Motherhood has been an uphill battle for me for a while now. I have been sharing little explosions of truth on Instagram and Facebook the past month, but I haven’t been able to share it here. I am not quite sure why. I couldn’t even bring myself to write a Mother’s Day post, because I have been drowning in motherhood, and not the good parts of it.
That’s actually an apt way to put it, “drowning in motherhood”. It can be so all-consuming. The bad as well as the good, so there is that at least. The love that knocks the breath out of you, the pride that blocks your throat, the awe that you created somebody so very perfect. And then the other. The tears streaming down that little face that you can’t stop that feel like they will choke you. That wide eyed look with the reaching clawing hands when you leave them in the safe loving arms of a teacher or grandparent that brings the guilt on so hard you can’t quite catch your breath. The total lack of sleep as you hold their hair back as they throw up or just keep wiping them all night long when their fever sits at 39.8 degrees.
And the sense that sometimes that is all that is left of you, the motherhood. That the person you were is gone. That the professional part of you is swept away in the tidal wave of little person need. And that’s what you WANT to do. It isn’t that it isn’t wanted. You want to be mommy. You want to be able to meet that need. That need is what defines so much of who you are now. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t become completely overwhelming.
It has been overwhelming lately. Charly’s need for me has been huge. Bigger than me. Bigger than her. Neither of us have been quite sure what to do or how to handle this sudden swelling of pure need of me wherever she is. If she could crawl under my skin, she would. She cries for me in her sleep. She cries for me when I drop her at school. She cries for me when she wakes from her nap. She cries for me when she is sitting right on me. The wailing sound of her voice crying “mommy I neeeeed you” echoes in my head long after I drop her at school.
It left me feeling desperate. I was sure there was something very wrong. But the longer it has gone on, the more people I have spoken to about it, the more the feedback has been that it is “normal” to some degree. Either because of all the change she has experienced this year. Or because emotionally she can’t quite keep up with how advanced she is intellectually and physically. I have been doing everything I can to be there for her. To be gentle and patient. Without letting her get away with murder.
The worst part, the part that just leaves you feeling frustrated, is that she has loved all the changes.
Change 1 – School. School has been amazing for her. She adores her teachers, has made some little friends, knows every word to every nursery rhyme, counts almost all the way to 20, knows her alphabet – the mumbled lmnop as one word is totally acceptable, and she skips uvw. Still, she turned 2 in February! She has so much physical confidence it astounds us. She runs, jumps, dances, spins, skips, hops and everything else. She builds block towers taller than her. She then kicks a ball at the castles to knock them down – and succeeds. She was so happy to go back to school at the beginning of the term, and then she got sick – again – and from the next school day, the hysterics started. Every day, the tears start slowly and she clings and whispers to me that she needs to stay on me and begs me to please not leave her; it then gets louder and more desperate, the teachers have to pry her from me and I can hear her screaming from the car outside. Before I get home, they send me a video or photo of her happy as a clam, playing with her friends, dancing, singing, hugging the teachers. Like a different child. Sigh.
Change 2 – Her new bed. This bed was all strategic planning on our part. She has only ever slept with me. From tiny. Being the terrible sleeper she has always been (and still is), it was a matter of my survival. Step one to changing that was buying her literally the most amazing bed she could possibly imagine, so she would want to sleep in it all the time. The second part of the sneaky plan was the more she slept alone without me, the less un-needed breastfeeding she would do in the middle of the night. It was working beautifully.
This child of mine loves her “castle” (with an American “a”) from the second she laid eyes on it. She has slept in it every night except for two half nights in the first week. I am in the spare bed in her room while she transitions and it was happening effortlessly. She would lie in her bed in the middle of the night and call me, I would lie in bed and say if you want to feed you have to come to me, and she would push a few times and then huff a big sigh and roll over and go back to sleep. She kicked me off her bed after very short feeds and happily lay and chatted to herself until she fell asleep, simply checking if I was there. I was over the moon. It was better than I had hoped.
