If I was to write a letter to myself when I first became a mother, it would simply say: CHILL OUT, STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY IT!
I was constantly worried that I was doing the wrong thing, that I wasn’t doing enough with them, that I was not structured enough, that telling them off as toddlers would stay with them forever, blah, blah, blah…
I struggled with lack of sleep, feeling isolated and looking after two children on my own when my husband was working or fixing up the house although there was also plenty of play, mess, fun, laughter, snuggles and cuddles too.
My parenting has always been about being with my children, about including them, talking and listening and cuddling. They have been able to make noise and mess and to be themselves, while also teaching them to be kind and respectful. I am probably a better mother now than when my children were little. I wasn’t a bad mother by any means but I am more relaxed now, I am less isolated and I know I am doing it all ok.
When my children were very little, I was always striving to be the perfect mother – a mother who was calm and happy, a domesticated woman who could cook feasts and keep the house tidy and who always enjoyed her kids.
Eventually I realised I was forcing myself to do something I wasn’t capable of and that I was doing alright at this mothering thing! I love my home, it is a loving and welcoming home and it is tidy enough. I do cook, not brilliantly but my kids eat well and they don’t starve. And I do give them boundaries and I do tell them off because they need to know when certain behaviour is not acceptable and they need to know right from wrong. And when I am really tired and pissed off I do shout and nag because I am human. I don’t hide emotions from them because they are part of life and they need to see them. And if I tell them off and I am wrong or I have gone off on a rant, then I will apologise.
Now that my girls are bigger (one towards the end of primary school and the other in high school) I see no negative effects of all the things I worried about:
using formula with one child and breastfeeding the other until she was two
co-sleeping and being able to snuggle in bed with us if they needed us
comforting them as babies and children when they needed it
being a working mother
not having a fixed routine
I have happy, healthy normal children and I wish I had worried less and I don’t even know what I worried about, I don’t know what the harm was going to be done by doing what felt right to me as a parent.
I am much more relaxed in my parenting now, I am there to listen and to talk, I am there to guide, I am there to remind about behaviour, attitude and manners and I am there to shout when the little buggers refuse to help around the house! I worry less now about my parenting and getting it wrong.
Life is busy with school, work, homework and friends and us/home is their anchor – thankfully most things can still be fixed by time together, cuddles on the sofa and chocolate.