A word that every mother finds everywhere, and that at times appears even harassing. Experts say… The educator recommended… The new book by Dr. X… And we read, re-read, study, as if we were at school again. With an eye to our child who crawls on the floor and the other on the book about the Montessori theory. We have childcare manuals crammed everywhere, from the bedside stand to the bathroom.
And it’s a good thing, sure it is, now that information is so easy to reach while once upon a time there was only the voice of the village doctor, never challenged or questioned by new mothers. It is good that we work so much, as parents, to understand the mistakes of the past generation, and to avoid those of the present generation. How wonderful, that there are experts like Gonzales or Sears to tell us that everything will be fine, that Love is the key of modern parenting.
What’s the other side of the coin? What we, as mothers, need more than another parenting book?
We need someone to invent “mammagogy”. We need someone to explain our feelings, tell us – and tell those around us – that what we feel is healthy and normal, and as such should be welcomed.
An expert on baby physiology but also maternal physiology, to explain what it really means to become a mother and what this entails. We need a book that explains what hormones are involved in pregnancy, those hormones that make you laugh, and then make you cry, then infuriate and laugh again, in the most daring emotional dance.
We need a mom expert to talk about the feelings experienced during the first months after birth, when the baby is an extension of the mother who would never leave him, protecting him from the world, from its noises, its voices, from the ugliness that seem to flourish everywhere.
Erica Jong said,
“No state is so similar to the madness to one side, and the other to the divine, as being pregnant. The mother is doubled, then divided in half and never again she’ll be whole.”
But no one tells you so, how a mother can feel insane, how that being divided can feel like a torture , and how many sighs and tears fill that womb that is now empty.
“Mammagogy” should teach people – whether they are husbands, mothers-in-law, friends – to verbalize, so that a mother can feel free to express how she feels, rather than leaving her alone. It should teach to everyone the art of speaking kind words and observe. The most famous “mammologysts” should ban all the unsolicited advice, whispered accusations, criticisms, the malicious comments. Studies show that a mother should not be left alone, otherwise the evil thoughts, like weeds, can grow quickly.
Montessori would say that mothers should be “helped to help themselves”. Sears would have highlighted the need for every mother -every woman – to be embraced, at night, by someone able to make her feel safe and loved. Steiner would say that the role of a mother is a little magic, which bings in itself the beauty of nature and simplicity.
In short, pedagogy is essential, but first and foremost to educate the child that every mother hides within herself, and only later to educate her own children.
“Mammagogy” in pills
– Recognize every feeling as natural and welcome it, even if it’s anger or sadness.
Pedagogy asks you to teach your children that it is possible to manage all the emotions without repressing them, because sometimes it is natural to be angry, disappointed, sad. But as a mother you feel (or are) judged if you are not always smiling or kind. So by setting a good example, enjoy an occasional healthy fit of anger, and if you need a good cry – even in front of your children – just cry. It will be a valuable opportunity to explain to them what it means to be overwhelmed by emotions and that you’re human.
– Create a routine so to have some me time.
How many times have you read that children need a daily schedule and familiar and reassuring routines? The life of a mother is often a chaos when so knowing that at some point during the day you will have some me time, it’ll help you feel more serene. Am herbal tea before bedtime, coffee in the morning, ten minutes for a shower (alone, or it does not count!), a few lines of a book (not a parenting book or it won’t count) before sleeping, a drink with a friend on Friday night.
– Allow yourself to make mistakes.
Be indulgent with yourself as you are with your kid; nobody taught you what it really means to be a mother, none of us knew before having a baby when we finally understood that it REALLY is the hardest job on earth. You lost it, you yelled, you punished, you said something that in hindsight sounds so horrible… Your child has probably forgotten it already. Apologize, admit your mistakes, and explain your reasons and then move on. Walking tall.
– Practice being in contact with your inner self.
Attend your needs, listen to your needs, aknowledge both your physical and psychological limits. There is an old saying that “if mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy”. You can put aside your own needs for a while, but you can’t ignore them forever and at some point you will need to attend to them. If you need to rest for an hour, ask your husband / your mother-in-law / mother to mind the children. Put off what can be postponed, such as cleaning. Having a dirty house is not pleasant and during the first months we want to show that we can do everything so not to feel faulty. But we all need time to adjust and some mess has never killed anyone. If you have ten minutes to spare and you have to choose between taking a shower or washing the carpet, always prioritized YOUR needs. And do not feel guilty (or it won’t count!)
– Never forget that you are not “just” a mother.
You are also and above all a woman, a person with a past, ideas and passions. Do not destroy what you are in the name of motherhood, in the beginning it is natural that your children take priority and occupy every moment of your day, but soon your kids will grow up, they will have interests and activities that do not require your presence, they will go to school. Live the present with an eye to the future: if you quit your job to be a mom, hats of to you… but is it what you really want to do for the next ten years? Do you feel satisfied? If the answer is yes, it’s okay. But if somewhere inside you there is the ambition to pursue a career, a job you loved and you’ve set aside, a passion that made you feel alive, maybe you could consider not to give up everything.
I have significantly reduced my working hours when my first child was born, and with the arrival of her baby brother I had to find a new balance to be both mother AND designer. For months I worked two hours a day, sometimes only one hour, from two to four in the morning, the only quiet moment, with both children asleep. In January my eldest should start preschool and I should be able to work in the morning, part time. I love my job. When I am sitting in front of the PC and I’m designing time stops, the heart slows down, every problem seems to disappear. If I did not work I’d be a worse mom, an unsatisfied woman, without goals and scope.
Of course this is my personal experience: is it possible to be happy as a full time mom? Probably yes, but for how long? In my experience the most serene and well balanced mothers that I met are all working part-time or otherwise spend time in an activity that makes them happy, like zumba or yoga class twice a week. Many full time moms of 5/6 year-old seem often frustrated, bored, dissatisfied. Sometimes even overzealous and oppressive towards their children, as if they would like to “hold” them back, so they will not grow up and leave the nest.
In the end… close that parenting book you’re reading. Just for a while try to listen to yourself. Follow your instinct. We do not always need someone to tell us how to talk to our children and how we should behave in a certain occasion. We’re always trying to find books to explain illness, death, war, love, moving house, diversity to our children… when you could simply talk to them with honesty and simplicity. Let’s not make our lives more difficult with theories, statistics, surveys and studies: to be a mothers is also and above all a matter of heart and skin.