Well. As often happens when I am gnawing on a particularly meaty problem, wisdom pops up and bites me on the ass whilst I’m driving. In this case, the biter was the lovely Wayne Dyer, of whom I am a big fan. I know he’s not everyone’s cuppa but I like him because he’s very Zen about everything. Being present is so not a skill I possess yet and I therefore admire it greatly in others. Like my darling hubble.
Anyway, as also often happens, I digress. So there I was – daughter sleeping gently in the car seat, on my way home with a Mocca and a sarnie, when it hits me (a realisation, not a car), I have been idealising motherhood. (Was that a resounding ‘Duh!’ I hear?). This is an interesting revelation because for a lot of my life I saw only the drudgery of motherhood. My mum was a slave to a demanding, violent bully of a husband and four kids and she had to try and fit a job in around all this chaos. Not my idea of happiness I have to say. Not many people’s I would think. So the sudden realisation that I had idealised motherhood to the extent that I was now driving myself completely insane with trying to achieve impossible dreams, was nothing short of shocking. Yet it makes sense of so many things that I’ve had trouble understanding recently.
Firstly – I don’t idealise ALL motherhood – just the type of motherhood in which i believe. Hence the ability to both loathe it (because of the drudgery and demands) and idealise it (because of what is possible) at the same time. It’s not that on an intellectual level I honestly think that motherhood is all roses, kittens and sunny days spent cooing at a smiling, impossibly good natured baby. I don’t. I’m nuts but I’m not that nuts. It’s more that I have this idea of myself as a mother and I am falling miserably short of it. This ideal can do all of the things that I have often talked about on this blog. She can cook wonderful nurturing wholefoods for her family, she can play for hours without boredom or a stiff gin, she can raise a happy, well- adjusted little camper without Ritalin and she can make stuff by hand. Well, that’s all fine and dandy but it’s not me. At least, not right now.
Idealism is one of those strange things. It seems like a good idea at the time, to imagine a wonderful, better future for ourselves (and it is – but within certain parameters). But it is also a constant source of frustration and misery because we put off everything waiting for those idealised ‘magical moments’. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new job, a promotion, achieving a certain level of financial security, a new house, a bigger car, a family, a relationship or whatever, if you are always waiting to reach that goal then you are simply not ‘living’ now. You are quietly existing and waiting for that moment to arrive and THEN you can be happy, be content, be relaxed. It never comes. I’ll repeat that in big letters for emphasis, IT NEVER COMES. There is no magical day when everything will be better, there are just more days like today. The trick is to make the absolute best of these days, in the here and now, living them fully even if not always happily. Otherwise, you are stuck in a constant cycle of Idealism followed by Frustration/Anger (as you fail to meet your own ideals), followed by Depression/Inertia (as in, ‘what’s the frigging point anyway’) followed by Apathy (‘I give up!’) followed by a new idea of what is right, what will makes things all better again, which leads to Idealism again and so on…
A beautiful and wise woman wrote me an email in response to my last posts and she said basically the same thing to me. I know. It takes me a while to ‘realise’ things as opposed to understanding them intellectually. She reminded me that who I am is enough. Even when it feels like anything but. Even when I’m crazy and resentful and bored and disinterested and reluctant. Even though I am the very definition of a messy mother (psychologically at least), it’s still ok that this is who I am. And, more to the point, it’s ok that this is who I am for Lily. On some level she chose me precisely because I would make a hack of these early years, (more or less), and she would get to learn about anger and how to make rude suggestions to motorists who drive up one’s bottom on swervy bendy roads. That is who I am. I’m a mess sometimes. I’m a control freak at others, (which is interesting because I have been gifted with the world’s grubbiest little girl. I kid you not, there are boys who are more fastidious about their clothing and person than my little grubnut – Ah, the letting go. The letting go.).
This wonderful woman, who has so often been an inspiration to me because she is such a kind and gentle and amazing mother, reminded me that I don’t have to be something else. If I can’t nurture, if I can’t play, if I am angry sometimes and wildly happy at others, if I’m inappropriately humorous, it’s all the same. I am the mother I am and that has to be enough. Has to be because to try to squeeze myself into even my own wide definitions of motherhood, is to try and fit myself into a shape that is not my own. Of course, I can want to be better. I can want to find better avenues for my aggression and my anger. I can want to nurture and to play. But it’s ok if I don’t. Maybe, despite my beliefs to the contrary, what my daughter needs from me is not excessive amounts of play-time or country soups, but the drama, the poetry, the love of literature of reading and dance and magic and imagination. That I can give to her in spades. I can give her an opportunity to be herself only if I am truly myself around her. Myself around everyone. It doesn’t give me cart blanche to be a crap mother but it does give me room to make mistakes and not give myself blunt force trauma when I fuck up. Which I will.
It reminds me, strangely, of my primary school nativity. I was a pretty precocious little kid (I was the kid who wrote and staged and acted in a play at the age of 10. You know, the annoying one) and i was good at two things English and Acting. I longed for the part of Mary in the nativity – not because she was cool but because she was the LEAD. I so wanted that part. Anyway, I didn’t get it. Nope. I didn’t even get to be one of the Angels or the Shepherds or anything. No. I got to be…The Rooster. Yes, I know. It’s like that moment in ‘Love Actually’ when Emma Thompsons’ (love her SO much), daughter proudly reveals that she is the ‘Second Lobster’ in her school nativity and Emma incredulously replies, ‘There were TWO lobsters at the birth of Baby Jesus?’. Well, yes. I was the Rooster whose gift to Baby Jesus was not to crow on his first morning and wake him up. However, I did get to sing a song which, from memory, had the lines ‘Cockadoodle do’ repeated a lot. My mum made me a stunning jumper full of crepe paper feathers and I donned my red tights and sang with all my heart. And I stole the show. Everybody remembered my part. Partly because it was so bloody ridiculous and partly because I was doing what I do best – being me. Annoying, precocious and pretty bloody interesting for the most part.
And so, this well warm groove slides around me again. It’s not the first time I have realised this little message, but it is the first time that I have gotten it so fully. I expect I will be back here again. Wisdom is a bit like an onion, it has many layers and as you peel back each one it is likely to make you cry. There are evidently levels of understanding about the same situations, the same processes, that we come back to again and again until they are fully realised and we are healed of the need to tread that little groove again. We then move on to the next and the next. Is there a place of no groove? Possibly. (I think its called ‘middle-aged white people dancing – particularly men’). But I’m don’t think I’m anywhere near ready to go there yet. In fact, I think I’m like that Goldfish that Billy Connolly sings about, going ‘Round and round and round. And round. And round.’
So this is where I’m at right now. Not bouncing off the walls with happiness but not drowning in a pool of my own anxiety either. I’m sort of quiet, if that’s possible for me. And listening. And learning to be okay with the accepting and the not accepting, the struggle and the ease. I expect that it will take me quite some time to really stop the striving to be something different, to let go of the idea of perfection in motherhood. More importantly, it will take time to let go of the idea that if I am less than perfect my daughter can still turn out to be a strong, confident and amazing woman. I mean, half of my friends had less than perfect starts in life and have continued to have interesting dynamics within their families and they are some of the most amazing women I’ve ever met. I’m proud to know them.
And I expect it will take me longer still to really understand who and what I am as a mother. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just stay here until something moves me in a different direction. Sitting with the ‘what is’ instead of trying to get to the ‘what may be’.
This is me, signing out.
“There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one” Jill Churchill