By Catherine Cameron.
This week I have been extremely lucky to be on holiday with my husband and toddler.
We made the decision to take a trip to enjoy some family time, but, also for my husband and I to find time to re-connect, away from the pressures of home.
I have never kept secret the impact parenthood has had on my marriage. The initial sleep deprivation, struggles to adjust, and at times different parenting styles have meant these two years have been our toughest. Time together is the exception not the rule, as life, parenthood and work get in the way.
Now – before I continue I should make a disclaimer that I adore our family. I wanted my daughter, and my love for her is borderline obsessive. Next, I should also make it clear that my husband and I are an extremely tough unit. Me being honest about our problems, or about how a child changes the dynamics of life does not mean I am a bad (nor ungrateful) mother, or wife.
And so, I shall return to the topic of our first holiday. On our second night here, my husband and I jumped at the chance to share a meal in this wonderful place.
However my excitement at this time together was quickly quashed into guilt the minute we sat to dine.
A mother whom I had befriended at the Airport spied us without our daughter and bellowed ‘why do YOU get a night off?’
PING. Mum guilt hit me like an arrow to the heart.
Why is it, that we are made to feel guilty over being human when we become mothers? For craving space to be alone, for wanting to spend time with a romantic partner, or for being selfish?
I mean we did all of these things before; insert selfie of PDA, fresh manicure pic, or detailed snaps of week long yoga retreat here.
And these things were applauded.
However once you become a mother, you enter a pressure cooker in which constant and uninterrupted devotion is expected, and who we were before having children is no longer important.
Mothers are mothers. They can be stay at home mothers. They can be working mothers. But they better be good mothers. And they better be grateful.
But most importantly, they need to cherish every single moment with their child.
So, if your anxiety levels are rising and you feel as though you simply can’t do anything right, Ignore the quickening pace of your heart. If you tell someone the truth they’ll think you are complaining. Don’t you know how lucky you are to be a mother?
After all, you need to cherish every single moment with your child. Everyone else is.
I remember commenting once to a waitress how wonderful a meal shared with my husband was, when my daughter was with my Mum. We had actually made conversation without yelling. She looked horrified at me enjoying time away from my daughter and said ‘don’t say those things! You must hold on to every moment.’
And I sat there, reeling. How casually she turned my world around as my struggle with mum guilt and anxiety was instantly fuelled by her words.
A similar scenario occurred at a baby shower I attended. An expectant first time mother sat with her swollen belly as we all offered advice for the journey ahead. Simple things, like ask for help, freeze dinners. One mother told her the importance of cherishing every single moment – and to never wish one away.
On the one hand, I see how important this is, as babies grow so fast. But on the other – these words are dangerous in the fragile mind of a new mother. A new mother, who may sit amidst waves of sleep deprivation holding a screaming new born in the depths of the night, drowning in guilt for wanting a break.
Realising motherhood has magical moments as well as difficult ones is ok.
Needing space is ok.
Not putting yourself second 24 hours a day 7 days a week, is ok.
While postpartum mental health issues statistically stop 12 months after giving birth, judging by the honesty I am privy to by my readers and close mum friends alike, this is not always the case.
I’ll never forget bidding farewell to maternal mental health 12 months postpartum with an unspoken expectation that I would walk into the light, and come Monday be baking muffins and trying for number two.
I never walked into the light. And I’m yet to bake those muffins. And as for number two, well, let’s just say number one has stretched my limits in allowing me to take care of myself, and my husband, as well as do my best by her; for now.
I’m not crazy. I’m not falling apart. I’m not signing divorce papers and growing my armpit hair.
I’m a normal mum. Dealing with normal challenges. Some with iron fists. Some with crumbling walls.
I need time to look after myself. To make sure I am ok, to keep her ok.
I need time to check in with my husband. To remind him I loved him before she was here.
And that I still do after.
And I need to do all this without being made to feel guilty.
Because I tell you what. I am the best god damn mother I can possibly be.
And for those of you reading this, who too are made to feel guilt or shame for needing time out, or for not cherishing every minute of every day?
Give that guilt the middle finger.
Because although you are a mother, you still are, and will always be, the you that came before.
So please be kind to to her.
Catherine is a first time Mother and author of the blog ‘Sweetest Devotion.’ Catherine is passionate about honestly sharing her own experiences in parenthood, in the hope to assure other Mothers that we are never alone in this crazy whirlwind we call parenting.