring for a premature baby on the day that he died.