The Motherhood Mask

Life will never be perfect – so you’d be out of place if you were.

One of my best friends, with kids older than mine, once told me ‘we inevitably screw them up somehow, no matter how hard we try not to – the trick is to try and minimise the damage’. Harsh reality bit me. Those words changed me forever. They changed the way I see myself and the way I see my kids. My friend didn’t realise it but her words changed the direction of our whole family life. Yes it was a cynical statement but there’s liberating truth in there that every mother should know.

At the time, I was trying to give Superwoman a run for her money as I tried to morph myself into a cross between Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson. I read books on baby-led weaning and looked up baby yoga/Pilates/art classes. I printed out family chores schedules, sorted my son’s Lego by colour and tried to cook something different (from scratch) for dinner each night. I never played piano anymore, or sang in the church band or turned the music up loud in the car in case my kids didn’t like what they heard. I never spoke about my work or the bizarre kick I get out of creating spreadsheets or hosting meetings. I was painfully unhappy. I was wearing a mask I had inherited.

I wanted so badly to get it all right. To be a Perfect Mother. Thank God for my friend’s words that shattered the pretence that I should even try to be anyone but myself. Thank God I changed direction whilst my kids are still young. I suddenly realised I could only be a Supermum by first being a Superme.

I grew up thinking to be a good Mother you have to be strong all the time; never cry, never get tired, never say No when you probably could have said Yes and never say Yes when you should probably say No. I thought you had to erase your past, the girl you once were and the dreams you once lived for. I thought my authentic self had to bow out to this new lifelong career called ‘Mummy’ where my real strengths and talents were no longer relevant and I needed to download into my brain and personality a whole new set of professional Motherhood traits.

My Mother amazed me with her steadfastness. She never seemed to lose her temper or make mistakes but then, she also never talked about who she was, never revealed her hopes and dreams. Now, as a mother myself, it frightens me how little I know my own Mother. She played a role, so very well, but I wish I’d actually known her and had the chance to be around the real person behind the motherhood mask.

I can be scatty and forgetful despite my best efforts. I start things I don’t finish. I can be too sensitive, over-think and surf a dozen emotions in one hour. I am mentally fidgety and have a multitude of plans and schemes on the go at once.

If I continued to try and hide all those colours of who I am from my kids, I know I would have eventually died inside. I know my kids would never know me. I also knew that once they were grown and had flown the nest that even I wouldn’t know who the hell I was. That filled me with dread.

By being myself, they will also witness the fierce passion I have for them and for their Daddy. They will understand my dedication to my work, they will be enveloped in my love of music.

Sometimes I will get the balance wrong and need to re-think; but for the most part they’ll grow up with a Mother who is whole, energised, real, vital, in love with all life has to offer.

I will never wear the Motherhood Mask again.

{photo credit}


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