I’ve been reading a book about the relationships between mothers and daughters, Mothering the Self by Steph Lawler, for my own university study exploring mothering. The book is about the mother in the relationship, where typically the focus of such studies would be the daughter. It has sparked some thoughts about my own mother-daughter relationship with Joss, about the kind of mother I would hope to be and the kind of life I hope she will have.
Some of the mothers Lawler interviewed talk about advice and to whom they would turn for advice either on mothering or childcare issues. Just this week I have had occasion to be talking to other mothers about Joss, in a week of calling a cab and experiencing some uncomfortable side effects of teething it has also been a week where I said yes to a rare evening out. Talking to friends about it I said that I was quite enjoying being back at work, but that Joss is always in the back of my mind, and I found it hard to head out for the evening without weighing up whether or not I ought to leave her for something that’s not a necessity, like work. The words ‘mother’s guilt’ came out. But why? Did I say mother’s guilt because I’m trying to assuage myself of that guilt, or persuade myself that me time is needed? I don’t know the answer but my friend immediately said, “Oh that never goes away you know, mine are all grown up but I still think, do they need me to be there for them.” I found it really refreshing to hear a mother whose children have ‘flown the nest’ so to speak shared similar thoughts.
Later this week I bumped into an old friend in town, “hasn’t Joss grown!”
She reminded me that not long ago I was worried about Joss’ food intake, I said that she is eating like a trooper and she said “it’s lovely to see them enjoy a meal you’ve prepared isn’t it?” A colleague asked me if I like to cook today and it dawned on me that I don’t really enjoy cooking per se, although I love to bake, but that I love to prepare food that I know Joss is going to enjoy, and I love to watch her eat, there’s a satisfaction that I cannot explain as she enjoys her food, probably that’s why I was so sad that our breastfeeding journey ended too soon, but that’s a post for next week.
Previously I was in a place where most parenting advice was unwanted, I was getting to know Joss and I suppose I felt that other people offering advice was like them saying all babies are the same, or that they knew Joss better than I did because they’d had children of their own. Now that I know that she and I have a bond unlike any other I guess my confidence has increased and I feel better able to ask for and seek out advice! Probably the best advice I’ve had was that which most appealed to my nature! A friend told me to read the books, as she knew as a researcher I would, but then to put them down and follow my instincts and Joss’. Why is this so powerful? It will seem really simple to others but as someone inclined to obsess it is a strong mantra for me!
This leads me nicely into a question to round things off: