Marcia Leone shows us that motherhood has a new mood. It’s edgy, powerful, honest and strong.
As soon as I became a mum, my whole world changed. I was prepared for the lifestyle changes, but I wasn’t prepared for the changes that occurred deep within me as a person. I finally found that sense of purpose I was searching for in my career, travel and social life: he was sleeping in my arms. Okay, maybe not sleeping, as my son had the worst case of reflux known to man… but I found my ‘why’ through motherhood.
And when I found my missing piece, I started to write. I wrote because I had something to say. I wrote in the shower; I wrote in the car; I wrote at 1am, 2am, 3am, between the stop-start realities of mum life. Because after six years of sharing my motherhood journey on my platform, I have learned that we don’t need to be told what to do. Instead, we need to be told we are doing a good job. We need to share our experiences, while understanding that we’ll find our own way through the unique experience that is motherhood. Here are a few things that I’ve learned to embrace on my modern mama journey.
ACCEPTING THE RIDE
So we’ve navigated the pregnancy, the birth and the bubble – now the real fun begins! Laura from parenting blog Chaos & Quiet tweeted a few years ago, ‘Parenting is 50 percent feeling like your head might explode, and 50 percent feeling like your heart might.’ Parenting is just as hard as it is beautiful.
Nothing in your lifetime will have such a profound effect on you in every way. You will never know a love like it – without condition, without wanting something in return. It really is the most precious gift. There will also be nothing in your lifetime that will challenge you in so many ways. And those challenges change and evolve as your child grows. You can adore your children, and still admit it is hard. Parenting is a wild ride, that’s for sure.
YOU DO YOU
The famous saying by author Jill Churchill, ‘There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one,’ has become my parenting mantra. I think it really sums up modern parenting. The old school ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ mentality just doesn’t fly with a lot of parents anymore; many are choosing to teach through example rather than rules. The end game is to raise kind, resilient, respectful and confident humans, but there are so many ways to get there.
I never thought I would be a co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding mama, but here I am. I’ve had zero personal space since 2011, but you know what? I love it. My sister is a ‘routine’ mum – and that works for her. I don’t think we really know what our parenting style will be until after we have a baby, and I think most of us can identify with elements from a few different styles. Every baby and every situation is different. Just do what works for you.
YOU CAN BE GRATEFUL AND OVER IT
I remember waking up one Sunday and for the first time in seven years of parenting I said to my husband, ‘I don’t want to parent today.’ I really didn’t. I just wanted a day off. I was sick, the kids were sick. My daughter was simultaneously teething and in some kind of ‘wonder week’ and my son had to go to a birthday party where I would have to make small talk with other adults. I’d overcommitted with work. I was tired. I hadn’t slept a full night in a year. I was just craving a day to myself. A day without being poked, prodded, pulled at, whined at. A day without being touched. But as soon as those words were out of my mouth, I felt a huge rush of guilt.
I am beyond grateful for my kids – they are my biggest blessings and I rarely complain (out loud) because I have the perspective to know how lucky I am. They are my world. My life. I tell them I love them a billion times a day. I show them I do… but I am still tired. I still hide in the pantry and eat Nutella from the jar. One of my light-bulb parenting moments was the realisation that you can be grateful, but still be over it.
LET GO OF ANY JUDGEMENT
For any self-doubting, sleep-deprived, cracked-nippled new mum, the last thing you need is unsolicited advice on what you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be doing. There’s a meme that says, ‘Breastfed, bottle-fed, stay at home or work, we’ve all knocked our kid’s head on the car trying to get them in the car seat.’ The struggle is real, and we don’t need to be judged for trying to do our best.
It all begins as soon as that little embryo attaches to the uterine wall. People will tell you what to eat, what not to eat, how you should be carrying, if you are big, if you are little, that you must accrue sleep. Some may even throw in a horror birth story for good measure.
Once you have the baby, it gets worse. Even though it’s usually well-meaning, the amount of conflicting information you receive as a new parent can be overwhelming, to say the least. From midwives and mothers’ groups to family members and friends, the ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ anecdotes come thick and fast and can lead to self-doubt – especially for an emotional new mum.
Advice is great when it’s asked for, and sometimes even when it’s not – as long as we are then confident enough to take the bits that fit with us and leave the rest. It’s all about finding what works for us without the worry or fear of judgement for doing things differently.
After twelve months I was the only one in my mum circle that ‘still’ breastfed. The comments – even when they weren’t direct – made me feel ashamed to feed my son in public. I would never make a comment about a mum choosing to bottle-feed – for whatever reason – and I just expected the same in return. I felt so ashamed to be feeding my one-year-old that I once took him to a smelly toilet cubicle at a Yo Gabba Gabba! concert to feed him. When I came out, I promised myself I would never do that again.
Ironically it was the online community and social media – the land of the ‘troll’ – where I found the most support. Instagram can be a negative and judgy place, but I found so much support by connecting with women from around the world.
No one has their child’s best interest at heart more than a parent. We don’t have to agree with one another, but we can still support each other.
EMBRACING MODERN MOTHERHOOD
I’m winging it, just like you, and I think that’s the point. None of us really know what the heck we’re doing – we are constantly learning and evolving; but we do need support. It does take a village, and I want you to know that I’m here for you, and I want you to feel good about yourself and your parenting choices – whatever they are. I want to normalise the parts of motherhood that have been hidden behind the facades of perfection and ease. I want you to laugh and feel supported, because you’ve got this! And sometimes you won’t – but that’s okay, too.
Motherhood has a new mood. It’s edgy, powerful, honest and strong.
The modern-mama movement that began in online communities is starting to break the parenting glass ceiling when it comes to choosing a style that fits with your family and beliefs.
Modern motherhood is about respecting each other’s choices. It’s recognising we all do it differently, and that’s okay. It’s swapping slippers for heels as you dash out the door. It’s building an empire from home in your pyjamas and a topknot. It’s juggling like a pro one day and then locking yourself in the bathroom the next. It’s deciding that you might want to dedicate yourself solely to being a mum.
It’s navigating business meetings and leaking breasts, and rocking your favourite outfit with a bit of baby puke on your shirt. It’s enjoying the fast-paced life or packing everything up for a simpler one. It’s finding out your ‘village’ might be online.
It means adoring your child, but admitting it’s hard. It’s putting everything into taking care of your kids, while keeping a bit for your soul. It’s saying you were someone before being a mum, and that that person still matters. It’s about losing yourself, and then blossoming into a new version of you.
It’s finding the confidence to be who you want to be. Not despite being a mother, but because you are one.