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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A Quote that will either Utterly Depress or Completely Inspire You.

By Emily Bartran

I should probably preface this by saying that to see the beauty in this quote, you might have to be a little dark and twisted.

Not, like, Marla Singer dark and twisted.

Just enough to acknowledge that life, in its entirety, is as tragic as it is joyous, as painfully lonely as it is rich with love and friendship and serendipitous-bordering-on-fateful connection, and as unconcerned with our individual sufferings as it is generous with extra servings of the good stuff.

Basically, it’s an unpredictable mess, but it’s the only unpredictable mess we’ve got, and at the end of the day it’s usually pretty enjoyable.

I struggle, sometimes, to remember the latter halves of all those extremes life seems to hand us—you know, the halves that are actually good. Instead, I get caught up in the waiting game: once this is over I’ll be happy again, when I move here it will be easier to make friends, my life will really get started once I do this/that/the other.

Instead of figuring out how to make the life I’m currently living work best for me, instead of actually making a change, I make plans for a change. There is a lot of list-writing and smugness for having successfully “figured it all out” involved.

But I stumbled across a David Foster Wallace quote that simultaneously felt like a punch in the face and the tender kind of hug only a consoling mama-bear can offer.

It openly acknowledges the (really) bad stuff, but it doesn’t allow me to wallow in the waiting game.

It starts like this:

“…the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle…our endless and impossible journey toward home is, in fact, our home.”

My first reaction to this was a previously unexperienced emotional combination of emphatic agreement and the immediate disillusionment of the trajectory of the rest of my life.

Trying to figure out who we are is hard and horrific and only ever vaguely successful, but because this is what society has loosely defined as part of our “purpose,” that hard and horrific and only-ever-vaguely-successful struggle has become all-consuming. It’s what we aim to resolve every day, from choosing our career path to choosing the Instagram filter that best fits our virtual aesthetic. Cue emphatic agreement.

But—this struggle is my home? No no, that’s not right. This struggle is a means to an end. This struggle is taking me somewhere.

Once I figure out who I am, once I conquer this struggle…

And it was this exact moment in my train of thought that I found myself playing that pesky waiting game again. Cue disillusionment and metaphorical punch in the face.

The aim of trying to figure out who we are is nearly impossible to separate from the massive and minuscule decisions we make as we go about our daily lives. And you know what our daily lives are? Our entire lives.

We fall in love at a bar on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday evening. We get the call that a loved one died while we’re grocery shopping. We take a business card from the guy sitting next to us on an exhausting plane ride and that business card changes the course of our career three months later.

The journey to establish our self—to build a home that is complete with four walls and a roof and has a concrete definition of You sitting at the dinner table—is never-ending, because every experience and decision we make further informs and develops that definition. 

That means the struggle that comes along with it never ends, either.

Now that I’ve spent 613 words’ worth of your time presenting you with what probably seems like an absolute bummer of a quote, here are 119 more that will (maybe, hopefully) turn that perception around.

I think I may have audibly sighed with relief and solace when I read the rest of Foster Wallace’s quote. If words had the power to physically tuck the anxiety and expectations surrounding life, in general, away into a dusty little corner of my mind, that’s exactly what these words would have done.

Interestingly, though, I’ve shown this to a few people and each of them had completely different interpretations and responses to it.

So, the rest of the quote will be left here without any other comment. I hope you feel the comforting arms of a mama-bear around you: 

“…finally, the door opens, and it opens outward: we’ve been inside what we wanted all along. Das ist komisch.

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A Wet Man Does Not Fear The Rain

Is that so?

When you hit rock bottom the only way is up?

Dangerous are the people who got nothing to lose

They up the stake and go all the way.

I feel like that sometimes.

Other times I worry about everything and nothing.

But one thing is true

The more you have, the more scared you get of losing them.

Same with people I guess.

The more you love them, the greater the fear.

Watching thriller and detective films sometimes, I curse when I learned that the leading character has a family, children especially. I think to myself: How stupid you are to have an Achilles heel. In that line of work, better to live alone and have nothing you cannot walk away from when the situation calls for it.

If I have got my wish, I am living that kind of life. Solitary. Lone wolf. Always in transition, nothing to lose, never vulnerable.

I will be a Ronin.

Yeah. I like that. A secret fantasy of mine.

I never walk into a place I don’t know how to walk out of.

And I never took a companion I cannot shoot in the head without a second thought.

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I owe myself the biggest apology for putting up with what I didn’t deserve.

I blame myself and no one else. I allowed it to happen therefore it is my fault. You see…

… you don’t have to wait for someone to treat you bad repeatedly. All it takes is once, and if they get away with it that once if they know they can treat you like that, then it sets the pattern for the future.

Are you familiar with the story of the frog in a pot of boiling water? That and those occasional good times that make you doubt if you are overreacting giving you the feeling that things are not so bad after all and a glimpse of hope that maybe someday it would actually get better.

But of course, it won’t!

And whose fault is that?

Mine!

One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.

Thank God for that.

I might have been abused, used, humiliated and insulted but my core is whole, undamaged and untouched. My integrity and dignity are intact. I’m still the same person I was. Only wiser, stronger, sober.

And the nightmares…

They come less and less frequent these days.

Perhaps someday it will stop altogether.

But I am not looking forward to that.

It’s okay as it is.

I know now that no one can hurt me unless I allowed it.

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How did sadness become so familiar I can almost hear it chanting my name

Sadness… It is more like melancholia which I believe I was born with. I was eight years old sitting on a breakwater that my father had fashioned to protect the dikes from the waves when I first realized that this world has nothing to offer to me. Even then the feeling of being been there done that twice over and back was prominent and constant. I was not sad nor depressed. Just an understanding of a fact. There are only two occasions in my whole life that I’ve felt that way. For the rest, I’m fairly okay. Melancholic but never lonely.

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Allowing Yourself To Be The Boss

Acceptance is for most people one of the fundamental goals to achieve if one wants to be deemed successful. In order to belong anywhere, to be respected, to keep self-esteem and dignity and to answer one’s need for interpersonal relationships one needs to be accepted; by one’s own family, friends, colleagues, and society in general. Only a few enjoy being an outcast (I’m one of them) and most if not all find themselves in this situation, not by choice. Predominantly, one becomes solitary because she or he failed to adopt a herd mentality or conform to what is expected by the majority. If one wants to belong, one must get the approval of society, so simple is that.

“What do you mean I have to wait for someone’s approval? I’m someone. I approve. So I give myself permission to move forward with my full support!” –Richelle E. Goodrich

For the vast majority, they don’t know any better. We are conditioned to adapt to what the society deemed appropriate from the cradle and we learned early enough what the consequences are if we don’t. So, from such a young age, we strive to be what the society expects of us at the cost of our true selves. We suppress our own individualities and uniqueness in order to be part of a group. Lucky are the ones who can portray their true selves and still be accepted and admired, but I am thinking, those rebels, are they really showing their true colors or it’s just for the show? For the sake of the art or whatever it is that motivates them to be different. I think of Van Gogh and all those eccentrics whose lives ended in tragedy. Is that the price to pay if you dare to swim against the current?

Most will think: why bother, it doesn’t worth the trouble. Why rock the boat if you can’t swim. Better to sit still and enjoy the ride and hope to reach the shore safely. It’s better to be part of the herd than make the journey on your own because for most people solitude means boring among so many other things. I wonder if they even tried to follow their own path and be who they really are. Just once, for a change, to test the water, see if they like it. I guess not. Why fix something that isn’t broken, right?

What about those jerks that get away with everything and advance on society’s ladder by stepping on other people’s back, are they being true to their own nature and being rewarded as well? Talk of having the cake and eat it too. To me, it only looks that way. Notice that most of those jerks used to be respected pillars of the community before the public learned their true colors? Appearance is everything. You want to be accepted, learn first to deceive.

How about you?

What do you think?

Do you need other people’s approval?

Of course you do!

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What happens when people open their hearts?

They get hurt. They get abused. They get used. They get taken advantage of.

Best not to let people get too close. Close enough to harm you. I learned that the best way to protect yourself and your core is to not to form an attachment with anything or anyone. People come and go, they change, their priorities change. Nothing last forever. The only constant in this life is_ changes. So better be prepared. Just keep yourself intact and you will survive whatever may come. You don’t need anyone for that.

“ I’m wounded, and I’m bruised.
But I’m not ashamed of admitting it.
It is a part of my healing process. And I’ll embrace it with a head held high.
One day I’ll stop touching the thorns,
and I’ll enjoy smelling the flowers.” –Rahma Djebbari

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People Pleaser

“You can’t let people scare you. You can’t go your whole life trying to please everyone else. You can’t go through life worried about what everyone else is going to think. Whether it’s your hair, clothes, what you have to say, how you feel, what you believe and what you have. You can’t let the judgment of others stop you from being you. Because if you do, you’re no longer you. You’re someone everyone else wants you to be.”

