The Perfect Mother

Children are knives. They don’t mean to, but they cut. And yet we cling to them, don’t we, we clasp them until the blood flows.

My daughter always said that when the time comes she will be a better mother than I am because you see when it comes to motherhood (among so many other things) I am a failure in her eyes.

Well, she’s a mother now and her baby is four months old, so far, she didn’t manage to take care of Oona on her own yet. Every day she needs someone to be there because she cannot stand being alone with her daughter. Too demanding, too energy-consuming, too tiring too difficult too scary too everything according to her. She got a list of people (cleaning person maternity help and such not included) in her network and she shuffles their schedules to fit in hers. No questions asked. Just do what she says and everything will run smoothly. That simple. That easy.

She complains that Oona cries a lot and taking too much of her time. In fact, she said she has no life anymore. Duh (eyes rolling) you wanted a baby, suffer the consequences. In fact, Oona cries because she is making her nervous, stressing the baby (and everyone around her) with her regimented rules and schedules. Babies fall asleep when they want to, no need to force them to lie in a darkened room because you find it is time for them to disappear. In my country, we leave them to drop down whenever and wherever they please no matter how unconventional that might be. Like my father said if they fall asleep in a strange position whichever corner they choose, it means they are comfortable there so let them be.

Babies cry when they are hungry so please don’t force-feed them in the hours that you deemed right. Oona is not even allowed to hold her own bottle. Against the rules. The other day She said that Oona is under the weather and agitated. I would be too if I don’t take a bath for four days. She cannot put Oona in the bath alone. Too scary. Besides, Oona doesn’t like water. I wonder why. Probably the same reason why Oona doesn’t like to be dressed up. She squeezes her into clothes that way too small it restricts the baby’s movements. I can imagine how painful it is to wear a romper that there is no room to stretch your legs without putting pressure on your neck. She said she suspects that Oona has pain in the neck. Another duh. If you are a perfect mother, you will notice that you are squeezing your baby into clothes that don’t fit. No?

And if you are too scared to put her in the bath for whatever reason, at least freshen her up a bit, give her sponge bath, start with playfully wetting her hands and feet in lukewarm water either in a basin or under the softly trickling water from the tap. You can apply the same method to wash the hair. Hold her head under the tap but not the face or you can use a plastic cup so you can pour softly and slowly while talking to her describing what you’re doing to distract her. Do it playfully and lovingly as not to scare her. And if you are really worried you might drop the baby or something, do it if necessary in bed putting a waterproof sheet underneath the bath towel. Anything but leaves her unwashed for days!

Not sure what to do? Google it for crying out loud. For sure there are loads of materials out there to get ideas from.

During one of my visits, I had to take Oona for a walk (and Mary the dog) so my daughter could take a rest she said. It was cold, I wear a double hoodie but Oona didn’t have a cap. My daughter either forget to give it or didn’t find it necessary. I know better than to question her judgment. Any question raises about her choices is guaranteed to be met with hysterics that lead to teary arguments and finger-pointing. We had disagreement already over the cap of the perambulator. She wanted me to close it completely sealing Oona in the darkness. What is the point of walking outside if she is not allowed to see anything? A few meters from the house I opened the pram’s cap halfway, picked some yellow flowers that were bending over the fence and hang over the hood where Oona could see them. She liked it.

When we came back, my daughter commented about Oona’s sudden changed of mood. The baby looked healthier and obviously happier she said. I think to myself: Of course, she is. Any fool with half sense would know that like with anybody, babies need to go out too. To relax, not to party like my daughter seems to prefer upsetting her own structured schedules for Oona whom she claimed a hypersensitive baby therefore susceptive to too many stimuli. But that’s another of my daughter’s many amazing characteristics; putting her wants and needs first above anyone else. A modus she practices from babyhood with her brother who learned from the cradle it is best to give way than be subjected to teary confrontation. Wonderful.

She’s suffering from post-natal depression ( she said) which costing them money going to a psychiatrist (or is it psychologist?) and all. And guess whose fault is that, her being depressed, mine of course who else. Me and my ex failed to give her a proper upbringing (emotional blackmail anyone?) and all that jazz. Excuses I find. She’s 31 years old. She is married to the boy she had been chasing all her life. They now have one of the four babies she planned a long time ago to have and bring up perfectly, they have a decent house and okay relationship, man up for God’s sake! She practically living her dream. What’s the problem then?

Sometimes I suspect her of using Oona, deliberately agitating the baby and God knows what so she can justify her claim of how difficult her situation is and how brave how wonderful how good how perfect she is to withstand the ordeal of motherhood.

Look around for God’s sake! How other mothers are doing. Are they being overly dramatic? And I mean mothers who had survived a more traumatic experience in their lives than her. There is one among her circle of friends for example. Are they using their history as an excuse to cover their inadequacy?

