Moods of Motherhood: Being your own internal mother
I cannot believe it’s already been four years.
That cute little squishy being that was wrapped up tight and squashed within my belly this time four years ago will be four years old in a few days.
It’s been a most remarkable journey for me.
See, I always wanted to be a mother some day. From the time I was a child, and later a teenager, I knew that I would have these theoretical children whom I would love to bits and who would love me, but I didn’t really know what love meant. What having a child meant. What having the life of another human being completely in your care, meant.
I’ve grown up surrounded by children. It’s a very strange Zambian upbringing that wouldn’t involve children in some shape being a significant part of a girl’s life. I’ve baby sat children from the time I was 11, potty trained kids, cooked and fed kids, carried babies on my back countless number of times to get them to sleep, taken care of sick and on one occasion, a very very sick, child all on my own. That’s just something you do when you’re part of a big family and part of an even bigger very close very extended family. So yeah, having a child was not a daunting thought in any way.
But, they weren’t my child.
They were these cute, funny endlessly demanding, annoying, little kids that I could give back to their parents.
I remember once babysitting my three year old twin cousins and as I was cooking dinner, they stood holding on to my skirt, tugging and saying
“Muuka, we’re hungry! We want some bread.” in unison over and over again and my giving them the same answer,
“I’m nearly finished cooking, so nobody is having bread,”
over and over again till I thought I’d scream. Good times, good times.
In all fairness, I was a pretty self-absorbed teenager and I look back and marvel at how well I managed to look after anyone at all. But they weren’t real. Do you know what I mean?
They were other people’s kids. I didn’t have to be completely emotionally invested. I just had to make sure they were okay, a little bit like puppies really, and they would be fine. I didn’t have to bother with how happy they were overall, if they had a balanced home life, if they were treated well in school, if their friends were mean or nice. They were always someone else’s kids.
And then I came to Ireland and for years, I didn’t see any children on a regular basis and I forgot about them and how silly and funny and demanding they can be.
Fast forward to 2007 and there I was, studying and reading all about child development and it hit me like a freight train.
Children are actually small humans!
It seems a bit stupid but it had honestly never crossed my mind in that way. Hell, I never thought of myself as a small human once upon a time. I just relied on what other told me I was like. All the things I supposedly said and did…but I don’t have any real tangible day to day memories before the age of five.
I wish I could remember when I was four, and sometimes I think it’s probably best that I don’t remember.
Because so much happens in four years.
I was in college for four years studying accountancy and finance.
We lived in Namibia for four years.
I had been with Krys four years when Roz was born…
So little and so much happens. And yet, if you want to see what four years really look like, this is it – watching a tiny squishy, mewing newborn human grow into a chatty, confident four-year old human.
And these last four years have changed me.
One of the biggest changes has been learning to be my own mother.
See, here’s the thing, my mother was and is my mother, I cannot change that. But I wanted to be a different type of mother. Yet I didn’t know how to be a different mother without an actual example of how that was, to model myself on. I read about attachment parenting and trawled through gentle parenting books but I had no actual live example to say, hey presto! that’s the kind of mum I want to be. That one over there.
I worried that I would be rubbish.
I worried that I wouldn’t be any good at all.
I worried that I would end up, like my parents, letting the generation of parents before me decide how I parented because I didn’t know how to change and be the type I wanted to be. And I worried that maybe all that being around kids had been worth sweet f***-all for being an actual mother to an actual human child who was my own.
And I didn’t eat well and I slept worse and I forgot things and I worried and worried and worried about just what D.W. Winnicott meant with that whole good enough mother thing of his because I didn’t feel like I was a good enough mother.
How and where was I going to find this mother I wanted to be like, because I really really needed her and felt like I was somehow running out of time. The infamous terrible twos were coming and I was afraid that my child would break me because I just don’t know how to deal with uncontrollable anger and weren’t the terrible twos just that? pure and utter rage when anything was not just so? I lived in dread of them.
And then along came my psychotherapy course, forcing me into therapy myself and everything began to slowly make sense. I was speaking about how much I cannot deal with anger and how, when anyone yells or gets angry with me, I feel like a small child, quaking inside, afraid to say anything. And sometimes I feel like a slightly bigger child wanting to kick and pinch and scream at the person to leave me alone. But you can’t do that as an adult. So I tell myself to stop it. stop it right now and don’t you dare cry because you’re not a baby. Just grit your teeth and stay still and I’m shaking and trembling and mentally beating myself up, just the way my parents would physically hit me to tell me to be quiet.
I remember one session being extremely emotional speaking about my childhood when my therapist asked me,
“If you could be that little five-year old’s mother, if she was right here in front of you, what would you do?”
And I said, “I would just hold her.”
And he said, “You can still do that. She’s still in there and she comes out when you meet situations that trigger her. and if you berate her and tell her to grow up, then you’re being exactly the mother to her, that you don’t want to be”
And I sat there in silence, telling myself not to cry. don’t cry.
“Are you able to have compassion for that little girl, and just hold and listen to her when she speaks up?”
And I cried.
Was it that simple? To listen to my own inner child and be her mother? Be the mother she longed for and never had?
It couldn’t be. And in truth, it wasn’t. It was much, much harder and yet a lot less complex than i thought. I had the mother I wanted to model myself on all along inside me, I just had to let her be the grown up that comforted me.
I am slowly allowing me, the adult, be there for that inner child that didn’t have that mother. It doesn;t matter anymore that my own mum couldn’t be that for me, because the past is the past and I can never change that.
The most valuable lesson I am learning, every day, is to have compassion for myself, because only if I am able to do this, can I model it for my own daughter. Every time we go through a difficult tantrum, both hers and mine, I listen and I have compassion. I breathe, I stay calm, I soothe my own inner child who wants to come out and have a tantrum right alongside my own child and say it’s not fair that I have to be the grown up and I also just want to have fun and not listen to anyone and do whatever I want. And I tell her it’s okay, we all feel this way sometimes, and it’s okay to feel hard done by and this too, shall pass.
And I tell this to both children, and I hope, slowly, that we’ll both be fine.
Today’s post is part of the Moods of Motherhood blogging carnival celebrating the launch of the second edition of Moods of Motherhood: the inner journey of mothering by Amazon bestselling author, Lucy H. Pearce (published by Womancraft Publishing).
Today over 40 mothers around the world reflect on the internal journey of motherhood: raw, honest and uncut. To see a list of the other contributors and to win your own copy visit Dreaming Aloud.net