This month we are very grateful to our contributors for sharing what motherhood means to them. We hope you enjoy reading their insightful views ranging from the pain of miscarriage and the loss of a mother to the challenges and pressures that becoming a parent can bring.
Following previous popular issues on health, next month we will be discussing this topic again. Do you, or a loved one, have experience of living with any medical condition? Has your life been impacted by cancer, diabetes, depression, stroke or heart disease? Please send your advice and insight to help raise awareness of any health-related issue that is important to you. Send your article on ‘Health Matters’ (400-700 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org before 20th March 2016.
We look forward to hearing from you.
I always expected that I would be a mother; my upbringing led me to believe that the natural progression in life for a woman was to meet someone, get married and have a family. My mother did it, my aunties did it, my friends did it, my cousins did it; women all around the world did it! And I never considered anything different. I dreamt of having lots of children running around; my important role being to cook, educate, play, love and guide them to grow into well-balanced adults.
My heart was broken at 23 and I didn’t really want to give it to anyone else. But then Bruce came along and unexpectedly stole it. We married when I turned 31. My fertility clock was ticking, so 6 months later, when I found myself pregnant, we were over the moon.
Our joy of parenthood was short lived. My first miscarriage started an emotional journey of loss and pain, so great, I can’t even begin to explain it today. It was not so much physical, though there was that, but more emotional, psychological, feelings of being a complete failure. “I am a woman, I am successful in everything I do, so why can I not do the most natural thing that a woman should be able to do?”
9 miscarriages later and lots of prodding by medical and natural practitioners, consultants, unending support, strength and love from my husband culminated in a renewed hope, that of an actual living child. My sister was also expecting and we announced our news together to our parents – we would both give birth within 3 weeks of each other. Our beautiful, perfectly-formed baby boy, came into our lives with no beating heart. My sister gave birth to a healthy, baby boy.
It was a time of deep depression for me, one of coming to terms with something no woman should have to come to terms with. My days turned into weeks and weeks into months, and night and day became one. I came out at the other side with support from my strong and loving husband and my amazing sister. I felt ashamed, told my husband that he should leave if he wanted to have a birth child (he is the last in his lineage, the last of the Condors.) But he said no. He had married me for me – having/or not having his children was just an aside. He would not leave me.
Fast forward to today and I have now been a Mother to many children, none of whom I gave birth to. Bruce has also donned his father shoes very well too. Did we adopt? Did we have a surrogate? Did we foster? No.
I didn’t need to search nor push. The universe brought children to me who needed me at different times in their lives. My brother’s eldest daughter came to live us from the age of 16 until 23 and then recently again (she is my own daughter though not born of me). My sister shared her three children wholeheartedly, as if they were my own. They call me their second Mum. Children whom I babysat for come to me on Mother’s Day. All of these children filled my heart with love. That love, cured me of the loss, the pain, the shame, the failure that I felt. I never was any of those things. I was a mother in waiting.
The children who came into my life needed a “mother”. Today my many “children” argue with me, discuss life, help me when I need it, care for me when I am unwell. They tell me I am too protective, that I suffocate them with love, that they are lucky to have me, they laugh with me, I tease them, we cuddle, we cry, we sort stuff out, I help them find direction, guide them. And some day they say, I will be a Grandma to their children.
Life did not make me a mother in the traditional way, but after I shed those last tears and suffered that last pain, I realised that we all have to follow our own path. I am blessed. I have more children in my life than we could have ever made on our own! I know now that being a mother is not about just about giving birth to a child. Being a mother is having the maternal instinct to want to guide, protect, love, and help a child grow so they become a well-rounded and stable adult able to do the same when they have children of their own.
The question of motherhood is probably one of the most difficult decisions a woman has to make throughout her life. As we focus on our careers, what we want to achieve in this material world now overshadows simple decisions of the past of marriage and family.
Older generations and many communities still expect that one should be married before conceiving and in a heterosexual relationship. Regardless of age this should be shortly followed by patter of tiny feet soon after tying the knot.
