“You’ll be a good mom,” I was told. “You’re good with kids.”
I thought so too. I was confident. Collected. Loved babysitting. Fought to hold babies at church. I started bathing a friend’s baby on my own when I was 10 years old and then proceeded to babysit all four of her girls.
I was told I’d make a good teacher too. I agreed and winged it my practical teaching because I was so confident in my ability.
I knew motherhood would be harder than I realised. But I was caught off guard by an emotion I’d never thought I’d ever experience around children.
Doubt. Despair. And a complete lack of faith in my ability to parent never mind teach.
I was decided on a few things. I wasn’t going to be a pushover parent. I was going to make sure that my child knew her place. And I was going to have well-behaved children.
What I didn’t bargain on was a child who was different to me. Not just a normal difference between people. But so counter-character that I would mentally not be able to compute how she functioned. (You know that emoticon with the exploding head? #ME!)
I also didn’t bargain on being alone. I thought there would be a rallying of similar parenting styles amongst my community (obviously with the usual variations.) I didn’t bargain on a barrage of techniques, schools of thought and opinions. Nor did I think I would cower beneath things I didn’t agree with because, maybe, I might be wrong.
Rewind to 2018. I parented the way I believed was right. I disciplined, trained and corrected the way I had wanted to all the years I dreamt of having my own children. I was strict and firm. My child was stubborn but I nipped that in the bud. What resulted was an obedient, compliant and well-mannered little girl who could say “please” and “thank you” before she could speak properly. It worked. My method was foolproof and it just went to show that modern parenting pandered to children far too much.
Or so I thought…
I had my second baby and got back from the hospital quite bewildered at how my obedient, little girl had changed and I felt I didn’t know this “new” little person. However, I expected it. New sibling – I shouldn’t be surprised. And I wasn’t. Change causes regression and behavioural changes in children. So it seemed perfectly normal.
But from that day on, I have wrestled with her and my parenting. I am a “No-Mom.” There are a lot of rules in my house. More for Older than for Younger because Older is older and the first child and behaves differently to Younger. There are a lot of rules because I don’t want others to think she is badly behaved, ill-mannered or for her to be the child who is talked about in the staff room. Needless to say, she has lost compliance and most of her immediate obedience.
I cringe to think of the moments post-Baby 2 that I reacted in rage due to raging hormones, post-natal depression and my own sin. I am mortified at the way I screamed at her, snatched things away from her and shut her behind a door when she put a foot wrong. She was doing normal, childish things that two-year-olds do. I was in a bad space but my behaviour was nonetheless wrong.
I didn’t bargain on post-natal depression. I didn’t bargain on self-harming thoughts because I couldn’t cope and because I was a bad mother and wife. I didn’t bargain on being in a bad place spiritually as I tried to navigate the dark waters of depression. I never thought I would ask God to take me away because I was such a terrible mom. I never thought I would think that my children needed another mother – a better one. And that maybe I wasn’t it and they would be better off with a new mom and a new wife for my husband.
I’ve often thought about writing my children a letter now for later. To apologise. To tell them I’m sorry. To tell their teenage selves that I’m scared because I don’t know what I’m doing. That I will regret things. That I will hurt them. And that I’m sorry for treating them unfairly.
The thought of the regret I’ll have in 15 years time (and already have) makes me sick. I feel a deep sadness that my adult children may one day look at me and say, “Mom, you really hurt me when you did ____ when I was growing up.”
Those are inevitable with every relationship. But as a parent, you are meant to be your child’s cheerleader, shoulder, support and security apart from God. Imagine they felt sidelined, unsupported and hurt by you. It’s the nature of a fallen world, I guess, but it doesn’t make the truth any easier to swallow.
The past two years of parenting have been Russian roulette. I don’t feel confident in any decision anymore and everything is a guessing game. When I decide on a consequence, I hear the voice of every Karen, pursing her lips in disgust as she tut-tuts about how unfair I’m being, how harsh I am and how, “She’s only 3!” I can’t shut out the voices. And worse, my style of parenting doesn’t fit the mould of millenial parenting. It falls within the Gen X’s. So “outdated”. “Prehistoric”, based on research. Quite simply, “damaging”.
That’s how I feel about my parenting. That it’s harming my children. That my desire to have desirable children will rather create rebellion. That I am too harsh. Too strict. Not understanding towards my children. That I don’t acknowledge their feelings. And somehow, this was the parenting I believe created well-mannered children. But now I feel like this style of parenting is frowned upon. Despite still thinking there’s a lot of value in the way our parents did things and that if I don’t model my parenting on that style they’ll become spoilt and entitled, I also feel I am surpressing who my children are – that I am crushing their spirit and teaching them to bottle up their feelings (because that’s what the world is telling me.)
Damned if I do. Damned if I don’t.
As I have said, I have a child who is stubborn and strong-willed. She has a really sweet and kind side. But she can also be defiant and stand her ground. I have tried everything I can to find her “currency” to no avail. And I feel like I am losing the battle. Like my efforts mean nothing and produce nothing of value and worth. I sometimes give up, give in, ignore and walk out the room with my hands up, telling my husband that “I just don’t know anymore!” It’s a guessing game. A game of trial and error. There is no pattern to my parenting because I struggle with internal voices telling me to be consistent; telling me to be firm; telling me to talk to my child instead; telling me that I can change my mind because I’m the adult; telling me that my consistency is harsh.
And I fear that my indecisiveness, my second guessing and my insecurity is going to mess up my kids in a big way. I have no plan. No method. Nothing anymore. All the noise in my head drowns out every certainty I ever had; every voice of reason. I’m left confused and debilitated. I think parenting these days is more stressful. Not because it wasn’t when we were children. But because there are more ideas out there now. And we are bombarded on social media by opinions. Previously, it was you, your friends, your mom-in-law and three parenting books next to your bed. Now it’s everywhere you look and it’s astoundingly overwhelming! Friends, parents, parents-in-law, psychologists, educational therapists, people who diagnose every conceivable disorder in children, teachers, books, parenting articles, mom bloggers, psychotherapists, social media posts, vloggers, analysts, research articles, Google, sleep therapists, behaviorists, podcasts, parenting styles, parenting books, and, and, and…
No wonder we feel overwhelmed! Add a unique child to the mix! Parenting just got harder!
I know every parent doubts themselves. But sometimes the doubt is so bad that it makes me question whether I should even be a mother!
I have to keep reminding myself that God chose to give me as a mother to my children, no matter how I feel about it in the end. I need to look up instead of look in.
Photo Credit: Daria ObymahaTags: bad, child, children, defiant, discipline, disobedient, failure, kids, love, manners, mommyhood, motherhood, obedient, parent, parenting, parenting style, parents, postnatal depression, right, train, wrong