—Steve Maraboli

I was born swimming against the current without being aware I was doing so and continued to be ignorant of my course for more than four decades before somewhere along the way I developed somehow a soft spot and all of a sudden I find myself -caring is not the right word but I will use it for the lack of a better one- caring what people might think of me. It’s addictive. Once you start concerning yourself with such things, it is difficult to stop. That’s about the time I started wearing lipstick and wear more appropriate clothes. I don’t go about wearing jogging suits anymore and ditched rapper/skater attires. I still don’t do girly-girl stuff but there is definitely an improvement. I acquired bags as well. Pricey designer ones mind you. I still don’t use them unless necessary but I have them. I miss the time when I don’t even have a wallet and my cellphone fits in my shorts pocket and I don’t even have to comb my hair. Those were the days. Now, I learned about loose powder and highlighter but I draw the line on fond de teint and concealer. I refused to treat my face like a wall, plastering them to look presentable. No eleven makeup brushes for me to dip in eleven different jars and bottles. Maintenance is more important to me than makeup anyway. I rather feel clean than looking pseudo-beautiful I don’t even recognize my own face in the mirror. But yeah, to each his own.

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The Damaging Effects of an Inauthentic Life & How to Change It.

By Tracy Crossley

Depending on how we define authenticity, we may believe we are being very real with ourselves and the world.

Perhaps, we come closer to the definition of who we are, when we’re alone. It would be true, if we still didn’t carry the same beliefs with us, no matter where we go.

Our beliefs color our perception, creating limitations or possibilities and how we view others. Our beliefs aren’t necessarily our truth, they’re often what we’ve given meaning to through our earlier experiences.

Does it mean we are lying to ourselves? Yes, though it’s unintentional.

Many of us have contrived patterns to avoid loss. We fear our beliefs are true about abandonment, shame, not doing the right thing, not belonging and so on. We also fear not getting our way, because it would change the image in our head of how life is supposed to be. 

We often don’t say what we mean, because we’re on auto-pilot. It’s our same old reaction we offer, without much thought to its validity. We skip truth, so we instead live in past projections now.

Being inauthentic means we beat ourselves and others up because we place so much value on expectations. Most expectations aren’t ones we even created, many are inherited through our environment.

To be authentic is to dig deep and look at why we believe what we do, see how we uphold these beliefs through our patterns and question if this is truly who we are inside?

Authenticity is to accept all parts of ourselves. Through acceptance, we build an authentic relationship with ourselves first and then others.

If we get off of autopilot, even for a moment, we can learn who we truly are and learn about others as well.

Until we do, we’ll continue to believe old truths without bias. We’ll unconsciously create situations, which prove to us their truth! So, if we believe all relationships ultimately fail because we don’t deserve to be happy and healthy, then we’ll do what we can to make it true.

We get others to help us confirm these inauthentic beliefs too.

Teaching people to lie to us, is something we do unconsciously. Though if we physically pay attention to our bodies, we notice we feel off when we allow it. They’ll tell us what we want to hear because they fear our reaction or fear of losing us. How often do we let inauthenticity breed in our relationships, because we’re afraid of loss?

When we live out these inaccurate beliefs and force them to be true through our relationships—our experiences become inauthentic.

Many of us are stressed out and believe that life is dictating that we must have experience in the same way, each time. Every time we do something against ourselves, we suffer and yet, we have a belief that tells us, this is the way it is…..and it’s not.

When we show up for things out of duty rather than desire, guilt rather than truth, telling someone what they want to hear, rather than what we really want to say. Acting in ways that feel disconnected, but meant to please. We are living inauthentically. We want approval.

The scary thing is we don’t want to lose this inauthentic connection.

Fear lies in knowing our truth because it often means change, loss and everything we’ve been afraid to let go of, including a perception. In choosing authenticity, some will leave us, some will be pissed off, but in the end, we feel better.

When we can face ourselves with truth— we face another. We won’t let lies be brushed under the carpet, or pretend; we’ll lovingly stand for our truth. Even when it’s hard to do.

Authentic relationships have little to do with a list of qualities. It’s about learning who we are every day and attracting someone to our lives with the same openness, the same desire to live life fully and passionately.

The benefits of authenticity means we are comfortable in our own skin—alone or with others—confident while embracing our flaws, truly kind and yet truthful, even if there is a cost.

Every time we challenge an old belief, through thought and then counter-intuitive action, we release ourselves to have a more authentic relationship with life.

To develop authenticity requires a deeper awareness. Paying attention to our autopilot reactions, sussing out the past projection from the present situation and being honest when we’ve been wrong in our perception too, helps us to get closer to our own truth.

Photography by Nigel Tomm