I’m a mean mama. I love you so much, that sometimes a mean mama is the best I can be for you.
There are so many things in this world that I wish to protect you from, to keep you from, to keep from you that sometimes it means that what you want in the now I have to say no to because I want to keep you safe.
Yes, I want to keep you from predators and yes, I want to keep you from people whose love for you may be more about themselves than you. And yes, I want to keep your body safe and your belly full and your learning continual and your development appropriate, but I also want to keep your mind.
I want your thoughts to be of adventures and mysteries, I want your dreams to be of fairies and ballerinas, or trucks and superheroes if you wish. I want your biggest dilemmas to be whether you should bring the red spade or the blue spade to the beach, if your new friend in the park will l be there again tomorrow or not or whether you will walk or take a scooter.
I want to wash copious amounts of muddy trousers and scrub grass stains out of the knees, to have to carry a spare set of wellie boots for when yours are full of puddles. I want beach toys and wooden food and glitter to litter my floors and to be sweeping up sandpit sand for years to come.
I want equal wardrobe space for fancy dress as for clothes, and to be ‘persuaded’ to take a fireman, fairy, pirate or princess with me on every milk run.
There are many years ahead where you will worry about your appearance. There are tears that you will cry over boys and lovers and friends come and gone.
There may be a time for you to care about what’s popular, what’s hot, what’s happening in the world around you, but that time is not now.
Now is the time for a clean fresh face, and a wardrobe that allows you the movement and freedom of childhood without trying to make you into a mini-woman. Now is the time to enjoy fanciful stories and childish movies. Now is the time to live to the fullest and enjoy a kind of freedom you will never again experience, a kind of life you will only appreciate years after its gone.
My girls, a time will come where you will wear make-up and listen to music with themes that don’t belong to childhood. A time will come where your choice of outfit might make me cringe and your choice of entertainment might leave me questioning where I went wrong. I know it will because it came for me, as it does for everyone.
Even Peter Pan grew up eventually…
But innocence lost is lost forever. Childhood left behind is a street with only one direction. There’s no turning back time.
I will do my best to keep you young, to hold on to your youthful days, to be the buffer against words like sexualisation and objectification, and a torrent of marketing that tries to tell you what “stuff” you need to be popular, or beautiful, or loved. I will cocoon you, so that the subjects and realities of teenage years or adulthood become known to you then, and not a day before.
I will be your fortress even when you wonder why you can’t do the things other kids are allowed to and I will be you shield till such a time as your decisions are made by your desires for your life, not those of your peers, or characters in TV shows and magazines.
At times you may hate me, but in time I believe you will see that it was always about what was best for you and one day as you watch your own daughters hurtle with frightening velocity from infancy you will understand that sometimes “you’re being mean mama” is just another form of my deep and undying and eternal love.
We all know that babies cry, and that they cry to tell us that they’re sad, hungry, thirsty, tired, overstimulated, cold, hot, and just about everything else. It’s one of the first things you learn as a new mum – distinguishing those cries and knowing which one means what. It’s also one of the first victories of motherhood: hearing a cry, responding to it appropriately and seeing your baby settle, smile or relax. It’s wonderful.
*For the record, I love Zulily, and I’ve loved every thing we’ve received from Zulily through purchases, credits or for review. Yes, I have a business arrangement with Zulily, but rest assured, I wouldn’t if I didn’t love them! If you join Zulily from my link, I’ll receive £10 if you make your first purchase.
Before I open myself up to a huge can of whip-ass, I want to make something very, very clear: I adore my children, and my love for them is limitless, boundless and unconditional. Don’t for a moment think there’s anything in the post that follows that contradicts that, because there isn’t.
Will I love my second child as much as my first?
How can I feel what I feel for my oldest for another child?
How is it possible that my heart can stretch to fill with the same love for my new baby?
I know I’m not the only mother that has wrestled with these questions while feeling new life grow in my womb, and I know that I’m not the only one who, with the benefit of hindsight and an overwhelming love for my new addition, can now say, “It just does.”
I am obviously only almost five months into loving two children, so perhaps I’m not an expert, but I have come to realise many things about a mother’s heart, and motherly love in the last 20-something weeks.
I lay in the birthpool with Ameli swimming about, and between contractions cuddled her. I gave her a hug and began to cry as I said good bye to my only child. I knew that there was something special there that was about to end – I just didn’t know how. In the weeks that followed, a number of things changed.
For a start, my baby girl suddenly seemed huge. The fact that at two and a half she wasn’t potty trained yet irritated me, and her nappies were gross. She continued to nurse around sleep times and suddenly her face and body in my lap felt morosely big.
Of course, she didn’t change at all, overnight, but the addition of a newer, smaller baby suddenly changed my gorgeous oldest girl in my eyes. I tried to keep to our routines as much as possible so that she wouldn’t feel the difference in my perception of her, and I think that worked well.
As the weeks have gone on, I’ve readjusted and grown ‘used’ to her again, and now I no longer see her as a huge, oversized baby – she’s just my little girl again.
But my love for her has changed.
For months now, I’ve felt guilty about the fact that my feelings towards her have changed, and I’ve felt like I didn’t want to love Aviya too much, because I didn’t want to take away from my love for Ameli. But, the love for Aviya has come in overwhelming, breath catching waves, and I cannot imagine my life without or before her.
It’s taken me some time, but I finally realise that everything is as it’s meant to be.
