A Mother’s Heart Laid Open

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My Sweet Girl,

We laid side by side one night with our hands clasped together and literally prayed to God for your little sister. I will always remember the moment we sat side by side and I shared the first grainy scan photographs of her and finally being able to tell you that there is “a baby in your Mummy’s tummy”. I think it’s safe to say you loved her from then on and you spent the next nine months telling your sister over and over how much you loved her.

I am guilty of reserving my patience for your sister sometimes in the unfair expectation that you are nearly 6 years old and therefore understand the adult world more than your 20-month-old sister. I tell you now, I hate myself in those moments. I never want you to think you are anything less than your own level of perfection.  I would never change anything about you from your dinner table shenanigans to your seeming forgetfulness of time when using the bathroom or washing your hands, despite my protestations I love them dearly because they are what makes you ‘you’.

Little did you know as you gazed in wonder at that scan picture what it meant to have a little sister. You didn’t know then that nothing would be yours again, from having to share me to having to share your breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You didn’t know then that you would have to share your toothbrush, your bed and in some years so too will you have to share your clothes.

You share your things so freely and lovingly. You accept that your sister will pull your hair “because she is only a baby”. You accept that you need to share your food “because she is only a baby” and you even accept you need to share me “because she is only a baby”. I hope I have shown you that even though you do need to share me, you will never ever share my love.

You often mention your ‘younger memories’ as you call them with the nostalgia of the ‘good old days’ and it brings sadness to my heart. Our Mummy Daughter Moments may look different now, but I hope you still see them in our Mummy Daughter nights, in our games of ‘I Spy’ on the way to school, in our cuddles at bedtime and dare I say our physiotherapy sessions. I hope you see them in my pride and encouragement as you rehearse for drama class; as you practice your reading and complete your workbooks.

Much seems to have happened between Reception and Year 1, friendships have come and gone; you have grown and even have less teeth but as you venture further out into the world, navigating the emotional barriers that attempt to bar your way, please know you can always turn back and head for home. Throughout your journey in this world, there are a few things I hope you never forget:

1- It is okay to be alone, whether that be in the playground or in the lunch hall. Sometimes your own company is the best company you can have.

2- Always stay true to who you are, never change to please anyone or to spite anyone.

3- Your little sister will be your most important ‘BFF’ in life, she is a link to your past and to your future. Never allow anyone to let you forget that.

4- Never feel guilty for what you have and never let others make you feel that way.

5- Always foster your love of learning. Always listen in class even when it’s no longer cool to do so and you no longer have the reward handouts for ‘good sitting’.

6- Never, ever forget that I am the same as I was and always will be. No matter what goes on outside of our four walls, our house will always be a haven and I promise you I will be your lighthouse. Always.

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I love you always, my sweet girl:

xxx Mummy xxx

Opening image:7-themes.com

Closing image: www.stepschoolswork.org.uk

 

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More Than Meets The Eye

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“What do you do all day?”

“Every day is a holiday for you”

“How can you be with children all day?”

“You are boring”

 “You can’t have very much to talk about”.

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These are just a few comments that have been directed at me over the years since my eldest was born. I was always going to be a stay-at-home mother, ever since I was a little girl. I have even turned down a job and a possibility of embarking on a brand-new career, so I can be eligible for maternity leave. Being a mother was all I ever wanted to be, yet despite achieving my goals, I am judged as unsuccessful because success is only measured in terms of financial gains. I have never been one with the impressive job titles and my current one as stay-at-home mum (SAHM) tops them all. People tend not to ‘see you’ unless you have ‘Executive’ or ‘Manager’ at the end of your name.

I appreciate that people are often scared of what they cannot understand. They can not understand why someone with a Master’s degree education willingly chose to be a SAHM. Many do not know how to start a conversation without the “how’s work going?” pistol shot. It is similar to when I embarked on volunteer placements, again people could not understand why I would want to do anything without any monetary rewards. Much has been made of the need to change the title of stay-at-home mothers to garner more respect, but why change what we are in the hope of pleasing others?

I recently commented to a working parent how tired I was following a bad night with my youngest, but my feelings were dismissed simply because I do not ‘go to work’ in the morning. At the risk of generalising, working parents do not see stay-at-home mothers as equals. Throughout my working life, the breadth of my work was always more than my job title. If we are going to judge others should we not judge by how they are as people and the work they do rather than the job title they own? If I was working as a nanny or childminder the reaction from that parent I am sure would be very different. I do not understand why people value nannies and childminders and regard what they do as ‘work’ but not that of a stay-at-home mother who performs the exact same work.

