I am a stubborn little cow.
For so long I thought I had to nail this ‘Mum’ thing all by myself. I honestly thought I had to be able to cope with all the demands of motherhood on my own, alone, just me.
It has taken me years to realise that it takes more than just me to raise my kids. Yes, I needed to ask for help. Help from my hubby, help from my mum, my dad, my in-laws, my brother and sister, and their other halves.
I pushed away offers of help, I had to be in control, at all times, no matter what the cost to my health. I would obsess that anyone who looked after my kids wasn’t doing it ‘right’. I would write out instructions as to what had to happen when, sleep times, food, bottles, nappy changes. It had to be done my way or not at all.
The control was what I thought was keeping me sane, attached to reality.
When the truth was, it was just one more thing to cement in my mind that I was failing at. That I hadn’t given enough instruction, or hadn’t been clear enough to those looking after my babies.
From day care to grandparents, I had to have the routine down pat otherwise it wouldn’t work.
I would compare myself to those who didn’t have to work. I would think that because I had to leave my children each day, that I was losing precious time with them that I wouldn’t get back. I believed everyone was judging me for putting my kids in care. But then I knew I couldn’t cope with being home all day. I would literally go crazy.
Then comes the guilt. For not being able to handle my own children every day. For not being the best mum. For wanting to go to work to get some time off. What a cycle of negativity.
It has taken so much retraining of my brain with Psychologists to get to the point where I now realise that my kids need to miss me. They need to realise that I will leave and then return again. That I don’t have to be the one and only carer.
Over time, the need to keep control over my children in other care has subsided. I tell myself all the time that if I am going to get time to myself, or time off from the kids, that I need to let go of the hangups about others looking after my two monsters. That even if it is not the way I look after them, the fact I’m not in charge for even a little while is better for my brain than if I don’t take the break.
It has carried into the early years of my daughter going to school too. This year I have dealt with some severe loss in the family, and without the community of neighbours and parent friends from school, I could not have been there for the final weeks.
If I had not just let go of my anxiety around asking for help from friends and family, I would have regretted not being able to say goodbye. Sometimes it isn’t even about asking, but accepting an offer when someone puts it to you.
My first instinct is to always thank the person for the offer, but then turn it down. Not wanting to be a burden or letting go of that control. And I would still be that way if my friends hadn’t been truthful with me and hounded me to let them help. I finally caved and the sense of relief was enormous.
Children aren’t meant to be raised on their own. I realise this now. It takes more than the family unit to teach them how to grow up safe and strong, and build their beliefs. They need to experience others and how they run their own families to know that not everyone is the same and there is not one way to get the same result.
Time has, and is still, changing the way I believe what being a parent really is all about. No one tells you this stuff. Everyone just focuses on ‘When are you getting pregnant?’ or ‘When are you due?’. But no one tells you what a rollercoaster ride of emotions building your own family can be.
How you can be frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, adoring, nostalgic, ecstatic and the rest all in a matter of minutes. Especially at 2am with a screaming or sick child.
And the whole time you are always wondering what damage you are doing to your flesh and blood.
In the end they survive in spite of us. In the end they survive because of us.