The pressure to have children hasn’t changed much over the years. For many elders marriage and starting a family to sow the seeds for the next generation was, and still is, regarded as more important than a career for women. Difficult to digest when the expectations of men are so different where they are encouraged to focus on earnings, security and being the main bread winner.
I recall my own pressures to have a child, not just from close family members but also from any ‘aunty’ who had an opinion. They felt it was their right to ask and offer wise words that it was ‘time’ for me to start a family. I waited 4 years before having my first child and this was just unacceptable back in the 80’s! I am sure if I hadn’t produced a child (and a male one at that) these interfering aunties would easily have recommended my husband remarry!
Today, as I look at my two beautiful daughter in laws, I find myself in the shoes of my elders. I am beginning to hear whispers reminding me of my responsibility as a mother to encourage/influence my children to start the next blood line. It makes me reflect on how I felt when I was under similar pressure …and my rebellion – surely this was my/our decision and no one else’s! Isn’t this an incredibly private matter and ours alone to decide our future destiny?
Bowing to pressure and just going into ‘auto pilot’ of adhering to demands may seem like a weakness. However, now I am older and wiser, I am actually grateful for having my children when I was young. Today I still have the energy to be part of their lives without being a burden on them (as my own parents became due to age ~ not that I would call it a burden but an honour but a challenge none the less). Having my children young allowed me to focus on my career once they were self-sufficient ~ yes this may have been later in my life and I may have achieved higher accolade if I didn’t have children but I feel blessed that I was able to balance my family and career commitments.
So the burning question ~ should you have children? This is such a personal one. For me I could not imagine living another day without mine…they have brought me heartache but mostly joy. I must admit I can’t wait for God’s blessing of grandchildren but I do accept that this is my children’s decision. It has to be right for them when they feel the time is right and they are in the right frame of mind.
My only parting words would be do not to over complicate this decision and expect to have all your I’s & T’s crossed before you start a family. We know life is not perfect or fair and you never know what is around the corner – so wanting everything planned and controlled before you have a child can add to the pressures of what is God’s greatest miracle and gift.
Having experienced the wonders of Motherhood, I know I have been truly blessed. However I accept that having a child may not be the right option for everyone and that it is a personal choice. As elders this is something we have to accept, no matter how hard and difficult it may be to observe.
Motherhood is challenging to say the least. From sleepless nights and embarrassing nappy moments to clingy ‘I don’t want to go to school’ routines, the onslaught is often incessant. Then there are the more ‘evolved’ teenage temper tantrums. ‘Don’t tell me what to do’ and ‘I’m an adult now and perfectly capable of handling my own life!’ It’s all part of the ‘motherhood’ package.
The thing about being a mum is that it doesn’t come with any job specification or key performance indicators. It has no set work hours, no standard operating procedures, no zero tolerance policies and there are definitely no hire and fire options in place. Plus you are pretty much committed to zero pay …for life!
And yet, if you asked any mother in a room to give it all up, not one would raise her hand. Simply because there is nothing more rewarding and fulfilling than seeing a tiny speck of life grow into a vibrant, young individual with infinite potential to influence the world.
The stress of those long hours of being a mum just melt away when you see a smile on your child’s face and a shine in their eyes. No wonder a mum’s calendar is always on stand by for her kids. There is no way I would personally decline that once in a blue moon lunch offer from my six foot something son. Nor would I ever miss a movie date with my eighteen-year-old packet of gorgeousness who claims I am delusional since no one else seems to notice her beauty. After all, how can anyone else see it quite like a mum?
Motherhood is about sharing your special moments together. The photo reel is witness to things big and small: a favourite teddy, special blankey, fun birthdays, school performances, graduations, holidays… the list goes on and on. Their moments of victory and defeat are all yours. Their grit and passion are yours too. The ability to accept failure after failure without losing the enthusiasm to try again – that definitely comes from you.
