Sally Macleod lives in Brighton with her husband and son, and is part of the Mummyshock team. Here she shares some more of her own experiences as a new Mum...
In my last post I wrote about how I’ve experienced more of a magnifying glass effect than magic wand moments in being a mum. The moments when I feel like motherhood makes me aware of the things I need to work on and change, rather than magically makes them disappear. I thought it might be helpful to share about one of the areas I’ve felt motherhood has held a magnifying glass to.
I realised early on that being a mum is often about not being in control - and as much as I used to think of myself as easy going I’ve also realised that this is something I really struggle with. From the day my little boy was born I felt totally out of control, even his birth was taken out of my hands due to an emergency c-section. The early weeks and months of motherhood are a blur of feeding on demand and sleep deprivation, which only added to my sense of not being in control.
But I still felt that I could control this little baby in front of me, I thought that being a good mum was about being in complete control of everything. Being in control of when baby slept, how long baby slept for, how much baby had to eat, and so on and so on. I can remember the great efforts we went to to get our baby to sleep in the cot on his own, and to sleep in the day. I remember I was determined not to spend more money than we needed to on our newborn…before he arrived! And then I remember the day I went online and brought everything that promised to get babies to sleep, including a bedside crib and a bloody Ewan the Sheep (which started making far from soothing sounds soon after we brought it!) I even remember watching over our little one in his cot, ready to stop him from rolling over on to his side because I thought he would sleep better on his back (poor child!!)
Looking back on it now I can recognise that all of the crazy things I did were to try and hold on to some sense of being in control.
I’ve realised though that I do not have any claim to control over my little boy – I cannot control his sleep, or his eating no matter how much I would like to. And I think that’s one of the biggest or maybe most ongoing challenges, and why becoming a mother has been the most humbling experience I’ve been through.
The magnifying glass of motherhood has shown me how I need to learn to love with an open hand.
That to love my child well means to allow him to be who he is, even at this young age. It doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t need to consider boundaries and consequences, but that the moments when I step back from wanting to control him, I allow him to discover the world around him. That when I allow him to explore, risk and break ‘rules’ I’m allowing him to discover who he is and how he fits in the world. And when I allow him to express himself, his likes and dislikes, how he is feeling (even when that is expressed with flailing and wailing) I am allowing both of us to journey together.
And that as I learn to love with an open hand I realise that when I release my grasp on my parenting (purely figurative!) it puts me in a position of receiving as well. And I’m able to recognise what a privilege this journey is, and all that I have gained since becoming a mum!
(On a practical note, I’ve started to do a little exercise to help me reflect on how I’m doing on the whole ‘being in control’ front. I sit and do a bit of mindfulness, and then I clench my hands into fists – and ask myself what are the things I have been trying to control, the things I am holding on to too tightly. And then I open my hands – and consider what it would be like to release my control over some of those things. It can be quite a helpful visualisation.)