The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.
– Jessica Lang
I’m one of those annoying gushy I-totally-love-my-kids type of mother. I know some mothers think I’m mental but really it’s true – I think my kids are a little bit awesome. Even though they are teenagers who are sometimes grumpy creatures who want to sleep all day and stay up all night.
I’ve always had an interesting relationship with my mother who by her own reckoning isn’t particularly maternal and had she been born into another era, I can’t say with any certainty that she would have had children at all. She came from a generation of women who were programmed to believe that having children was a matrimonial obligation.
My mother always had a wild side though, and a touch of the gypsy about her. She is a survivalist and in some ways she is strong and gutsy. For example, when my Daddy-O passed away 4.5 years ago, she literally pulled up stumps, bought a house in the country off the internet and had a tree change. My dad was the greatest love of her life and they spent 33 years together being madly in love until he died holding her hand.
As mother’s day rolls around, I’m conscious of the things I gained from my mum, and of the things that I didn’t of course. We have radically different personalities. I like to think I inherited her strength and her ballsy attitude to life. I was certainly not mollycoddled growing up, and learnt to be independent from a very early age. I could cook and clean and take care of siblings as a little poppet. I could dress myself and make my own school lunches. No one laid out my clothes for me on school days, that’s for sure.
I learn to be a neat freak from my mother. She needed everything to be just so. While she has softened that stance with age, it’s ingrained in my as much as my own DNA. I remember coming home from school one day to find my bedroom completely rearranged and all of my clothes rearranged in the wardrobe. Apart from an impending sense of doom that I literally had no privacy from my mother, I realised that she was almost bordering on OCD. She had run out of things to clean and had literally taken it upon herself to do a makeover of my personal space.
So I learnt to keep things tidy, as a mechanism for keeping my space safe. My sister was far more bohemian and rebellious. She smoked in her room when my parents were out and she had an overflowing ashtray under her bed amongst the dirty clothes and art paraphernalia which lived on her floor. My mother would put up with it for limited amounts of time and then she would simply clean it. My sister’s teenage mess was my saving grace really! It kept my mother occupied.
My mum was tough and she had a look that she threw us that I’m sure could send shivers through Satan. We called it the evil eye.
Unlike my mum, I always knew I wanted to be a mother. Having my eldest child changed my life forever in so many positive ways. I felt like I had a purpose in life and the feeling of unconditional love I felt for this human being was overwhelming. I could watch him sleeping as a baby for hours, in awe of this human who had grown inside me. I was young and fearless and was never afraid to venture out with him.
This blue eyed, blonde child and I were so bonded – possibly more so because my heart stopped during the labour. A near death experience makes you appreciate life and I’ve never taken for granted how it felt to hold that little man in my arms.
After giving birth to Mr 23, I was told by doctors that I’d probably never be able to have any more children and while a part of me had resigned myself to that, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he wouldn’t be my only one. As it turned out, I was to give birth to two more babies with the Taurus and having had 3 miscarriages in my life also, I’m hugely grateful to the universe for them, and not at all apologetic for being so gushy about it! Screw it – if you can’t be over the top about your kids, then about what?
If I wanted to psychoanalyse myself, I’d say I created my own family in lieu of having a stable family growing up.
Beyond my own three gorgeous ones, I’m also incredibly lucky to have helped raise another great kid, the Musician, who was gifted to me by the universe. He came into my life when My eldest was only 8 years old. My son came home from school with a shiner administered by a bully at school. Of course the next day I marched into the Principal’s office who explained that the “bully” was just an 8 year old boy who was struggling with the loss of his mum to cancer. Once he knew this, my son took it upon himself to befriend this kid. To this day they are inseparable friends and he is a brother to my three children.
His relationship with his own dad was often strained and throughout the years, he spent a lot of time with us and lived with us on and off. I adore him and feel very lucky to have him in my life. I’d never be presumptuous enough to think I could ever fill the shoes of his mum, and nor would I wish to, but I feel like he is on some level my child. So by 31, I was a mother to not 3, but 4 kids and I’ve never regretted it for a minute!
Like the Greek Goddess Demeter, I am fiercely protective of my children, but I am not blind to their flaws and failings either. They are not perfect and neither am I, but I adore them, warts and all.
