Before I had children, I was a model mother. In fact, I was an expert. My children would be neat and clean, with shiny patent shoes and matching woollen coats. They would speak articulately at appropriate times, play creatively and peacefully. I would be the paragon of domesticity, making a beautiful home, delicious organic food, whilst working part time and maintaining a loving relationship. I would be able to keep all those balls in the air, no problem…
Nearly seven years ago, reality, in the shape of my son pulled me up short. After a long labour and birth interventions that I hadn’t planned for, I was home with my new-born boy, feeling like I had gone through a completely unexpected transformation. I had. A new person was walking around in my body, and that person was a mother.
Mother = feeder, cleaner, nappy changer, cuddler, soother, fixer of pain, entertainer, organiser of family life, PA, diary manager, provider, worrier, development expert, comforter, bringer of justice, omnipotent! The list goes on and on, and I wasn’t sure I was ready.
I had done all the shopping, I wanted all the ‘stuff’, I had been to classes, read books, got my special bag ready, but I hadn’t given the slightest thought to the emotional load of mothering. I was alone, far from family, who had parented very differently anyway, my partner was back at work, and I needed people to see and understand me, rather than offer instant fixes or tell me I was doing things wrong.
You cannot pour from an empty cup. For me, for the first time in my adult life, I needed community, either in real life or online, and I found it gradually, in the first few years of my son’s life. My gratitude at being able to share my experience of being a mother with others who are in a similar position is immense.
Many of us parent in a vacuum, and an online chat, or a cup of tea with a friend goes a very long way toward helping to keep my cup full.
What did you do to prepare for motherhood? What keeps you strong to carry the emotional load?
Ali Jones is a teacher and writer. She is a mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books., Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and The Green Parent magazine. She writes a regular column for Breastfeeding Matters Magazine. She was the winner of the Green Parent Writing Prize in 2016 and has also written for The Guardian. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Image credit: Alison McGarragh-Murphy