It is a hard knowing that they live in a dangerous and challenging world and to have faith that life will deal them a fair hand. It is hard to trust that they will find within themselves the courage to give it their best shot and accept graciously what life has in store. It is hard to know when it is time to let go and maybe even push them a little bit to take the plunge. It is hard when they leave the nest, spread their wings and fly. But hopefully they come to the realization that they are truly independent and free. And then maybe, just maybe, they will turn around and say in a language without words: Thank you mum for making me believe in love. I am ready to take the baton and find my place in the world.
We are born of love. Love is our mother….Rumi
Motherhood is a very emotional subject for me as I lost both my parents within months of each other 19 years ago. There are no words to describe a mother. This single individual gives birth to a new life and then goes on to love her child unconditionally; for a mother the whole world is just her children.
It is so important as a female to be able to bare children and call yourself a mother, that many women will go to any lengths to become one. Today sadly there are so many medical complications where women are trying to become mums. They go through multiple treatments such as IVF, which is not only very expensive but emotionally difficult. I have had experience with this as my sister has been through IVF treatment unsuccessfully four times and is currently undergoing her fifth.
For every child their mum is special and for me my mum was, still and always will be. She was the backbone of our family, a very strong but emotional, sensitive, soft-hearted person- I guess that is where I get it from.
Mothers always have the ability to heal their children and emotionally support them even when the child doesn’t tell them everything! They are able to cure illnesses with hugs and homemade recipes and not forgetting their intuition. A child is a mother’s flesh and blood and the intuition a mother has with a child has always been one of mystery- a mother just seems to know. My mum had this. I remember being abroad and not feeling very well. Suddenly she rang and asked if everything was okay? I remember thinking “How does she know I’m not okay?”
I never understood how much my Mum did unfortunately until she was gone. My mother’s heart was so big that even through her battle with cancer she still insisted to cook for me and forced me to eat – she was worried about me working too hard and not eating enough. Until the day she went into a coma, this love of hers continued, and I can now say that I am like this with my children, I always put them first. When you’re young you think you’ll be nothing like your parents but as you grow up you become mirror images of them.
When writing about my mother, I always feel bad by not mentioning my father. They loved me equally and as a couple were truly inspirational. The love they had for each other is something I do not see in this life anymore; they loved each other so much that after my mother passed away my father followed 2 months after with a heart attack. He truly couldn’t live without her.
My parents passed away 19 years ago but the pain is still as fresh. I feel lost without them both, not being able to go home to my mother and confide in her, to lean on her, to tell her how much I love her is something I yearn for. The moment a mother touches you, you know you are home- you know that no matter what happens, for that moment everything is okay and if she can, she will make it all go away.
Love your parents, be with them, speak to them and hear them. You are lucky to have them. I have always believed that the prayers of a mother will always help you succeed in life no matter where you are. Those prayers will keep you safe so make them proud. I try and do this continuously by helping with charity events such as fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. I want to make my mother proud – I know I will always have her prayers with me.
My wife, my aunts, my sisters, my cousins, my friends and some of my clients all have one thing in common – they are all mothers. And the most common observation amongst them all is that the true meaning of motherhood is balance.
Trying to maintain the balance between bringing up children, being a partner or a single parent, being the ‘dutiful’ daughter-in-law, running a home and having a career is challenging. What I’ve witnessed is that it’s difficult to balance each equally, and depending on the stage of motherhood, this often involves prioritising one aspect over another.
In trying to establish a balance, motherhood requires a great inner strength and patience; to go through pregnancy, bring a child into the world, and then manage the rollercoaster of emotions of seeing your child growing up, falling ill, failing and succeed.
Through my experience as a life coach some of my clients share that balancing early motherhood alongside a career is their biggest challenge. The fear of not being with their young children, the fear that they would be considered less of a mother if they leave their children with carers whilst they go to work, the fear of not being able to spend more time at time at home and the fear of being an inadequate employee. These are not my thoughts, but of those mothers around me. I’m not one to judge others’ emotions, especially when it comes to the mother’s love of her children. I try to help my clients identify some of these self-limiting beliefs or assumptions about themselves and to replace them with known-truths which is so important.
