gerund or present participle: mothering; noun: mothering
1. bring up (a child) with care and affection.
“the art of mothering”
2. to be in a constant state of anxiety and distress whilst maintaining the illusion of calm and control. To be constantly wrong or every decision to be the worst course of action.
3. see “Making it up as she goes along”, “winging it”, “flying by the seat of her pants”.
I remember the first time I was alone with my new baby 14 years ago. It was horrendous. Simultaneously mad with love and terrified of responsibility at one and the same time. I was tasked with keeping this small human alive, and I wasn’t sure I was up to the job. I had never changed a nappy, I wasn’t really clued up about feeding, I wasn’t one of those mothers who had read a university’s degrees worth of books on parenting, and I just wanted a real grown up to come and take over.
Yet here I was – a clueless woman – who was expected to know all the answers. Overnight.
I sometimes joke that I think by the time I get this parenting gig together my kids will have left home. And it’s somewhat true. They just keep throwing new phases at you till you’re fielding own goals or lying face down in the mud whimpering for a time-out. I’m still that clueless new mother. But now instead of ‘how do I change a nappy’, or ‘why is he crying’, there are the more existential questions about how I’m screwing them up for life. Or even longer.
I don’t know all the answers. I sometimes barely understand the questions. The demands are endless and sometimes perplexing.
Recently we have had to come face-to-face with some facts – not new facts, but not-going-away-facts. I’ve struggled with various aspects of this for years, usually alone. I don’t really want to go into this any more since it isn’t really about me and isn’t my story to tell, but all this to say is that this past week my mothering ability and self image has taken a beating and I’m struggling with my failure to make everything alright. The prospect of ‘fixing’ this is overwhelming me, and though in the scheme of things isn’t a major deal, it’s still a curve ball that I don’t know if I have the ability to catch. I’m spent. I’m toast. I have no village and raising children without one is a recipe for disaster.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow to realise your best isn’t good enough.
Once again I find myself having to reassess the dynamics of house and family. Tweaking here, implementing that there, snipping out the bad, encouraging the good. I sometimes feel less mother and more zoo keeper-cum-traffic police.
It occurred to me recently that no matter what I do I will always worry I am doing the wrong thing. This anxiety will never abate. I’m trying to be mindful and fill my own cup. I’m trying to be grateful and positive. And at some point I’m going to have to accept that my best will have to be good enough. Because there is no other alternative.
I just hope it’s enough.