Sobering truths about being a mother

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Mother's Day in Australia is rapidly approaching and thanks to our commercial, consumer-driven world there is no way we can forget.

For some the day will bring with it warm memories of special moments with a 'good enough' mum and sadly for others it's a day they quietly dread as their relationship with their mum is one they'd rather quietly forget.

Other mums, who all deserve our loving thoughts next Sunday, have lost precious babies and children so Mother's Day brings sadness rather than celebration for them.

One of the most significant changes over the last few decades in the mothering landscape seems to have been a weakening of the supportive sisterhood.

Thanks to social media the tendency for women to practice the game of 'compare and despair', to be judgmental and critical of themselves and others – or simply too busy to connect and catch up in person with a circle of nurturing family and friends – has meant many mothers struggle with feeling overwhelmed and guilt-ridden.

Don't get me wrong. I know that often social media – especially honest sharings from fabulously flawed mothers about their real lives – can be very powerful, and a great comfort to mums who might be feeling isolated at home.

But too often women find themselves constantly questioning every single choice they make. Many tell me they feel sure they are quite simply lousy mums and can't believe how incredibly difficult being a parent is.

The visible and invisible pressures to be perfect, infallible and to have it all together seem to be coming at today's mums from every angle.

There is a palpable relief when I begin my parent seminars by owning up to the fact that on my first shopping trip after having given birth to my eldest son I accidentally left the baby at home! As a capable, well-organised and relatively successful professional I simply could not believe how I'd made such an enormously stupid mistake.

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Thankfully although it has been weakened, I know there is still great strength in supportive sisterhood and many mums do find help when things get really tough.

When that sleep-deprivation monster attacks, or your toddler gives birth to three new teeth in a week or one after another of the family succumb to a gastro-bug, every mum needs someone to remind them that its' quite normal to feel this crappy.

Mothers are women who are juicy, passionate and complex and often in their journey through life and parenting they can lose themselves in the many roles they play.

Wife/partner/boss/mother/daughter/client/friend/helper/carer — women have
been conditioned, consciously or unconsciously to place themselves last in order of importance.

No matter how noble this quest may be, it can create deep-seated, often unacknowledged resentment and frustration and this can block or limit our ability to love freely and openly.

We all sometimes bitch and criticise and whinge — even about those closest to us. In a way the 'venting' of these big ugly feelings is a way for us to release them from our nervous systems. But we need to be doing that in safe circles so we don't hurt others or ourselves or find ourselves embroiled in unnecessary arguments.

For many years I ran women's retreats solely for the purpose of creating safe environments where women could express those deep dark emotions that kept their hearts closed to those they love the most.

Not only did we vent, we stepped back from all the roles we play and allowed ourselves to pause and reflect, to play, rest, dance, laugh and have time to be free of expectations.

Many women arrived with very empty cups, and left with them overflowing and with a joie de vivre for themselves and their loved ones. 

So as Mother's Day arrives this year I encourage all mums to take a few moments to give themselves a metaphorical pat on the back for doing the best they can.

If you can make some time to refill your own cup, to receive some nurturing like a massage, pedicure or, heck, half a day in a nearby day spa followed by lunch with your girlfriends grab it with both hands and say thank you.

Let go of the notion of needing to be the perfect parent and quietly celebrate all that being a mother has brought to you – not just the moments of profound joy and delight.

Embrace and be grateful for the moments that have created your badges of honour – the scars, stretch marks or the extra wrinkles. You've earned them all.

Maggie Dent is a parenting author, educator and resilience specialist. As a Mother's Day gift, she has created a free 15-minute audio track called Moonlight Relaxation, which she invites all mothers and mother-figures to download and listen to 3-4 times a week during the month of May. The perfect antidote to mother guilt and overwhelm. www.maggiedent.com

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