Not so long ago it was ‘accepted’ for women to be paid less than their male counterparts for equal work. Until people started to speak up. I am not expecting this blog post to move mountains, I just hope it might prompt dialogue between people and maybe even change people’s thinking of stay-at-home mums and our work.

To those working mothers who endure the heartache of missing their child’s assembly or school parade I see you. I see you rushing through the gates in the morning desperate to make that morning meeting on time, I see you running back through those gates in the afternoon hoping you are not too late for pick-up. I see you scrambling to arrange childcare. I see you and I admire you.

To those stay-at-home mothers who feel judged for not working, I see you. I see your struggle at earning the right to feel tired, stressed or overworked. I see the sacrifices you make so that you can afford the latest fashion craze or latest school fees. I see the worry in your eyes, the worry for the future and your career. I see you and I admire you.

To those work-at-home mothers who do not fit in the known mould of motherhood, I see you. I see your struggle to simultaneously mould yourself into the working mother and stay-at-home mother. I see you shouldering the strain of both but none at the same time. I see you shouldering the guilt of both. I see you and I admire you.

Society seems set on definitions, we are so busy defining mothers and placing one another into categories of stay-at-home mother, working mother, work-at-home mother. Are we not just one and the same? Are we less mothers because we work? Are we of less value to society and social functions if we do not traditionally work? We should open our eyes a little wider. Have less judgement and nurture greater understanding. We like to be seen encouraging our children to accept differences in others, it is a pity we do not follow our own advice or teachings.

Opening image: www.pinterest.co.uk

Living With Mother

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Dear Mummy,

Yes, I still call you Mummy just like I did as a child. It is not only your name, but it is also a reminder of years past. Of a happy childhood. The name is a representation of safety and comfort. Something I hope I am passing on to my own children.

I am lucky that you are living with us. We have had our moments and sometimes (more than once!) we have felt threatened by the loss of independence living together has caused however I am lucky. I am lucky that I get to be by your side, whether that be driving you to a doctor’s appointment, painting your nails or sharing a morning coffee.

You remain Grandma and I remain Mummy. You are not ‘the help’, the babysitter or a surrogate mother figure to my children. You have had your time raising your own children and now it’s your turn to enjoy a hot cup of tea while perusing the latest Radio Times magazine or watching what you have recorded on catch-up. It is your turn to enjoying watching children grow without shouldering any of the responsibility.

So please look beyond the mass of toys scattered throughout the house. I know it’s hard but please see it as the girls expanding their creativity. Please see the dishes that often fill the sink and kitchen surfaces as time I have spent teaching the girls, playing with them and creating memories that I hope will bond them together as friends rather than sisters.

When my youngest is awake in the early hours, when I can barely eat dinner without jumping up every other second retrieving cutlery and filling water glasses, when I lie awake at night worrying about all that it takes to be a mother, from dealing with separation anxiety, to finding lost LOL dolls, I realise you did and still do the same and I thank you. Motherhood may have changed between our generations but the nature of it will forever remain the same. This is my chance of giving back a little and I hope I am succeeding in some small way, even if it’s simply bringing a cup of tea without you asking.

I hope you can forgive me for the mess and disorganisation but motherhood as you know is messy and disorganised. I hope you can see beyond the chaos and see what I hope to be creating for my children. On top of that I promise to try. I promise to try and be the person you know I can be. I promise I will always be here for you, I promise I will drive you where you need to go (if you bear with me while I park!) I promise the children will never leave you or go to bed without a kiss and a cuddle because I now know what it takes.

I love you, Mummy.

xxxx

 

Opening image: my own

Our Summer Bucket List

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I have never looked forward to the summer as much as this year. My youngest is now walking and trying her best at talking. She is a lot of fun and sharing in her firsts makes everything new again: her first paddling pool, her first soft play, her first beach day. My eldest after her Reception year at school is like a different child. It sounds strange but I am so excited to get to know her as she is now. To spend uninterrupted time with her when we are not separated by the school gates and I do not have to share her with her teachers. I am excited to see my daughters together away from the rushed morning preparations for school and rushed afternoons leading up to dinner, bath/shower time, homework time and bedtime.

