Thursday, June 14, 2007

Choices in Motherhood

Babylune is holding a group writing project at the moment, so I thought I would add (one of) my mistakes in response to her call to "Tell us all about a parenting mistake you’ve made, what you’ve learned from it and how you’re trying to make sure it will never happen again."

I was going to be the perfect mother. I had conceived a child in a loving environment - fair enough, a bit hippy-dippy, but as I was of that cut of cloth I was not swayed by the judgement of others.

I was going to raise my child with love and the embrace of freedom, joy, total choice control over all aspects of her life and never feeling hemmed in. Oh, my child was going to be the poster-child for mothers who aspired to beneficence the world over.

Well, the first kybosh on that was that my partner in hippy-dippy-ness sort of hopped right over into extremely strange and our loving enviroment became one in which he skulked home - often very late, often very apologetic, often very broke - and more often into the storm of a banshee than not. The banshee behaviour was mine, and though we did struggle on for a bit, eventually it became in my daughter's and my best interests that I didn't have to resort to the banshee wail as regularly.

I was still fairly much your Earth Mother - just one bounded by the view of my ex's behaviour and how I wasn't quite that hippy-dippy.

The second kybosh was that my beautiful daughter became a toddler. You know, every mother has to learn that toddler's respond well to some stimuli and not so well to others - and it is possible that every mother feels overwhelmed by the minefield of working out what those stimuli are.

Instead of being a poster-child for beneficent mothers, she could have been used as propoganda for Toddlers Behaving Badly. Oh, maybe not quite Dr Phil quality, and not often - but against the backdrop of my own psychological dramas of ex spinning out of control and the eerie judgement I felt from the community in which I was attempting to hide myself (read 1950s style nuclear suburb), she was a red flashing light of toddler terror.

And it must have seemed to EVERY person in my surrounding world that things were not so peachy in my home, as EVERY person in my surrounding world had a suggestion or two - and as they could not comment on my personal values or my exes mental status, the target was my mothering skills.

I stuck to my guns on the whole raising my child with love and the embrace of freedom, joy, total choice control over all aspects of her life and never feeling hemmed in. My child kept throwing massive dummy spits. EVERY person in my surrounding world offered more suggestions.

Finally I had enough - one day I became Dictator Mum because I could not stand the behaviour of my child - and a miracle occurred.

Oh my goodness. It sounded so dirty, but boundaries actually worked.

Over the years I have still managed to raise my daughter with love. That part will never change.

She is free - to a degree - if she does well, she gets more freedom - if she acts up, freedom is more strictly defined.

Joy is actually found more in our lives now than then - and I am sure it is because we both have a lot more control.

I occasionally forget the choice lesson I learned all those years ago - then I am reminded that little children don't actually like too much choice - limited choice is good as it gives them power, total choice means they don't feel too safe.

I am sure that my daughter feels far more hemmed in than the poster-child I had first dreamed of when I was pregnant - but do you know what?

We are both much happier that way.

So I learned two lessons.

I learned about boundaries. I try to keep it in mind - sometimes I forget, sometimes I don't need to be as strict - but we are both comfortable with them. She is 7. I am sure that will change - for now, we are sweet.

And I learned that not ALL advice is bad - it is sometimes beneficial to listen to the wisdom of others paths. That doesn't mean that you have to accept every aspect of it - but you never know when you could learn. I still keep my ears open - and my eyes when cruising the net. A lot I let go by - but occasionally I will say "I might try that" - and some of those times I learn something valuable.


Scribbit said...

Thanks for sharing this, it helps all of us feel as if we're in it together and that no one is the perfect parent. I'm still making mistakes right and left . . .

Maude Lynn said...

This is a great post. Very thought provoking. It gave me a lot to think about.

Omega Mum said...

Yes, there's nothing like learning from your mistakes. I'm just getting very sick of it. So I'm going to have a week of making mistakes and deliberately not learning anything at all from them, just for a change.

Jen at Semantically driven said...

I too make mistakes. Sometimes I take a step back and listen to myself and just cringe. But you're dead right about the boundaries. It truly works. It's bloody hard work setting up the boundaries too, and they keep on shifting.

Anonymous said...

Very good, thought provoking post. I wanted to raise my kids free, too, but find myself setting more and more limits as my son hits toddlerhood full blast.

It´s good to hear from someone who has been there, adapted and survived.