What does it mean to be a mother? Most of us choose to become mothers, and that choice comes with great responsibility. The children you have given birth to are not property, it is not like buying a handbag and when you become tired of it or it becomes too old, you can throw it away. The child you have given birth to, that child you chose to have, is a lifetime responsibility. Children are a gift and a gift, which needs to be treasured all your life. Eventually, these children become adults and thus become independent but never truly independent. To you, they will always be your babies and for them, they will always run to you in times of need. You as a mother will give and give regardless, and when they become parents, only then will they understand what you have given up and what you have done for them.
Motherhood is also a gift, and it is a gift that keeps giving. As you see your child take his or her first step, the first time you hear the word mummy, when those little arms stretch out for you, their first play at school, their first certificate for excellence and so on. You know you did that; you are moulding them to who they will become.
I am not belittling fathers, fathers can play a large role in a child’s life but let’s not forget it is we as mothers that carry that child and feel every kick, every discomfort through pregnancy and the pain of childbirth. The relationship we have with our child is different from that of a father. We have a connection that no father will ever understand. Most of us will go without ensuring that our child receives everything we can give them. It is our pleasure to see our child thrive, and knowing we have done everything in our power to ensure that they succeed, this is the greatest gift of all.
My mother once said if my children do better than me in life, then I have done a good job. I understood what she meant, but being a mother is not a job!!! Your children are part of you, they extend you. When that child is growing inside of you, it is your body that feeds them and nourishes them. How can you not see them as part of you?
We want our children to grow up independent, but in today’s society, it is harder for children to go out in the world. The cost of living has soared, the cost of renting or buying a home has become so expensive that it is out of the reach of many. So we help them as much as we can, and that is part of motherhood and being a parent. After I left home, I would still run back to my mother whenever I felt the need, I needed that comfort, her arms around me and that sense of security. As an adult, the roles change slightly, but her role of making me feel safe and loved did not change.
I remember trying to get home on a cold winter’s evening. I must have been 11 or 12 years old. I waited for a bus that seemed to take a lifetime and decided to walk; it snowed and I could no longer feel my hands, my feet and my face was numb. As I reached the top of our street, I saw my mother, who had become extremely worried, as I had not yet arrived home. She put her arms around me and suddenly I felt this warmth surge through my body. That is the warmth of love.
It is unconditional love; you will always love what you brought into the world, what you nurtured. You may not always like your children, but you will always love them and always do for them, even when they have children of their own.
Do you remember as children when you were hurt because of a fall or scraping your knee? What was the first word that came out of your mouth ‘MUM’? Admittedly, I still do that today. When I have sudden pain, I shout out for my mother even though she can’t hear me. It is natural, we as children, no matter our ages, run to our mother’s for comfort, to kiss the pain away and truly you felt like the pain has gone or has subsided. I know it is all psychological, but that is the feeling of a mother’s comfort and a mothers’ love.
There is also another side, a side that many of us will not voice, a side that we constantly think about and ask God to forgive us, for even thinking about it.
During lockdown being a mother has changed my outlook, my child is still a gift from God. But it was a gift that I could send to school five days a week and spend quality time with, in the early parts of the evening and at weekends. Now that gift has become the bane of my very existence. It is a gift that will not stop giving. This may sound really hard but 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, lockdown can turn the strongest of minds into mush.
Hearing the word ‘Mama’ 100 times a day can make anyone crazy. My son is a lot older now and life has become simpler, but when he was younger the constant playing chauffeur, the constant worrying about him, the constant daily repetition can be debilitating. Lockdown has taught me to treasure those memories.
Looking at the same four walls day in and day out, trying to work with the constant whispering and moaning “I’m bored and I’m hungry” can turn any sane person insane.
Children can suck the life out of you, you lose your identity, and you forget you are a woman. Life becomes a constant battle to keep your sanity. Every day we watch the news or pick up a newspaper and we hear or read about evil, murder, paedophilia, children going missing and of course the number of deaths because of covid. A day does not go by when you don’t read or hear about abuse after abuse. Why do we choose to bring children into this world? Do we not add more stress to our lives? Is it fair to them? Maybe consider those mothers who can’t cope, those who abandon their children? Motherhood is totally selfless, but not all are built to be selfless.