Another aspect I’ve seen during my coaching discussions with women is when children grow up or move on and no longer require day to day attention. Some of these mothers struggle with the next stage of motherhood in trying to establish a new balance. A void is left that ‘needs’ to be filled and there is not always an easy answer.
The American musician and songwriter, Kim Gordon said it well, “You’re always going to feel like you’re catching up, and part of that is just balancing work and motherhood and the whole feeling of needing to please, which I do think girls and women feel more than men.”
Seeing motherhood as a balance is a beautiful experience, but those that go through it will tell you how hard it is!
Motherhood is a blessing. You can’t describe the real meaning of motherhood as these feelings do not take the form of words. According to me the definition of motherhood is someone who nurtures with love to help a child achieve what he or she is today. A birth mother keeps the baby in her womb for nine months thus creating a lifelong bond between her child and herself. However, to me, it’s the nurturing of a child throughout their life that really represents motherhood.
Every society and culture wishes to have a healthy and a happy next generation. However the pressure and expectations to have a child differ across the world. Within the Asian continent many couples, especially women, are pressurised to have children even if they are not willing to. While within many Western countries the pressure to become a mother seems to be less.
I have personally felt the pressure of society to become a parent. As soon as you marry there is an automatic expectation for you to have children. I believe instead of pressurising couples to conceive it is better to support their decision. Conceiving is a challenging task for those who are experiencing this for the first time. You can’t tell whether you are enjoying the experience or not! As a married couple we made a mutual decision to wait before we had a child. We both wanted to give our relationship more time so that we could develop a better understanding and due to work commitments did not feel ready.
It’s better to decide the right time to have kids for yourself. Several studies have shown that it becomes harder to conceive as we get older. I find not being a mother liberating currently, but I would not like to make it a challenge for myself later either.
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2017 GRIT Topics
APRIL – Health Matters
Do you, or a loved one, have experience of living with a medical condition? Has your life been impacted by cancer, diabetes, depression or heart disease? Please send your advice and insight to help raise awareness of any health-related issue that is important to you.
MAY – Breaking stereotypes
Have you achieved success in an unusual or traditionally male dominated field? Do you have personal experience of dealing with other people’s preconceived national, cultural or religious stereotypes of the type of person they think you should be? Please share how you have broken stereotypes or been limited because of them.
JUNE – Going back to work
Have you returned to work or started a business after a career break? Are you keen to get back on the career ladder or create a new lifestyle? Do you think there is a right time to go back to work after children? Please share your experience, how you managed the transition getting back to work and your advice for others in a similar position.
JULY – My new direction
Has an event such as marriage, divorce, having a baby or a health issue prompted you to make a major change? Have you changed your career, lifestyle, religion or outlook on life? Tell us why you chose to take a new direction and how it has impacted you.
AUG – What every entrepreneur should know
Are you an established entrepreneur? Please share your business and advice tips for those who may be contemplating starting a new venture or what you had wished you knew when you were starting out.
SEPTEMBER – Giving back to society
Do you think it is important to give your time, money or skills to benefit others? Have you volunteered with a charity, organisation or educational establishment? Tell us about your experience and the impact that giving back to society has had on yourself and others.
OCTOBER – No one ever talks about…
Please share your views and thoughts on any topic which you feel is not discussed often enough and that you would like to raise awareness of.
NOVEMBER – Do men need empowering too?
What is the role of men in women empowerment? Does empowering women really make men less relevant? What is the role of the man within the family? What messages should we pass onto younger generations of men as gender roles become less defined? Share your thoughts and views.
DECEMBER – 2017 highlights
To round off the year we’d love to hear your personal highlights from the past 12 months. If you could turn back the clock to 2016 would you have done anything differently this year? Write a letter to yourself of your proud moments, memories and achievements and your hopes for the New Year.
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