Loving Aviya with my whole being has somehow not taken love away from Ameli, all it’s done is balance out the love for Ameli.
What do I mean?
Well, I realise now that my overwhelming, all consuming, life-changing, passionate, almost obsessive love for Ameli, which burned like a fire within me, and physically hurt at the thought of anything happening to her, or of her going to nursery without me, or would cause my heart to palpitate when she was getting into the car with her daddy was probably not good for her long term.
Naomi Stadlen writes in “How Mothers Love” that this kind of love is a huge burden for a child to bare. When a mother’s life is completely wrapped up in her child, it places a lot of responsibility on the child to be something, or do something or turn out a specific way in order to almost validate the mother’s existence. This made a lot of sense to me.
The 29 months I had with just Ameli were passionate, in the way only a mother who has brought life into the world and been swept up by the unconditionality of that love, the all-consuming wholeness of it, can understand passion. But with the arrival of a second love, it is as if the passion is balanced out, so that the love can thrive, and the children can grow. Sometimes I look at Ameli and I miss that burning in my heart, and other times it comes over me – for both girls – and I can smile and thank God for my beautiful children, and realise that when it’s all working well, nature is so very smart, because such a gripping love cannot be sustained long term, and in fact, the balanced love is so much better, so much less exhausting and so much more fulfilling.
A mother’s love does stretch. It does grow for each child – as Naomi Stadlen says, the empty womb fills with love. I am grateful that I no longer feel guilt for loving one child, or loving the other too much. My girls take my breath away, and my hope is that rather than drowning them in expectation or a need to give some back, my love for them will make them soar out into the world confident in what, and in who, they are.
I know I don’t often write you letters on random days of the month, but usually gather up all the little things I want to say to you into your monthly letter. Today is different though, because today, I don’t want to tell you about you. I want, instead, to tell you about me.
Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
The things I have learned about me are more than I ever knew possible.
I have learned that there are some things that you can never know until you have experienced them. Holding your first born is one of them.
I have learned that there is an unused, previously unknown portion of your heart that suddenly comes alive once there is this kind of love to fill it. I never missed it before you were born, because I didn’t know that it was there.
I have learned that I actually do possess perseverance skills. Laughable as it sounds now, I was dreadfully worried that I’d become bored of being a mother. Sure, I’m only about 1/18th through the influential part of motherhood, but still: so far, so good.
I have learned that I am exceptionally capable. Things that may have seemed daunting two years ago are now common place. Like surviving on day after day of broken sleep. Of having quiet ‘me-times’ be far and few between, and yet finding new ways of achieving inner peace and quiet. Of utilising and maximising the shortest times to the greatest effect.
I have learned that my mind is inquisitive â€“ something I have always known, yet now I have the time to explore things â€“ like how breast milk is made, ingredients in commonly accepted child medications and so on. I have the time to discover and the intelligence to understand.
I have learned that I am fiercely passionate. Which amuses me, because the things I am passionate about are things I never knew existed just a few years ago. I don’t do anything because I think it looks good. I do it because I believe that it is.
I have learned that I am worthy. I am worthy to be loved, just as I love. I am worthy of being respected, just as I respect you. I am allowed, no, required to care for myself, so that I can care for you.
I have learned that I can look in the mirror and not despise what I see â€“ not because it is beautiful, but because I do not want you to mimic self-loathing. I have learned that I will love myself, and accept myself as I am, so that you will do the same for yourself.
As much as some people like jumping up and down with statements of being ‘sick to death’ of those in the â€œnatural birth campâ€ or â€œthe breastfeeding campâ€ or â€œthe natural parenting campâ€ for making them feel inadequate, I cannot help, nor apologise, for what you have taught me. And I am proud.
That I can endure 48 hours of labour with focus and willpower to birth a child â€“ just as a marathon runner or mountain climber feels pride â€“ so do I. That I can go through the ups and downs of breastfeeding, pumping, nipple pain, mastitis, and still nurse you â€“ I feel pride that I persevered. That I hold you close, keep you near, sleep by you, attach you to my heart, my head and my body, I feel pride that I can dedicate these years to you, knowing that these days will come back to me many fold.
I feel pride, because it is my achievement. It is what I have worked for. It is what I have learned from this experience of motherhood, thus far. I feel pride when I look at where I have come from and where I have been and how I have grown. And when I look at you, I know that my sense of pride is not an exaltation of myself above any other woman.
No, it is an exaltation of myself above my old self. It is the betterment of me.
The Little Things in Life â€” In a simple and lovely prose poem, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shows how adults worry about the wrong things and forget the little, important ones: watching ladybugs, jumping in leaves, cherishing each moment as it comes.
As I lay feeding you tonight, watching your eyes grow heavy and your breath deepen, I wondered what you would want to know about me one day, if I were to die. I imagined you sitting on a beach, lost in thought. I imagined your Aunty coming to you, and I imagined you asking her about me. It made me sad, seeing you there, staring at the stars and the waves, with your toes digging holes and your fingers massaging the sand as I love to do.
I wondered what she would say; what people would tell you, if I were gone.
I was accused recently in an article I wont give credence by linking to, of being ‘gag worthy’ for a post I wrote when my daughter was four weeks old, in which I took a humorous look at the things that have changed in my life since becoming a mother.
This person went further and said that I ‘perpetuated the myth’ of all the tough times being worth it, and that I was toeing the party line.