You need to be so strong to be a mother in this world, especially now. You need to give up who you are, to take on this responsibility. If I had it all to do again, knowing what I know now, would I have done it? I don’t know!! I love my child so much and would not give him up for the world now he is here, but if I knew the hardships that come with having a child, I may have thought twice before embarking on this path.
Do I resent motherhood? Yes, lately I do. Sometimes I feel asphyxiated and I’ll never breathe again. I can never be free from the shackles around my ankles. Every time he leaves the house to go on a bike ride or simply to take a walk, I am in an abyss of a constant worry. Covid has changed the way we live and covid has brought to the surface thoughts I did not know I had. All my hidden thoughts and guilt that I am not good enough as a mother and forever tormented by what he will become. This generation will be different from those before due to covid. They are limited, the world is no longer their oyster.
I was never afraid to die before I became a mother. Now I am terrified, what will happen to my child? It is a life sentence of someone sucking you dry and you cannot walk away. So you just carry on and if you are honest with yourself, is this what you wanted? Yes, someone to love? But in today’s world. I don’t worry that my hair has not felt water or my face has not seen moisturiser for over a week. I worry about getting covid and dying, all because of him. Why allow another human to have that level of control. Children do that, its voluntary enslavement.
The worst part, in my mind my vocabulary has become quite colourful, what with the constant frustrations of lockdown. As a mother, you have to filter everything that comes out of your mouth even in anger when speaking to your child. What you say to them can affect them so deeply and can stay with them for the rest of their lives. Last summer, I was angry with my son and I said ‘if I didn’t have you, my life would have been so different’ how those words upset him and as soon as I said it I wished I could take it back. We all do this, unfortunately, the filter between my brain and mouth failed me and it should not have done. I find myself locking the bedroom door just to compose myself or going for long showers or baths just to getaway. I loved hearing the word ‘Mama’ but now every time I hear it I know he wants something. What more can I give?
As a little girl, I was given dolls to play with and I am sure many of you were; we were being groomed to become mothers. Why do we see it as a natural course of growing up? I have given up most of my youth to bring up this child and yes, at times, I resent it. I could not go out, unable to date, unable to have 5 mins of peace just for me and unable to buy the things I want. Every waking moment was about my child, every broken sleep was because of his needs.
Just writing this I feel guilty about the way I feel at times, but to hide those feelings can be wrong and can make me resent my child even more. Raising a child comes with a lifetime responsibility. Are you ready for it? The heartache, the stress, the worrying, the sacrifice, the joy and the happiness.
Their success is our success. If we push them too quickly, and they fall, who will pick up the pieces? We will, is it not easier to help them until they are ready? Let them cut the apron strings, not us. However, I do become teary just thinking about my child one day leaving home. He will no longer be in the next room, but when he is ready, I will let him go, and encourage him. I will also let him know I will always be here and the door is always open. I will make him understand he will not have to face the hurdles of life on his own. His mother will always be here physically or in his heart. I will no doubt miss hearing ‘Mama’ 100 times a day?
Even during these difficult times, we need to take a step back and take a deep breath. Children can push you until you can no longer cope, hence the explosion of negative feelings that seems to seep from your very pores. Take that deep breath and remember they are not growing up in the same world we grew up in. Also remember, we as mothers will die for our children, we will go without ensuring they are fed and clothed. Being a mother is a gift from God. Do not throw away that gift and how you treat that gift will determine how they treat their children. Do you not think that love will produce generations after generations of love?
We all have thoughts we wished we didn’t have, but I think it’s natural. We are tired, worn down, and honestly cannot take much more of this. But I think God will forgive us.
I have heard said ‘when they are babies your arm aches and when they grow up your heartaches’. I welcome my entire body to ache for my child and being stuck in the house, I assure you my entire body is aching. Would I give up being a mother? Not for anything in the world!!! When it is time to meet my maker, I will close my eyes in peace knowing that I have prepared my child for the world, no matter how long it took me. Knowing that my love will go on and on and I was truly blessed to be given this gift from God.
By Rani Prem, author of Delete and Block