• Being Mama! 29 July 2015 | View comments

  • As the Summer holidays begin, and many of us gear up to parent 24/7, without the hiatus of the school day, we find we will have time to enjoy our older children being around, but also need to cater for all ages and tastes.
    Mothering. A perennial juggling act with benefits.

    So, as we put both feet firmly into holiday mode and march forth to August, I am turning to thinking all about mothering.
    How do we feel about mothering? How do others feel? Does the juggling go beyond the children?

    When I say does the juggling go beyond the children, what I mean is when we feel the need to keep others happy in addition - your partner, friends, and more so in the holidays, the various relatives that have their own ideas about how one should parent.
    I don't know about you, but I inwardly wince when I hear others address toddlers as "brave" and "big" or even "good" for not crying or showing signs of distress. This is shutting down emotions and responses, and teaching children that emotions are not welcome.
    This is also making all kinds of assumptions about the development about individual children, if the perpetrators are not the parents or carers.
    The bottom line, of course, is that we shouldn't have to justify hugging and kissing better - after all, it should be quite alright to cry when you're a child.
    While heightened emotions are stressful for others, they mustn't be quashed.
    And, we all know that mothers feel far more traumatised by the bumps and bruises that children brush off, eh?!

    This is just one small bugbear I have that resides within a whole ethos that says 'it's ok to care, and fine to be emotional'!

    Recently children are increasingly expected to show independence at an early age; this is apparently desired, and increasingly perceived as normal development by many.
    However, the attachment school of thought lauds close attachment, nurture, validation of emotions, and letting a child develop at their own pace - and the latest finds in neuroscience and psychology backs this up!
    Some children need a cursory dust down when they trip, while others need kisses, hugs, and a quick feed before they recover themselves.

    As mothers, we feel and know our children's level - we know where they're at and can read their signals intuitively and acutely; every expression and emotion we understand in the context of tiredness, bedtimes, frustrations, and them being that little individual like no other.

    What I am going to say next is becoming increasingly controversial, but I feel is also pretty obvious - mothering is not fathering.
    What mothers do cannot be filed under "parenting" and made the same as "fathering".
    Mothers nurture and bond with their children in a uniquely hormonal and chemical way that ensures optimal synaptic, emotional and physical growth beyond birth - our unique blend of oxytocin, nursing, and love builds those neural networks and secures future health.
    The closeness engendered between nursing dyads cannot be underestimated.
    We all love watching Dads do their thing, and kids love them, but we know it isn't the same. It's amazing, it's special, but different.

    So, we need to mark out and delineate what we as mothers do, but we must also recognise that our incredible work needs validation, needs acceptance and a sense of worth in broader circles, praise and support.
    After all, one cannot be the mother one wants to be without a great support network? We all know the importance of taking a break and a breather now and again. Sometimes we need only five minutes and a cup of tea... Other times, we need a good few hours off, a movie , or precious alone-time.
    But, we feel and know when it's possible to even do this, we know when our children won't mind if we slip off for an hour or so, and will be happy to hang out with friends or family.
    And there it is - we know.
    Whether it's relatives wanting a "hold of the baby", or a "sit on the knee", and we really don't want our children to do something which makes them uncomfortable, and the "kiss for Auntie Mary" with a grimace, we read the signs and should be able to say, "I don't think she will be comfortable with that, just now".
    So, we are back to the knowing. We can see, can sense, can read our children in a way that no other can, and others must accept that this is ok. It is an intensely micro-emotional bond that ensures an optimal experience for our children.

    Others need to respect and give space for our work, make room for each child's needs, trust the child and the mother to make each call as it presents itself.
    That respect and space might start with one's father or partner - while they are being dad, they also need to accept the different strategies and to support our choices. Another adult needs to lighten the load, and family life is a shared and balanced responsibility.
    Those adult family members supporting the mothering process must be aware that their needs are sometimes perceived by mothers as an addition to caring for children.
    So, we might say that it's fine to express these wonts, but in a positive and caring manner - the last thing mama wants is an extra child!
    Further afield, we need to know that relatives accept our parenting strategies - we might not want them to ply our children with cake, expect them to do things beyond their comfort zone, or  for others' entertainment.
    We all know how difficult it is to traverse the gaps and navigate the "treats" bestowed.

    One also might consider something I recently came to realise - all things are not the same for every mother, by which I mean that the same situation might be a breeze for one mama, but tough for another; everyone has different concerns and different coping abilities and strategies. Meeting friends at a school fair, I realised that some mothers found juggling babies while keeping track of older siblings amongst the throng and bustle was difficult and stressful, but for some a breeze with an ice-cream thrown in.
    We can all give a gentle friendly, sisterly, helping hand to a struggling mother, if we are able. We know that some days are harder than others.

    Whether we're camping, seasiding, or just hanging in the park, mamas are never really on holiday in the way that they were before the little ones came along - but that's not to say that holidaying means a time without care; holidaying can be really amazing and rich with our children's input - seeing any destination through their eyes is to enjoy experiences in a multifarious fashion not possible on one's own.
    To ensure mums have fun, we must always look to lend a hand and give them a reassuring smile!

    Mothers do intensive work in the holiday times, and need acknowledgement for the many hours of fun and frolics.
    So, here's to the holidays!
    A time for family closeness, togetherness, nurturing and making memories.

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