Sunday, 21 September 2008

What kind of a mother are you?

It has been an interesting week to consider motherhood. On Friday I met a delightful lady at a networking event. She had a successful career in merchant banking before moving up to Cumbria for her husband's job, and starting a family. She now has small children and clearly finds the whole experience very stressful even though she clearly loves both kids to bits. She feels a bit like a fish out of water, and struggles to find fulfilment in the sandpit, paint tray and toddler club. The result: the dreaded G word. Guilt.

We traded stories about our early years experiences, and I it reminded me of how far I have travelled since that time in my own life, where I found motherhood like a different planet. I hadn't ruled kids in or out and it wasn't until I met other half that I seriously considered a baby as an option. This was at the grand old age of twenty seven. Until then I was a career girl: successful, ambitious and confident in my work.

I went to an all girls school where qualifications and careers were the order of the day. We talked about marriage 'one day perhaps' but kitchen and potty issues were never mentioned. We were focussed on qualifications, university and the career ladder. Articulate, focussed and confident we blazed a trail across the professional landscape....

So... when the pregnancy test proved positive and the bump started to grow, I was jettisoned into a different world... and it felt really odd. I was excited and thrilled but daunted and puzzled. Where would I start? What sort of my mother would I be? Could I make a success of it? The most important customer of my life- would I make the grade?

Well I suppose the one to ask would be teenager and I have come to the conclusion that he is the only one that matters in all this really. I used to worry about what people would say about my baby. Was I looking after him properly, feeding him properly, keeping him clean, was I playing enough, reading enough, making him nutritious and healthy food etc?

All I can say to him, and to any interested onlooker: I did my very best. In the world of NLP we talk about 'people doing the best with the resources they have got'. And I did. I really tried. And it didn't come naturally to me. But I tried and I did the best with the resources I had.

I will never be described as an earth mother.I really admire people with those skills and I would defend their right to be stay at home mums with a vengeance. I think it is an important and valuable job. But is wasn't for me, and I have ( finally ) come to terms with it.

Circumstances would have made it hard for me not to continue my work and my development. A lot of mums are in this position I think. The truth is even if circumstances would allowed it, I wouldn't have honoured myself and my gifts if I hadn't had my work. I have never been a domesticated person, and my patience with small children is very limited. I was so fortunate to have loving and patient grandparents on hand to play and read stories when I worked, and I felt happy to do it when I had the opportunity, knowing that I was being true to my own strengths and goals.

I may not have chosen to stay at home, making home made food, playing and creating. I was able to do some of this, but too much of it would have been frustrating for the whole family including toddler. It would not have brought out the best in me, and therefore not in my son.

I have been thinking about what sort of a mother I have been. I think the best gift I have given teenager is a lot of love and support ( and I bet most mums will put their hands up to that one), and opportunities. If he never walked out the house again he has experienced and seen more things than most people see in a lifetime. He has travelled widely, been to a lot of fabulous sports events, has learnt how to sail, ride, swim long distances. kayak, play in football and rugby teams, and even go to a baseball camp in Chicago! Next year he goes to Melbourne in Australia for ten weeks on a school exchange: something he has wanted to do for a long time now. He is looking forward to it with confidence and excitement.

Confidence, independence and a curious, loving spirit were my goals for my child.

For me: it doesn't get better than that.


Lynda said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog all the way in Africa ;) I have been to Windermere a few times - some of my family live in Chester & we visit them regularly & always go to the Lake District. It is a breathtaking part of the world ... I'll be back to visit your blog again soon !
Lynda, Kilimanjaro, East Africa

Lakeland Jo said...

Glad you like the Lakes. It is fab at the moment- all the autumn colours are coming out and the weather is finally settled. It can be our best time- quieter and very beautiful, with good calm weather systems
Glad you will visit again

pamokc said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog too! I love this post and will agree with you almost whole-heartedly! I was a better mom BECAUSE I worked. I think the world is changing -- My generation trained to **maybe** work but mostly be wifes and moms; your generation trained for careers; the next generation will be trained to do both!

The Lake District is about the ONLY place in the UK that I haven't visited (hint hint to the husband) ... lucky you to live in such a wonderful place.

Can I pass your blog around to all the people I know that keep telling me that religion is dead in England? Ahem. I keep telling them they are wrong.

Jan said...

I decided at age 13 that I would never have children, I have always stood by that early decision, and I have never once regretted it.

Women to often succumb to the wants and needs of others at the expense of themselves.

I admire women who manage to juggle a family and a successful career. You desrve a pat on the back for staying true to yourself, Jo.

Amanda Han said...

Hi Jo,

Oh Gosh what a good mum you must be! i've never considered myself old enough to have kids - althoug i love my neices and nephews very much and look after them whenever i can! how odd!

Anyway if yo uwant to view what i'vebeen doing for the rest of the year you will ahve to go to

long story but I cant upload any more pics on google!

We should meet for a coffee!

Tamara Jansen said...

Loved your story. Just had my daughter get married which was also a moment for reflection on how I nurtured her and how life will be from now on. She turned into a beautiful young woman......I'm hoping that I may have had something to do with it :)

Expat mum said...

I didn't realise you were such a baby when you had yours! Anyway, judging by the lovely laddie himself, you've done a fine job.