Change 3 – Getting sick – again. And the “all mommy all the time” started. And then this weekend with the vomiting and the crazy fevers saw me in that tiny single bed with a sick whimpering toddler breastfeeding pretty much non-stop because she was too afraid eating would make her throw up. And her waking and calling me every hour. Crying for me in her sleep. Begging me not to leave her, even just to the bottom of her bed.
Change 4 – Granny picking her up from school. She lights up when she sees her gran. She runs straight into her arms every time. She tells me in the morning while we are driving (when she is still excited for school before actually getting out of the car at school) to remember that granny is fetching her, and how “excite” that is. She knows I am here when she gets home, which I try to always be for lunch together and to put her down for her nap.
Change 5 – “Mommy and Charly’s” new car. We got our first ever “new” car. The most amazing 2013 Hyundai IX35 in charcoal grey. I am in love with it. She is in love with it. She loves telling dad he has the “yukky old car” and we have the best car ever. She literally gets excited to see it every morning.
And yet, all these amazing things have left her feeling insecure and needing me to be her “same”, her safe space. You guys, I am SO glad I can be that for her. I am.
But. Over a month of her screaming at me and for me while sitting right on me has left me drowning. That nothing I do seems to make her feel any better has left me drowning. Knowing that the second she wakes from her nap, I can write off the rest of the afternoon to holding her while she screams for me even when I am holding her, has left me drowning. Going from almost fully naturally weaned from breastfeeding, to breastfeeding for hours all weekend has left me drowning.
I was ready to give up on all “my” things. To stop blogging. To do the bare minimum for Tums 2 Tots. To give up on my huge dream campaign that can change lives and minds. To give up on my passion for other bloggers that has me planning yet another business in the near future. I felt like my working at what I love to teach Charly the many lessons that holds – doing what you love, doing things for yourself, helping other people, independence, and on and on – was just a line I had been feeding myself and I was being selfish and actually hurting my baby. My first priority. I was drowning in motherhood, and ready to just let it sweep me away.
And then I had an interview yesterday morning. Well, it was meant to be an interview, but ended up being a conversation that lasted from 09h15 to 12h15. I came so close to canceling it, I can’t even begin to explain how relieved I am that I didn’t.
Last month I attended the most incredible event with Kids Emporium. One of the main reasons the event made such a huge impression on me, and all the other women who attended, was meeting and listening to Lauren De Swardt, who started the soon-to-be international kids boutique store. This amazing woman, who at 22 years old became a mother and launched Kids Emporium with not one cent in backing. She walked into a room of 25 top tier businesses and got 23 of them to give her stock to put into her first store. Can you even imagine having that kind of guts and self-belief and persuasion skills? Anyway, I have drifted off topic. Kind of.
Yesterday morning I drove to meet Lauren at the Kids Emporium headquarters. With 27 national franchises and one about to launch in the UK, the headquarters are in a loft above her house, where they have been for the past 7 years. I walked in and felt at home. And we sat. And instead of starting with the notes I had halfheartedly made yesterday, when I was in that drowning-giving-up mindset, we drank a cup of coffee and chatted. About the event, about the bloggers, about me drowning in motherhood, about following your passions, about how you can only be a good mommy by being a happy mommy, about how it gets easier as the kids get older. The questions I had came up, and she answered them and I will be able to write a great article about this very special lady. But just being there and listening to her journey, sharing some of my own and having somebody of her experience and success, acknowledge my ideas and campaigns and plans and even encourage them. It shifted something in me.
I am not planning on giving up just yet. Lauren matriculated from the same highschool as I did the year before I did. She is a mom to two well-adjusted kids of 13 and 8 years old, who are perfectly happy and secure even though their mom has to travel and be away from them sometimes for work. They aspire to be like their parents who are both successful entrepreneurs. Lauren has worked her butt off building something amazing from her own home, while being a great mom. That gives me hope. That tells me that maybe it isn’t me loving what I do that has my baby all wobbly. That it is maybe just a stage that will pass if I just keep doing what I am doing to make her feel safe and loved. That it may take years of ups and downs, but if you work hard at what you love and keep doing the very best you can for your child/children, there is a way to find success and balance.
I will share more of Lauren’s story soon I promise. But for now, I just want to say thank you to her for this morning. And thank you all for bearing with me.
Sending all the love xx