I was 19 when I had my first child and I felt the weight of the eyes of society watching me and waiting for me to fail, the pressure of being a teenage mother statistic sat in my chest like a bowling ball. I was throwing my life away, they said. I was foolish, immature and had no idea what I was getting into, these were the whispers that surrounded my trimesters. The sly glances from the ‘proper’ mums in Mothercare as my bulging stomach stretched out my Oasis tshirt and over the jeans I had borrowed from my boyfriend. Maybe some of it was in my head, perhaps I imagined the looks, the judgement, the eye rolling.
It made me want to be a perfect mum, I would make no mistakes, I would dedicate every waking hour to being the best mum in the world. No one would be able to judge me because I would give them no reason to, I’d change the perception of young mothers and Id show them all.
Only all that pressure, on top of the sleepless nights, the crying, the breastfeeding, the nappies, the sheer tiredness, it got too much. I was paying so much attention to being perfect that I was forgetting to enjoy it. The stress of appearing to have all my shit together meant I became a swan. Gliding serenely on the surface, but peddling like fuck under the water.
The doctor saw through it. After he dutifully gave me a prescription for the reason for my trip to the GP, he said gently, almost sadly “and how are you doing?” I burst into tears and said that I wasn’t a good enough mum, that maybe my baby would be better off with someone who knew what they were doing, that I loved him more than anything but what if that wasn’t enough?
He told me his wife had just had twins. He said she feels the same sometimes. He said HE felt the same sometimes. He told me that being a parent was so hard, but all you can do is get through every day, that what a baby needs is food, warmth and so much love. That it was ok to feel overwhelmed, it was matter of course. I wasn’t feeling this because I was a young mum. I was feeling it because I was a mum. Full Stop.
That conversation sparked a change, I became more honest and spoke to those around me about how I felt. I opened up to the mums at the baby groups and found the woman who terrified me the most, a doctor who had a little girl the same age as my son, who was so together and wore the right mum clothes, drove a nice car and had a husband and posh house was as terrified as me. She held my hand and burst into tears and said “But it’s all so HARD!”
Becoming a mum is scary. At any age, it is such a huge change that you can’t be prepared for it. You love your baby and though the physical aspects are tough, the feeding, lack of sleep, you don’t count on the emotional aspects being so hard. The sudden realisation that you are entirely responsible for this tiny person, the pressure of trying to conform to societies notions of the ideal mother. You are surrounded by other peoples opinions constantly. This rehashed argument of working mums versus stay at home mums… There should be no argument, we are all just trying to do our best.
It’s this whole new world and it is filled with ‘experts’ who seem to know it all. They all seem to have studied for this test and you are still flipping through the text book and needing a dictionary to just know what the words mean. Its a world of those who know and those who don’t, your new mum friends know it all, your old childless friends don’t care! You are stuck in the middle feeling overwhelmed.
I suppose the purpose of this post is that it is easy to lose your way in the quagmire of emotions and opinions, my assumption that I needed to be a perfect mother was so flawed, you see, no one is a perfect mother. We all just try and get through the tough days and relish in the good days. In my quest for perfection I forgot about enjoyment. I worried so much about following the ‘rules’ that I misplaced the notion of enjoying my baby.
That baby is 13 now. I tell you, those baby days pass so quickly, I look at my 5′ 9″ son now becoming a young man and smile as I remember his tiny soft hands and that new smell of his newborn head. When he winds his hair around his finger when he is tired I see how he has done that for all of his life. I rejoice that I didn’t waste too much time worrying what others thought and revel in the knowledge that we were happy.
My house was messy but we played. Dinner wasn’t organic but it was fun. He didn’t have matching socks but we didn’t care in the park. My attire was 90s indie tshirts and things from charity shops but there is no dress code in my garden.
I love to think of all the fun we had, that dirty faced little boy and I. I got tons of old wallpaper and we painted it with poster paint and our bodies. The hours spent with the wooden train track that he insisted I left for weeks and had to step over it to get in the kitchen. Bath time together where there were more toys than water in the tub. His giggles when he was on a swing. His made up words (agosha meant I love you). Building dens. Quiet bed times as he lay in my arms and we fell asleep together. Watching him learn new things. His imagination. Fun.
Forget perfect. Forget public perception. Think fun. Laughter. Excitement. Silliness. Wonder. Love. Love. And more love.
Mums, you are enough. You may not be perfect by the unobtainable standards of some, but you are perfect for your child.
Enjoy it because in the blink of an eye they grow up and that time is gone forever.
Love Sam xx