To The Struggling Mother
I saw you yesterday in the Shopping Centre as you pleaded with your son to stop climbing out of his pushchair. I watched you patiently reason with him, I noticed the glazed look in your eyes signalling your submission. You were ready to give up, I wondered whether mentally you already had.
I saw you in the car park pleading with your son to sit still as you fastened him safely into his car seat. I observed how you gently handled his convulsing body as you guided him into position, one rigid arm at a time. I spotted the tiredness in your face, tired of fighting, tired of having someone constantly battle against you.
I saw you in the supermarket retrieving the dummy he’d thrown on the ground numerous times. I noticed you as you handed it back to him, knowing too well he’d throw it again only seconds later. I knew what you were doing, you were hoping that this would be the time that the dummy pacified him. I sensed the agitation (at yourself) as you realised it wasn’t. I saw you bribe him with something from the trolley, desperate for a few moments peace, just long enough for you to complete the task at hand. I detected your embarrassment as you wondered whether anyone would spot your chocolate covered child and blame you for being incompetent.
I saw you at the park, the anxiety almost luminous as you encouraged your daughter to become more independent. Your reluctance radiated, your nerves were translucent. I admired you as you cast them aside, hid them seamlessly from her as you pushed her to let go. I watched as you took a step back, then another and relinquished control as she started to ease into her new surroundings. I knew it was hard for you, I wondered whether your palms were sweating, your heart was beating.
I saw you in the changing room as you struggled to keep your daughter still long enough to change her nappy. I sympathised as you realised you hadn’t brought a spare pare of bottoms, the one time you’d forgotten them, regretting allowing yourself to become confident in her abilities as accidents haven’t happened in so long. I noticed the anger (at yourself) trembling in your bottom lip. You felt rubbish and awful, a low point in your day.
I saw you in the toddler group, trying to calm your daughter from her tantrum. I viewed you as you apologised to the other parents for her behaviour, made excuses for why she was screaming so intensely. I grasped the level of your discomfort as you realised no other children were crying – or had cried this session. I knew instinctively that you felt alone, as though you were the only Mother ever to have a crying baby. You wondered why it was always you, what the other Mothers were doing better to make their children more content.
I saw you and I recognised you.
I spotted the familiarities of my every day life and it made me feel better. I’ve been you for so long, you’re living in my shadow.
I spotted you and you noticed me, you mistook my smile as pity, my look as judgement. I want you to know, I wasn’t judging, I was trying to let you know you’re not alone.
You’re part of a new sisterhood, a coven of Motherhood. We’re united by our struggles, joined by our understanding of how hard life can be and ultimately, how bitter sweet it also is. Motherhood is both magical and manic, traumatic and terrific.
So, to the struggling Mother, you’re not struggling at all! You’re doing an amazing job. Please take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. We all feel like you, we’re all trying to do our best.