Monday, February 6, 2012

Shedding The Mother Guilt

Before I had kids I used to think I'd be an excellent mother with exceptionally well behaved children. Whenever I observed 'naughty' kids in public places I assessed the situation with ease and cast judgement like only an ignorant woman could. 

Then I had my my own and isn't it just so true that pride comes before a fall - I fell fast and hard.

In the first months of being home with Zeph I really struggled with the demands of being his mother. Constant feeding, rocking, patting, singing and ssshhh-ing. It was full on. Then there was the crying. all. the. time. Crying when being held, crying when in the cot, crying when in the bouncer and so on. Of course there were LOTS of smiles and giggles and love but I do remember feeling overwhelmingly drained in every part of my being. I used to think that he cried because I was not adequately fulfilling his needs. If only I could rock him more rhythmically, sing more sweetly, have more patience or slow my own breath to match his. Then, maybe then, he would become a relaxed easy baby.

During this period I believed he 'acted out' because I didn't have the skills to parent him 'correctly'. When I heard people calling his behaviour aggressive I assumed it was because I had not been nurturing enough towards him. I questioned my own behaviour and concluded that his actions were a direct response to me as his mother.

As he has grown he has continued to be a loud, energetic, interactive individual. He likes to run fast, jump high, laugh loudly and talk constantly. He is turbo charged. And the longer that I  have the privilege of being a mother to this amazing child I realise that he has an intense personality. He has since birth - the crying was not the result of some inadequacy on my part, nor was his behaviour necessarily 'aggressive' (although at times it was/is); he is spirited and will be for each and every day that he walks on God's earth.

Only now, I have found the courage (with the help of my beautiful friends, abundantly wise park mums and my own mother) to believe that he is who HE is, not who I have made him to be through a variety of errors. He is strong, independent, determined, sensitive, focused, engaged ... and a wee bit precocious.

As his third birthday is approaching and I still struggle to tame this wild child of ours, I remind myself that ... it's an impossible task... I shall guide him as best I can but above all I shall accept him for the creation that he is.


  1. Beautiful post Em. He is such a handsome little lad, I think its much better to be spirited than the opposite. You are a great mama. x

  2. this is beautifully written. here's hoping every mum who has a full on kid, feels a little more relieved after reading this.
    i do. xx

  3. Good on you Em. I empathise with the guilt. I think it will be with us forever...justified or not. Xx

  4. I love this post!
    I love your truthfulness.
    Some children are harder than others but wonderful all the same.
    My son was feisty & others at time had no patience for him
    but he was mine & I live & adore him.
    You are doing a wonderful job.
    Zeph is blessed to have you xxxxx

  5. I too have a son that has those qualities but we call him 'passionate' as each emotion is to the extreme. When he was 4, i thought maybe it was because he had an attention disorder so I googled, read lots of books, watched parenting shows and worried. It was a lovely teacher at his daycare that put me straight - he is just a little boy that loves to live!

    She was right. He is now 5 1/2 and though he is still super super active he has calmed down and (finally!) i can reason with him.

    Thank you for your honesty, us mums with boys like ours totally 'get' it! xx

  6. perhaps one of your best posts yet. i too cringe at the way i used to judge mothers pre-Saskia...think it's the biggest lesson i've learnt - not to judge. every child - and every spirited child - is different.

    acceptance and love - that's the best kind of parenting there is, surely?

  7. Beautifully written, and like many who read I'm sure, I too know what you mean, my little man has always been full on, and as a quiet person myself it has taken some adjustment on my part.
    Rhi xx
    (BTW, I love the brown long hair in your old photo!)

  8. I have just been nodding along to this post the whole way through. From the crying as an infant to the spirited child, this is my little boy too! Sounds like they're about the same age as well. When O was a baby I used to think he was going to be a really sensitive little thing because of his crying, but now I know it's because he has to have a say about absolutely everything. I firmly believe that even as a wee little bub he knew what he wanted and how to get it! I too struggle to manage his behaviour at times and we're in a new learning phase at the moment as he settles in to life with a sister.
    I love your positivity at the end of this post -sometimes I find it difficult to see the light when I've had a difficult day with him, so thanks for reminding me why his personality is so great! x

  9. Oh look at that cute baldie, he's adorable inside and out! Oh mother guilt know her well. Xx

  10. Lov your honesty and realism...Im hearing yoy, as a Mumma of a still spirited 15yr old young man....just keep keepin on and breathe :)

  11. Good post, I understand. After your recommendation of 'Parenting your Spirited Child' in an earlier post I've been reading it the last couple of weeks, it's a real eye opener for me. I've got a spirited almost-4-yo & now I understand her so much better! I have so much more empathy & I love her energetic spirit rather than fighting it.

  12. I felt every single word of this post Em. Four years into living with a very spirited daughter I've also come to accept that this is who she is. For so long I was trying to work against her, I'm now learning to work with her. It is becoming easier, but no less exhausting. Like you say, all we can do is guide them, and if we do our jobs in the best way we can, we are gonna be some very proud mummas, with some pretty awesome kids!
    Your an inspirational mother Em, so full of intent. I feel it in your words and your images. Your children chose well. x
    Oh, and those photos - Love them!

  13. I could have written this word for word. Amen, Sistah, Amen.

  14. YAY you are getting to that place we all dream of being in. Good stuff girl. It was like I am trying to read y own mind...

