The Masks of Motherhood
I’m going to openly admit that up until recently I was the type of mum that would roll my eyes when I saw the ‘gin mums’ on Facebook saying how they were cracking open a bottle after a tough day of looking after the kids.
I was the type of mum that HATED any negativity that people displayed about how hard it was being a parent as I thought we should all be grateful for our children as some people don’t get to have this experience.
I was the type of mum that HATED mum groups and resisted them for as long as I could because I told myself I’m not that ‘type of mum’.
I cringed when I saw people being obsessive with every little detail over their child. Is that food organic? Are those pouches sugar free? Is that a choking hazard over there?
I would download my map of the world onto others and subliminally project my opinions and beliefs about parenting onto my friends – not in a way that was so obvious but perhaps in a way that left them challenging their own beliefs.
I would project my judgements about Nursery, being a stay at home mum and how it’s fantastic I can be there for my children 24/7 but deep down it was only so I could make myself feel better and avoid facing up to the lack.
It wasn’t until this week when I had a huge breakthrough moment through some therapy and coaching I am undergoing that I realised I had been carefully controlling my emotions and behaviours for such a long time that I lost my true self. I lost my identity and was disconnected from myself and others.
As someone who proclaims I’m a big student of ‘self development and positivity’ I brain washed myself into blocking out every single negative emotion.
I told myself a hundred times a day that I am blessed and I am so lucky to be a stay at home mum looking after my two children and I SHOULD always always be grateful.
I empathised every single time with my toddler to the point where I became numb to my emotions. I remember her-smacking me so hard in the face with a book one day and I loving smiled at her and said ‘Darling we don’t do that it’s not kind’. Another time she ran out the front door into the street of passing cars. I gleefully smiled whilst I calmly walked over to her and carried her under my arms like a rugby ball. I would NOT lose my cool. I had never shouted at her. Never told her no, never showed her any other emotion apart from happy and love.
This type of behaviour transferred into other aspects of my life in particular my relationship with my husband. We went through a traumatic event and I dumbed it down and got on with life. We fought, we shouted. I threw him out for a few nights. I didn’t cry. I didn’t care. I sat at the dinner table at night with a smile on my face feeling happy about the separation and excitable about my life without him. I had my girls what more did I need.
The thing is when we wear a mask there will come a time when it slips. When the real you shines through and that’s when a breakdown becomes a breakthrough.
I had forgotten how to cry. I had forgotten to be sad. I had forgotten how to be really truly deeply honest. I had forgotten who I was and didn’t know how to express where I was truly at.
Motherhood is hard and I was scared if I opened up about that reality that I would crack, fall down and not know how to get back up.
I proclaimed I loved being a stay at home mum however I brushed the everything under the carpet in particular the strain of living and surviving on one income.
I told myself I didn’t care about dressing up and going out with friends as that was the old me and the new me didn’t want to engage in such activities. The reality is none of my clothes fit and I can’t afford new clothes let alone pay for the price of my favourite cocktail and I have lost my confidence in those types of settings.
I told myself a good mum sacrifices everything in order to raise their kids and that my kids will be emotionally secure because of it. But what I have done is shown my kids how to disregard their feelings and put a happy face on regardless of what they truly feel.
I’ve learnt that those mums losing their cool at the kids are amazing mums. They are showing their kids that we aren’t super human and we have imperfections. They are displaying emotions when they feel them which will in-turn help their children express their own.
I’ve learnt that those mums openly confessing they need a gin are inspiring as they have found ways of conveying to others that they have had a tough day without masking over that fact by brain washing themselves into thinking everything is rosey.
The obsessive mums are loving mums, wanting the best for their children who care so much that they obsess over every detail.
And as for the mums at the groups – well they are incredible for getting over what ever they are going through in the quest to provide their children with social interaction and play whilst they stand there necking a lukewarm warm cup of tea wearing yesterday’s clothes feeling horrible because they haven’t showered for days.
I’ve learnt not to judge as we don’t know what someone else is going through and what their map of the world means to them. All our experiences and beliefs are valid – we can’t override one persons experience by shooting them down and telling them to just be grateful.
When you see that mum calmly responding to her child, the mum who posts daily positive quotes and the mum who encourages others to always be grateful. Know that this type of mum is also hurt, struggling, lost and finding motherhood tough she’s just masking it over with positive thinking – it’s a form of protection.
I’ve learnt that positivity is great and we can take what we want from it. Take the things that inspire and ring true to you but make sure what ever voice you are listening to is truly yours and don’t neglect your vulnerabilities.
What ever is true to you – feel it. Don’t block it, mask it, hide it. It only hurts you in the long run. It’s exhausting being anyone other than yourself.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – Brene Brown
(This article was recently published on the Selfish Mother Blog site: http://www.selfishmother.com/the-masks-of-motherhood/)