When I gave birth to her I was barely in my twenties, alone in a foreign country where I didn’t understand nor able to speak the language, living in a tiny studio in the marginal part of the capital with little else to go on. The only view I had was an abandoned building that put fear in my soul. My drunkard thoroughly abusive husband disappeared on weekends leaving us alone with no food and locked me and my daughter outside in the middle of the winter whenever it suited him. I had to beg milk for her from the cafes in the neighborhood and ring bells of various apartments and pleaded to let us in even in the hallway so my daughter will not freeze to death. How’s that for a reason to have post-natal depression?

With all of the horrible things I had experienced, not even once I blamed anyone and feel nothing but love for my children. I never saw them as a bother, upsetting the balance of my life or costing me energy or blaming them for not having a life. Something my daughter is constantly talking about when it comes to Oona. One time, I asked her if she once looks into Oona’s eyes and feels that whatever troubles she’s having taking care of her is all worth it. She said; “I don’t have that. I don’t feel anything. I don’t enjoy motherhood, I don’t see her as all of you see her, she’s costing me too much energy and demanding all my time, I have no life anymore, yada-yada-ya.”

I can’t believe it. What did she expect? A walk in the park? First of all, she wanted to have a baby. So much so that when they cannot conceive the normal way they went to a lot of trouble to ensure that she gets what she wished for. Wish granted. What’s the problem then? The reality doesn’t fit in her perfect vision of how it supposed to be? Motherhood is not as easy as she thought it would be? Or the idea of her failing in her lifelong quest to do better than me terrifies her more than anything.

For the record, Oona is a sweet child in nature, calm, agreeable and happy. Only cries when it matters and not at all demanding. But like all normal babies who are in tune with their surroundings and susceptible to the moods of their mothers, Oona feels what my daughter feels and it makes her nervous, agitated and traumatized. She suffers under the constant quest for perfection, order, and control of my daughter who forces Oona to learn to roll over, lie on her belly, this and that because she finds it is about time Oona does these things. I thought: For God’s sake leave her alone. She will rollover crawl and walk in her own time. My son didn’t walk or talk till he was two and a half and turned out to be a multi-talented gifted individual. Each baby has a different pace when it comes to developing. There is no one size fits all (written or not written) rules for these kinds of things. If you are a perfect mother you ought to know that you can’t give your baby a textbook upbringing. Let them do their own thing. All in due time. And if there is indeed something wrong with your baby, no amount of forcing can change that so leave them alone.

What’s the problem then?

The problem is responsibility. My daughter cannot handle it. An aunt (and uncle) cushioned and pampered her for twenty-six years- something she never appreciates (what it is she appreciates anyway) someone devoting all their lives at her beck and call- something my daughter endlessly and shamelessly practice even now among her friends and family. I may not be the perfect mother but I don’t use and manipulate people to suit my needs. I’m afraid the trait comes from the side of my family. My mother was an expert. She thought she had everything coming. I called it Annalyn syndrome. Annalyn is my sister who unfortunately has the same character as my daughter. They love to put the blame on anyone but themselves and play the victim. Own your fucking mistakes for crying out loud and stop blaming people for your own failure. If everyone uses their imperfect background as a starting point (foundation) which to build their future, then everyone would be a criminal.

I for one have plenty of reasons from all sides but I don’t go on bothering people. I’m not saying I am better than my daughter or anyone else. I am probably worse in some areas. What I’m saying is the opposite. Don’t think you are perfect when you are clearly not. Don’t claim you’ve done it on your own and don’t need anyone when you can’t even take care of your own child and need an army just to survive a day. And appreciate the help you get and be grateful instead of acting high almighty I am better than the rest. And please decide what it is you really want to do with your life instead of jumping from one interest to the other confusing the people around you. And stop using your background and upbringing as excuses if you lost the motivation and don’t succeed.

My daughter spent 31 years of her life trying to decide what it is she really wants to do and achieve. So far she is in the middle of yet another endeavor with so many on the sides that it is unclear what is her ultimate goal and where she gonna go from there.

She said she wants to have a practice (a part of a conglomerate of experts housed in one building) giving advice to families on how to run their lives and bring up their children properly. She said she has the perfect background to do it. I told her practice with Oona first and at this moment she is the one who needs advice.

And that is another problem. My daughter cannot take advice or tips (especially from me but she will gladly pay a ridiculous amount of money to a stranger telling her what she wants to hear) on how to run her life without taking it as a grave offense and switch on to the full battle defensive mode.

I understand the difficulties of motherhood. I’ve been there, haven’t I? I know that each person has their own manner of dealing with any given situation, I understand that my daughter has some trouble coping with the responsibilities but she made the choice so snap out of it and shoulder on. There are people who are in a more desperate situation that she is right now. Millions of them. She has a supportive family, an understanding brother, willing in-laws, a patient husband, a network of helpful friends and a dream of a daughter whom I will gladly take on if given a chance. So stop being a ninny, step up to the challenge and show some respects where respect is due.

And most of all, stop the quest to be the perfect mother or perfect anything because perfect doesn’t exist. She had already a dose of reality check from every corner and had to swallow almost every word she once swears she was not going to do so learn from it instead of clinging on to her unrealistic ideals that exist only in her head.

I hope she man-up soon for the sake of Oona before it is too late.

I’m not holding my breath though.

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