I am a good mother. It has taken me a long time to realise this. My children are fed, educated, have manners, are thoughtful & kind, are wickedly funny, can hold their own in just about any philosophical debate and know all the best spots in our street to catch tadpoles & penny lizards. I am a good mother, but by no means am I a conventional mother.
When my first child was born, I railed & fought, wept & bemoaned the fact that breastfeeding took up a solid 18 hours of my EVERY day – why had no-one told me that this was not a five minute operation? Why had no-one told me I would not have time to shower, let alone write, run, dance, create or even think?
Initially I did what every self respecting new parent does – I gave in. I let go of most of everything that defined me outside of being a mother. I thought I was surrendering. I was actually dying. Little pieces of me, every day.
I recently read a very sad and disturbing article written by a man with 2 small children, claiming he had lost his life and soul in the process of becoming a parent. He had given up his dream career, he had given up his sleep, his sport, his favourite past times. He was, in short, living a lie in order to be a parent.
After the initial sadness wore off, the questions lingered – is that sustainable? And is that truth? What are you showing your children when you relinquish everything that brings you joy in order to be the “good” parent, the “conventional” parent? What are you teaching them in that moment? Mediocrity. Settling. For less than they are worth. What parent wants to teach their child that?
This morning, in my empty house, I pushed all the furniture to the edges of the room, put on some really fabulous 90’s grunge rock, and had a moment of uninterrupted air guitar bliss, before shifting my entire office to the middle of the lounge. Why? Because I like the view, and because I can. And because for the next 7 days I don’t have to please anyone but myself. And when my children return, I will be recharged. I will be full of joy and bad dancing moments. I will have created work and art. I will have stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to do so. I will have slept when I need, had blue cheese and capers for dinner, taken long walks and longer baths, read a novel and watched a chick flick. I will be in love with my life again. And they will see that. And they will know that their mother is a woman first, a mother second. A woman who loves herself enough to fulfil her own needs, in order to be whole for them. And they will know that this is important. And it will bring them joy. And it will teach them to never, ever, settle for less than they are worth.