Instead I want to see them together creating memories during a summer that I hope sets a precedent for our future summers. I want a summer bucket list to become a tradition so that as my daughters get older and as their paths diverge into different directions, summer time will bring them together again and remind them that although boys, grades, work and relationships are important, it is the relationships and achievements made within the home that are more worthy. My eldest daughter refers to her younger sister as her BFF (best friend forever) and I hope that in creating memories and traditions such as these that I am able to nurture that into an eternal (and mutual) BFF relationship.

As with all big changes, it is important to start small:

  1. Saying yes more often whether that is to creating Barbie shows, watching YouTube together, running through the water sprinkler or playing in the paddling pool.
  2. Visiting museums.
  3. Spending the day at a sandy beach.
  4. Have a movie night … at the cinema.
  5. Have a cousin sleepover.
  6. Visit a library.
  7. Paint.
  8. Go swimming.
  9. Make spontaneous trips to the park with a picnic.
  10. Take naps together.

We are always so busy at life: moaning about the hot weather, moaning about the cold weather, worrying about bills and keeping house that we forget what is right in front of us.

To my sweet and beautiful girls, I promise to be a Mummy that says yes more often, that ignores the ironing in favour of painting or colouring with you and I promise to be a Mummy with fewer excuses. You are growing too fast before my eyes and I want to hold you closer in the hope of slowing down time. I know that is beyond my control but at the very least I can ensure we make wonderful memories along the way.

xxxxxx

 

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Opening image: www.pinterest.co.uk

Closing image: www.natureformysoul.com

Our Time Will Come Again

 

Husband Wfie ImageBaby,                                                                                  (remember when I used to call you that?)

At the time of writing, I think I can count on one hand the number of words we spoke to one another last night. We didn’t argue and neither had we fought. We just put everyone and everything else before our own needs. Sometimes I wish we could just be a little more selfish. I wish we would not need to re-schedule or cancel date nights. I wish we could celebrate our anniversary and show the world we deserve to be celebrated, rather than dismiss its importance. We are passionate about family and yet we seem to forget the most important family of all. The one we have created.

The most common advice given to parents as they embark on parenthood is to enjoy it while it lasts and lately that advice has struck a deep chord with me. We are watching our daughters grow in both awe and disbelief at how fast time flies. I feel a pang of sadness as our eldest daughter ventures further out into the world, further away from my outstretched hand. At the same time there is an excitement growing inside me that one day we will be us again.

One day our evenings will not be taken up by cleaning sticky floors and kitchen surfaces, clearing away toys and writing in homework books.

One day our evenings will not be taken up by gardening, making packed lunches and the never-ending cycles of laundry.

One day our evenings will not be taken up by pleading with our children to eat their dinner and embarking on the never-ending cycle of picking up toys, cutlery and food from the floor.

One day we will not wake in the morning utterly exhausted from the cries and needs of our youngest or staying up at our eldest’s bedside, holding her hair while she is sick in our now christened ‘sick bowl’.

Our time will come.

Our time will come for cuddling up on the settee to watch Grey’s Anatomy.

Our time will come for candlelit dinners while holding hands.

Our time will come for spontaneous trips into London to the cinema or theatre or even pulling all the stops and dinner out in a restaurant.

Our time will come for bedtimes where I fall asleep on your chest while watching Family Guy.

Our time will come for uninterrupted conversations.

Our time will come for no longer speaking to one another in the third person.

I know these days with our girls are fleeting and one day we will miss all this beautiful chaos.

We will miss our daughters crawling into bed in the early hours of the morning, asking if it’s “morning time yet” while we wonder how long we can delay the inevitable.

We will miss the water fights in the garden.

I know I will miss our daughters climbing up your body while you sing the circus tune and spin them around upside down (even though I feel I’m having a heart attack each time).

We will miss our drum rolls in the morning.

We will miss family trips to the park where we inevitably end up in opposite directions depending on which child we have.

We will miss playing Wii games, Happy Families and board games on repeat as well as reading the same books over and over.

We will miss this.

So, let’s enjoy it all while it lasts. Let’s sneak in kisses and cuddles when we can and let our daughters see us doing so. Let’s hold hands on the rare occasion we are together during the day. Let’s link arms with the person pushing the buggy. Let’s put Cbeebies on for the girls when we want to have a 5-minute uninterrupted conversation. More importantly, let’s celebrate us more. Our wedding anniversary, engagement anniversary maybe even our month anniversary (remember them?)