Sometimes I think I romanticise the years when they were toddlers because it never felt that difficult! I’m not saying it was never challenging – I had a baby girl with ‘silent reflux” who screamed in pain for weeks until it was diagnosed and treatment prescribed. As soon as her dad arrived home for work, he’d scoop her up and she would settle and laugh and I remember feeling like I had failed her because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong! As it turned out it was that he was propping her upright which helped to soothe her pain! I also had a toddler who insisted on creatively painting a cot with shit on occasion and wanting to slap the health centre nurse who laughed at my despair and told me it was a “sign of great intelligence”!
It was at times challenging, raising babies and toddlers – breast feeding (Ouch – I do remember bouts of mastitis) and toilet training, sleepless nights when they had fevers or gastro. I remember how stressful it was to juggle child care with working and the gut wrenching feeling of leaving them. I know how horrendous it is to race to a hospital with a child who has broken a bone and the unbelievable feeling of being told your child has a blood disorder, and later juvenile glaucoma, and not knowing what the outcome would be. I remember the sheer relief of knowing they would be okay.
I know what it is like to get phone calls from schools because your child has been injured playing sport, or he’s been given yet another detention for being stubbornly blasphemous at this Catholic school, or defying uniform regulations. Mr 23 kept me on my toes!
I know what it feels like to hold your bereft child after the death of their grandparents, and to have my children sleep in my bed after their dad moved out of our home. There is no harder pill to swallow that seeing how traumatised your children are during a marriage separation, wishing beyond all hope that you could spare them that pain. I know what it feels like to watch your child have their heart broken for the first time by first love and how they came home drunk for the first time. (My eldest!).
What I also rejoice in, is watching my children grow and continue to evolve – I have been there for their greatest triumphs – in sport or dancing or music. I have witnesses the joy on their faces on their first plane trips, the first time they patted a Koala or a dolphin. Some of my most valued possessions are gifts made by my children. A cup and saucer hand painted by Mr 13 when he first started Kindergarten; a wooden letter holder make at school by Miss 16; a clay slightly lopsided ring holder made by Mr 23 when he was 5 years old.
Paintings and drawings they have done over the years are reminders of how much they have grown up. A photo of the 4 of them together takes pride of place in my lounge room. (Much to their disgust there are photos of them everywhere!).
Suddenly becoming a single mum came with new challenges. Sure, financially it’s been tough at times but here is what I’ve learnt about myself. I have the power to know where anything is at any time, when kids are freaking out that something is lost. I’ve learnt that I can throw a meal together out of nothing. I’ve learnt that I can live in a house with teenagers and still manage to keep it clean, keep the endless loads of washing done and get them to activities on time even though I work. I can remember to fill in school forms and pay endless amounts of excursion costs, chemist bills and buy presents for parties they attend. I’ve learnt that I am a wizz at high school projects (aren’t all parents?) and that I’m offended when my (oh, I mean their) homework assignments get scored lower than expected! I’ve learnt that I rarely hear my mother’s voice come out of my mouth but occassionally I do!
I swear, all mothers are bloody super heroes! More recently I’ve learnt to take care of myself too and not put myself on the back burner all the time – but in the end kids will always be a priority. I’ve learnt that I can fall in love and juggle family with a new relationship. And, yes…I’ve learnt I can have still have sex discreetly in a house shared with teenagers! Phew!
As I’m not close to my adult siblings, I’m so happy that my kids are all very close. They argue and they annoy each other, sure, but that’s part and parcel of having brothers and sisters! They are protective of one another though and they confide in one another.
I’m feel so happy that they like the Producer so much. I always knew they would be polite – it’s how they are – but it’s more than that. They have a genuine fondness for him and a little bit of fanboying going on! That for me is such a bonus. It’s quite beautiful to watch my amazing kids look at my man with affection. Recently Miss 16 just hugged him out of the blue. Being a little guarded introvert, that was no small thing.
So this year on Mother’s Day I am acutely aware of all I have to be grateful for. In the darker days of my life they were my inspiration and my driving purpose to get on with things instead of lying in bed all day under the doona crying, or giving up. I looked at their faces and realised I had to pull myself up by my bloody boot straps and create a new life for them. They are my family. One of the best things though is seeing the very best of me mirrored back through my kids and realising that I’m okay too.
What I know is this – even when life is chaotic and busy, it’s made a bit brighter by my kids. When I get home from work they hug me without me asking. That’s very cool. Every day I tell them I love them. Mr 23, though he has moved out of home, calls or text me every other day and I realise that for all the mistakes I’ve made in my life, my kids are my greatest creations.
They are great, inspiring human beings and I had a hand in that. I’m really proud of who they are, and having them made me who I am today. Yes, I might have been living on the French Rivera had my life turned out differently, or a million other things, but I would change it for a minute.