Discovering new sides to yourself

Parenthood invites you — even forces you — to extend yourself in ways you didn’t think possible. You will get better at making friends, simply because you need them. You will also be showing your toddler about friendliness. This will make it easier for them when they get to school. Parenthood will certainly stretch your relationship with your partner, learning from each other, leaning on each other, and fighting with each other as you parent together.

By now, we hope you have gathered that a real mother is never perfect, no one ever ‘arrives’. This is good because a perfect mother would be a pain. She would be of no use to kids because they would have nothing to offer in return and there would be none of the learning on the hoof that makes human beings vulnerable and, therefore, loveable. A real mother is better than a perfect mother. Believe it.

HOW DO YOU GET MOTHERING SKILLS?

Any way you can! But there are three main sources: 1. Recall them from your own childhood. The easiest way is to have been mothered well yourself. If you had a mother who knew how to love and raise children, while being a ‘real’ human being in bad times as well as good, you have a head start. She will probably also have had her own life, interests and talents. These may have been put on a back burner for a while with babies and toddlers around, but they were not lost and came back strongly at the earliest opportunity. She will have shown you that she was herself first. And a partner, and a mother. She made sacrifices and accepted delays in her life, but didn’t lose herself in order to raise her children. You had a feeling she was doing what she wanted. If you were lucky enough to have had a mother like that, appreciate it. 2. Acquire them later by finding people who can fill the gaps. Often, you can find good models to copy. Perhaps when you were little your father was the one who taught you certain qualities, such as having fun, being strong and independ- ent, the importance of laughter. You may want to incorporate his qualities into your mothering. Perhaps a grandma, aunt or friendly neighbour was often more affirming than your parents could be. A teacher might have believed in you and your potential. Even now, you may find that certain people attract you because they ‘have it together’ in ways you admire. Spend time with them, enjoy their company and soak up the qualities they show. In this way, you keep on ‘growing yourself up’. 3. Learn by experience and experimentation. Teach yourself. We all know people who have just figured things out for themselves; this is one of the inspiring things about human beings. You can do it, too. Note the aspects of mothering where you feel you are on shaky ground and decide to work systematically on these areas.

– Ask other mothers.

– Ask a health visitor.

– Ask a counsellor.

– Read books.

– Read magazines.

– Watch television programmes.

– Watch what others do.