There's a shift happening in western culture at the moment. We are starting to talk more about the experience of mothering. Beginning to name the challenges and difficulties. Starting to shake off the illusions of times past of mothering as only a positive experience. Starting to question the way we do things and why.
This was the topic of a panel discussion at the Melbourne Writers' Festival, relating to the release of the latest book aimed at breaking through the facade of motherhood experiences. Honest, often funny, stories shared about the underbelly of motherhood - the ridiculous situations we find ourselves in, the conflicting advice of experts, family and friends, the lack of confidence we develop in our bodies and understanding of our child, our resentment towards partners who get dressed and leave the mother at home while they go to their civilised work place. The list goes on and on.
Consensus arose around what the child brings to the mothering experience. Mothers respond to the child and react to their responses, sometimes in surprising ways. The.child brings his or her own personality and will make their own way. We can choose to fight it or we can choose to accept that is the way it is. We might trust, after hearing this discussion, that things will work out in the end and our best efforts will be good enough to help our kids get to that point of independence we so hope for.
The role of experts as helpers, versus judgers, stood out as well. The supportive and nurturing words of an understanding professional, at a crucial time, can go a long way in helping the mother regain confidence and keep going. The judgements, on the other hand, can not only impair but serve to paralyse and incapacitate.
The balance between valuing the role of mother without taking it too seriously is a challenge. Of course mothers matter to their children. Of course we are influential. But mostly children will gain much from a confident, self assured and supported mother in a society where mothering is valued and understood.