It won’t always be like this.

Before them there was us and after them there will be us. It is knowing that after our girls have begun to pave their way into the world, we will find the path back to us again that keeps me going. So, let’s take the sleepless nights, the crazy mornings and the non-stop weekends knowing that at the end of it all there will be us again.

Love Always,

Your wife.                                                                                                                                         xxxx

Marriage Hands

Opening image: http://unknown-love-quotes.blogspot.com

Closing image: my own

 

A Letter to my First-Born

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My Sweet Girl,

I remember there was a time you needed me for everything. From cleaning your teeth to reading a book. I watch you in the morning as I dress you in your school uniform, you choose your hairstyles and perform your daily perfume dance as I spray you with your favourite perfume from my collection. I watch you twirling around showing the family your chosen hairstyle and announcing the name we have just christened it with upstairs. As I watch you in the midst of packing lunch bags, tightening buggy straps, shoes and coat zips I am beyond proud of the person you are growing into, yet I ache for the little girl who once learnt to walk by holding my hand.

I remember watching you as a baby and thinking we had all the time in the world together, little did I know then that the time would pass much quicker than I could ever have anticipated. I now watch you with your YouTube and Barbie dolls immersed in your innocent make-believe world with a tinge of sadness, as with your babyhood I know this time will not last nearly as long as I would like.  I was warned that you would not be the same person by the end of this year: not only can you now independently read computer game instructions but you now have playdates on your own during which you “forgot all about me”.  You are at the difficult stage of finding your free will and not always following my instructions blindly and I am also at the difficult stage of accepting this without demonising this natural behaviour of a 5-year-old girl. You are my first taste of motherhood, you are my learning curve. I have never experienced this notion of guiding someone along the perilous path towards independence before so I hope you can forgive me for potentially taking this personally and reacting defensively.

This has been a year of firsts for us both: your first day of school, your first independent playdate, your first school disco. You are adamant that you are no longer my ‘baby’ despite my protestations but I hope you will forgive me if I baby you a little longer. As you crawl into my bed in the dark of night it reassures me as much as it does you. As you fall asleep in my arms each night, it reassures me that no matter how many independent playdates you have you will always return to me at the end of the day. It reassures me that should your heart get broken by boys, friends, bad grades or life that you will always crawl into my bed in the dark of night or find the same reassurance as an adult of falling asleep in my arms.

Each night before I go to bed I sneak into your room and kiss you goodnight and with whispers of “I love you” I disentangle you from your covers and each night my heart breaks. I feel I am losing you. As I write this, I am listening to the birth mix I created while I was pregnant with you. A few tracks sends shivers through me as I remember listening to them in the cloud of labour. I long to be back in that hospital bed with you about to enter the world and with all that time together ahead of us, when independent playdates are years away and when you needed me for everything. Instead I am staring out of the window into the dark of night and wondering if (and hoping that) tomorrow we will be able to snatch some golden moments together re-igniting the bond that was lit the moment we laid eyes on one another, whether that will be on the swings, playing tennis in the garden or walking to school and playing eye spy.

I promise you now that whatever we may be doing: getting ready for school, walking to school, doing homework, getting ready for bed it will be ‘us time’ not simply treated as chores to accomplish. I feel like time is slipping away and that soon you will no longer pick daisies for me wherever we go. Soon I will be sitting here with you away at university, on your gap year, or even upstairs in your bedroom when your walls are covered in your favourite pop star rather than princesses and unicorns, I know I will miss you still but I am determined to not miss you with regret.

Love you always,

xxxxx Mamy xxxxx

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Opening image: my own 

Closing image: www.quotesmixer.com

The Beautiful Struggle

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“Do one thing every day that scares you”, easier said than done. However, for Maternal Mental Health week (30 April – 05 May), I will try my best.

As I write this, the clock is fast nearing midnight, the kitchen is still scattered with the days happenings and my bedroom resembles a mass of suitcases, moving boxes and washing baskets of either dirty laundry or laundry waiting to be put away. I have messages on my phone that I have not had time to answer all day and my to-do list is forever growing.

My youngest daughter is 15 months and when I look back on this time, there are of course moments of joy but overall, I fear there have mostly been moments of anxiety and apprehension. I have an older daughter of 5 years so I am not even what some call a ‘new mother’ but I feel I am struggling at the whole motherhood thing. On the outside I have two wonderfully behaved, polite, beautiful children who adore one another and I walk in the outside world with a smile and an upbeat attitude, internally I feel I am drowning and everyone is watching from the shore but no one is coming to help me.

I remember after the birth of my first child, my health visitor asked how I was feeling, I replied honestly and said I was a little tearful. Instantly her back straightened and she looked at me and listened to what I was saying for the first time it seemed since she arrived. She proceeded to ask me whether I had thoughts of harming my child etc. but not once asking about me. I have never had such thoughts of either harming my children or myself but occasionally still feel tearful and overwhelmed but would not dream of contacting anyone from the medical field for help. For all I know these feelings could be perfectly normal and the sensible less emotional side of me knows it is, but there are times I convince myself I am the only one to feel this way.

The birth of my second daughter was traumatic and recovery was more problematic than for her sister. During the birth of my youngest, not once was I examined in the delivery room. The midwife had her back to me the entire time and I delivered my daughter with no input, guidance or support from the midwife until the very end. Due to complications, I had to go to theatre and the effects of the operation I had still affects me today. My daughter’s tongue and lip tie were not diagnosed effectively in hospital even after being checked at least twice, breast feeding was hard, painful and not at all natural and on top of everything else, I had my eldest daughter to consider. She and I have a special bond and it was extremely hard for both of us in the early days when I was not so readily available for her. I felt I was just expected to cope and I was not allowed to feel anything other than overwhelming joy. Having said this, I think I am getting to terms with motherhood ‘for two’. The guilt I feel for my inability to split in two is lessening as I watch my girls together and witness the love and adoration they share for one another.

I wish I did have someone to talk to though when my youngest was born. Some of the time our feelings of apprehension and lack of confidence and self-worth do not rear their ugly heads until days or even months afterwards. Then they start to build and subsequently you are then dealing with a mountain of negative emotions and a new-born. I am still plagued with feelings that my daughter doesn’t love me or that I am not good enough for my children. For most of the time, I internalise these feelings but I know they are revealed in my lack of confidence and self-doubt as a mother. I think all mothers, first, second, third or even ten-time mothers should be given the opportunity to talk to someone as routine, not just given a leaflet but someone to listen to them. I know of one new mother who returned to work for a very well-known and reputable company a year after her daughter was born, on the outside she had it all she adored her husband and daughter but just weeks after starting back to work she threw herself in front of a train.

We are often taught to be kinder to others for everyone is fighting their own battles. It is similar to motherhood, on the outside we may watch someone enjoying a well-paid job, a bigger house, more money but there will always be battles that person is fighting behind closed doors, and rather than alienating people due to jealousy for their perceived fortune or to castigate others due to their parenting styles/choices children we should offer support and friendship. Depression is still deemed a dirty word, a weakness rather than an illness. We need to change that. We need to normalise the need to talk, particularly with mothers, encouraging the notion that needing to talk does not equate to being a bad mother.

Motherhood is definitely messy. Motherhood is sticky counter tops, it’s toys all over the floor and it’s laundry upon laundry upon laundry but it is also cuddles at bedtime, it is open-mouthed kisses and it’s overwhelming pride at their first steps, first words, first gold star at school. Motherhood is messy for all these reasons but also for all the emotions we face every day. It is messy for all the judgements we receive from the outside world, from fellow mothers, family members and those in the medical profession who are placed there to ‘help’ us.  Motherhood is messy because we are forever fighting to be enough, but we never are. There is never enough time for each of our children, for our partners, for the house, for ourselves. We are never enough. Motherhood is messy because sometimes its sitting beside an untouched fruit bowl while you comfort eat your way through your chocolate and marshmallow reserves in one evening.

This is real motherhood and there is no shame in struggling with the mess and not always enjoying it. It is not a reflection on your affection for your children if you don’t enjoy motherhood all day every day.

As I finish this, the kitchen is scattered with the days happenings, my bedroom still resembles a mass of suitcases, moving boxes and washing baskets of either dirty laundry or laundry waiting to be put away. The fact that I manage to prep for dinner as my little one naps feels like a huge accomplishment, after 3 hours sleep. Motherhood will always be messy but at the same time it is oh so beautiful.

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Opening image: www.passtheproseccoplease.co.uk

Closing image:  www.nextstepintegral.org

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