I have been a mother for almost three years now.
Aside from being an utterly terrifying thought, as I don’t feel old enough to be a mum, let alone mum to a three-year-old, it’s made me think about parenting so far. I hate using the term “journey” to describe anything other than a car trip or an 80s rock band, but it seems pretty apt here. There have been ups and downs on the way – plenty of speed bumps, but I never expected anything else! – but if you asked me to describe the last three years, “a journey” sums it up pretty well.
Motherhood is like a constant cycle of emotions. Happiness, sadness, fear, elation, laughter, tears.
Feelings of inadequacy litter my “journey” of motherhood so far, and I know I’m not alone. I don’t have real-life Mum friends that I meet up with regularly. I see other women’s motherhood journeys through a filtered Instagram lens; through a heartwarming post on Facebook or a funny Tweet. I see their immaculate homes; their sweet, articulate toddlers; their hilarious lives. That’s all I see.
Laura from Five Little Doves posted a fantastic blog the other day, about the tiny snapshots we see of others’ lives, and how they aren’t always accurate (seriously, go and read it – it’s brilliant). She’s absolutely right; we are only able to see these miniscule moments, and we extrapolate them out into something they aren’t. We assume so much about someone’s daily life from what we see in a small square picture on a phone, or a few words on a status, when we know so little.
Unfortunately, it has the side effect of making us feel utterly inadequate.
I see beautifully dressed children, when I struggle to get SB to keep a damn t-shirt on. I see immaculate homes, and then I look at the half-packed tip that vaguely resembles my flat. I see family days out, long walks in the park and gorgeous outdoor shots every day, when it’s as much as I can do to get organised enough to leave the house once or twice a week.
We see breastfeeding pictures, and feel bad if we couldn’t do that. We see kids playing with fantastic toys, and feel awful that we can’t afford it. We see happy families and feel bad if ours doesn’t fit the mould. Feelings of inadequacy seem to be part and parcel of motherhood.
Is it the fault of people who upload these pictures to Instagram? Of course not. If it was, I’d be just as guilty. Last week, I posted this –
My Instagram feed shows, like many others, the idyllic snapshots in a sea of everyday moments. When we allow ourselves to believe that everyone else’s lives are comprised solely of these wonderful times, we begin to see the everyday moments as inadequate. We are failing as mothers; we are failing our children by not providing them with as much fun and fulfilment as the families on social media enjoy.
In the past, I’ve written blog posts about mums tearing other mums down. This one is about us tearing ourselves down, which we do all too often. There are countless people ready to hurt others to make themselves feel better; we don’t need to do it to ourselves. I’ve come to the realisation that SB doesn’t care if my Instagram feed is full of fancy gadgets and manicured lawns and aesthetically-pleasing home décor. The most important things I can do for her are to be confident in my abilities; to teach her to do the same; and to know that I am enough.
In twenty years’ time, SB won’t look at my Instagram feed as the measure of how happy, fun and loved her childhood was. It will be the everyday moments; the messy floors and the lazy pyjama days and disastrous baking sessions and all the bits you don’t see on social media, that remind her of how much fun we had as a family.
There are a million things I could say to try and tell each and every one of you reading this blog post; whether you are a mother or not, that you are enough. Instead, I’ll leave it in the hands of one of my favourite ever quotes, one that’s gotten me through some times of major self-doubt.