How the COVID-19 19 Pandemic has helped me redefine motherhood.
My experience of motherhood is one I had tried to deny. The representations of mothers portrayed in the media were not always positive or exciting, because of this I failed to appreciate the power of women hood and motherhood.
I became a mother at the age of 22, and I can remember feeling angry – why didn’t anyone warn me of the realities? Why didn’t anyone explain to me that when you birth a child, you also birth yourself into motherhood.
No one explained to me about the emotional impact. The loss of your old identity and the impact of social expectations placing heavily on your shoulders.
No one explained to me that everyone has an opinion of how you “should” mother or parent.
No one explained how your lineage and past impacts on your decisions and perspectives of becoming a new mother.
No one explained to me that when you become a mother you are expected to automatically embrace your new role. Accepting this new role means you must automatically put someone else’s needs before your own. Once you have birthed your child, you are now qualified as a selfless person, and this is your immediate initiation into motherhood.
As well as the unparalleled wonders of Motherhood, equally for me it meant overthinking, concern, worry, comparison, and a huge dose of guilt.
Fast forward to March 2020 and I envisaged living my worst nightmare as a parent, months of constant time together. The corona virus pandemic saw us at the beginning of an unbelievable journey – that if I am honest, I was dreading.
If you had told me then, that I would have had to endure almost year of being home together constantly with three teenagers, I would have thought we probably would never survived! Without the distractions, friends, day trips and holidays, complete with the added titles of teacher, social secretary, and wellbeing consultant, I was feeling the pressure!
I realised very quickly that to make it through this experience I had to abandon all my expectations. No social media pictures of us making banana bread and home-schooling timetables placed on my fridge. Every day we just had to bring our best efforts – what ever our best looked like that day.
I enjoyed the slower pace, the lack of rushing to after school activities. I had previously been so reliant on the distractions that I had to surrender to the truth of single parenthood – we are all in this together as a team. I am the leader of this sh*t show – cook, shopper, mediator, counsellor, and the glue that holds it all together.
Any good leader knows that to get the best out of your team, you need to know their strengths and get them on side. I had to see my children for the adults they were becoming. I had to invest time into knowing them as the individuals that they were growing into, not the version in my head of who they should be. It was a huge reality check with a side dose of surrender! However, it was an opportunity that I will never get again. I became a skilled assessing and auditor of my children and their changing needs and moods to get us through this intense period in our lives.
I soon realised to be the “glue” I needed to honour what I needed and boundary myself off too. Forget motherhood martyrdom, this was survival of the fittest! My usual space of school, bedtimes, work, and routines had disappeared. I had to create my own space, rituals, and area of calm, prioritising this in my daily routine, immersing myself in any activity that brought me joy – meditation courses, tapping sessions, gong baths, running, writing, zoom coffee calls with friends and carving out time to go for a walk… alone!
Boundaries and putting my needs into consideration were the only way that I realised I could survive during a pandemic as a single parent. Embracing my children as their authentic selves helped me to be able to offer myself that same understanding.
We have experienced a whole host of ranging emotions sprinkled in with some tension, arguments, family meetings, space, expectations, and anger. However, the duality of boundaries and bonding with my children has allowed us to grow as a family unit that I never thought would be possible.
In this process of being “all in” and embracing my motherhood and leadership role of holding it all together has helped me redefine what motherhood means and looks like for me. Being a mother had previously always meant martyrdom and releasing all my personal needs. Coupled with a crippling guilt to “get it right.”
Once I relinquished that reality and understanding, the pandemic gave me validation to not be a perfect mum, whatever that meant. By accepting myself and my children exactly as we are… perfectly un perfect, I could also release my attempts at being an A* teacher or an award-winning baker!
The pandemic changed my perspective and helped me make peace with my previously defined version of what motherhood “should” look like, how mums should act and be. It has helped me accept that boundaries, surrendering and winging it are all a much-needed recipe for my pandemic survival prescription.
The main lesson that I have learned, and I hope I have passed on to my children during this time too is – that the only expectations we need to live up to are our OWN, never ones socially constructed or inherited by us. Bringing our best, will always be enough!