  15. This is just brilliant, I love how much thought has gone into your conclusion, because really, it is SO hard to seek clarity when you're smack bang in the middle of a situation... AND especially when you're a Mama. I can so completely relate to your words too, as I have not one, but two, highly spirited boys and have often blamed myself for their outgoing and ahem... sometimes aggressive behaviours. It's just bloody hard really, but I know it's the fact that we care so much which makes us devoted Mama's.
    You are just way too gorgeous in that 2nd shot, supermodel mummy :o) xo

  16. Yep, they are born with their personalities! My son was so quiet as a baby, and still is (reasonably!), but my daughter was WAY more demanding from the word go! And still is!
    You can guide them as best you can, teach them right and wrong, but you can't control their personality. I think he sounds like a great little guy! And as he gets older he will find ways to express himself in ways that he can't now. You'll be alright, he'll be alright, all will be well!

    Go Em! You're awesome!
    Rach x

  17. Beautiful and honest post. We do put a lot of pressure on our own shoulders, us mothers. Trying to be so perfect when we are simply doing the best we can. I also used to judge the parents of "noisy/naughty" kids before I had my little boy. Now? I've learnt that not everything is as simple as it looks when it comes to parenting and have become so sympathetic towards other mothers. At the end of the day, we are all trying our best and most importantly there is no "right" way to educate children. Your little guy seems pretty awesome and a happy kiddo, so you much be doing it pretty right if you ask me! Bisous beautiful mama.

  18. Thanks for your honesty. I'm just taking a short break from pacing the floor with my 6 week old in her sling. This post made me cry (I guess I could blame it on the hormones). Gosh I'm so tired but it's good to know that I'm not alone in all this sshhhing, pacing, patting and I know that before long this will all be a distant memory. Gotta go she's about to wake. Can't wait to get the little bloomers I ordered from your store! Thanks again. xxs

  19. I appreciate this post! I write about my wild children over here.

    I love your blog!

  20. Lovely words that have already had an affect on a lot of other Mumma's. I have three kiddies. Number one and number three are both very spirited....Me thinks the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree. Yes it is hard and full on...but there has also been some bloody hilarious moments. Enjoy the spirited ride. Mr nine is a bit difficult at the moment with his intense emotions and you have reminded me to just accept he is who he is. So thankyou. Miss three is not as full on but Miss One....The most spirited of them all...Sounds just like you described in your post. But the most beautiful thing about her is that while she can cry and scream like no other....She also laughs and loves like there is no tomorrow.

  21. I know I have said it before Em, but I love you.
    Your honesty, you're kind, you're funny, you're HOT and you keep it real.
    Your kids will grow up to be strong, individual, confident, open minded, kind caring adults - job well done lady!

  22. Thanks for such an honest post. You have no idea how reassuring it is to read this... I don't know you at all but from what I read around here you sound like an awesome person and very loving mama x

  23. what a beautiful post, and very encouraging to read. I felt the same with my bub, especially those first 6 months. I couldn't help but compare her to the other bubs in my mum's group and get frustrated that she wasn't 'easy' like some of the others. i am much more relaxed about it now and really enjoy her crazy personality! wow nearly 3 already. what a cutie!!

  24. Thank you for your honesty. It's these honest posts that make me less scared to take the leap into motherhood (when it happens for us)

  25. Our children bring a certain something of themselves into the world and it's something that can't really be changed. Our nurturing can help bring out the best in them. You really see this when you observe several children in the same family brought up in similar circumstances and boundaries. I know how different my three are, though all of them quite spirited, but in different ways. A lot of days I feel I muddle my way through mothering, but kid's are pretty resilient. Beautiful post x

  26. Zeph is a little darling. We loved your visit the other day. In time he will be the life of the party, a warm little rock for people to gather around and a loving and valuable member of society, who knows all the names of herbs and plants. :)

  27. I too have a 'wild child' who started primary school yesterday. He was what I'd call 'spirited' - our bookshelf is testament to that. Now, he's a confident, chatty 5 1/2 year old who is thriving at school, and has come into his own. If the 'spiritedness' is channelled the right way, it's a blessing.

  28. Your words are always so beautiful and honest. Always.
    This post hits home for me and (obviously) many other mothers out there.
    I think this is one of my favourite posts EVER, most likely because I can relate so well. Our boys are the ultimate challenge and the ultimate reward.

    1. By the way, you are undeniably GORGEOUS Mama. Can't get over how good you look in that second photo....:)

  29. THANK YOU! Thank you for this post.

    My daughter is almost 5 and is most definitely spirited!

    I used to judge parent of children like my daughter when I was young and childless.

    Now I cringe when I think back about it. There have been so many times I have been embarrassed when out in public with my little girl. I have picked up on the looks, comments, and judgements of other people.

    My life has completely changed because of this. I rarely take her grocery shopping with me. I avoid going clothes or any other type of shopping at all costs really.

    Actually..... any sort of excursion that is not to an extremely child-friendly venue is avoided.

    Even supposedly child-friendly venue sometimes are no-go zones.

    Just today I took her to get a new set of glasses for reading, so she can leave one pair at home and one at school. It was an absolute nightmare.

    We got through it eventually.

    She is also highly sensitive, is very easily irritated by scratchy clothing, labels inside clothing, shoes that are too loose, won't wear any pants but leggings, as she can't handle the material brushing against her legs, the list is endless.

    I am constantly exhausted. I worry about her. I often feel like a complete failure.

    Then I remember that the fact that I am exhausted means that I am doing the very best I can. I am an engaged mother, I am involved, I am caring, I am doing everything I can to help my little girl.

    And I know that I'm doing a good job, and that I just have to hang in there and things will get better, easier, and calmer.



Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em