Why I’m Happy Mine No Longer Need Me
I think I have a piece of the Mummy Jigsaw Puzzle missing. In fact I know I do.
I’ve just been sitting in a cafe with a group of other mums, passing around my friend’s newborn and listening to coos of ‘Doesn’t it make you broody…?’, ‘Oh I miss them at this age…!’, and ‘I wish mine were still babies’, and the only thing that entered my head was ‘Thank fuck that bit is over with.’
Don’t get me wrong, babies are as cutesy as it gets. There is nothing more satisfying than lying on a couch with a warm bundle of newborn on your chest smelling their heavenly heads and listening to their snuffled sighs. I get that bit, I do. The fact they are so defenseless and tiny, you have no idea what they will grow up to be or do and it’s all ahead of them… it’s magical. BUT. Why do women have such issues with letting their children grow up? Why do we want our babies to stay babies forever?
I had this conversation with a friend the other day who said she couldn’t stop crying at the end of Toy Story 3 when Andy has to let go of his toys and move on to university. She said she was struggling with the concept that one day her youngest will become all grown up and independent and not need her any more (he’s two years old, get a grip woman). She even said it was enough to make her want to have another baby.
I love being a mother and I adore my girls. But not because I have an urgent need to nurture and look after something for the rest of my life – if I wanted to do that I would have taken up horticulture or opened up a dog sanctuary. No. I became a mother because I wanted to experience the miracle that is creating life from my own and seeing it grow. To accompany someone I love, more than I love myself, through life’s journey and guide them with the knowledge I have learnt (the hard way) and make their life even more exciting than mine. That’s an honour, a gift that unfortunately isn’t bestowed among all women. So I appreciate it. I love love love watching them leave a bit of their childhood behind day by day and embrace their future selves. I see it as a positive thing, not a loss.
Now for the tough bit, because I’m not going to mince my words here:
Kids need to grow up. It’s not healthy for any mother to deny them that or put off the inevitable; to struggle with moving them from a cot to a ‘big bed’, from a breast to a sippy cup, from the house to school and from your apron strings to the big wide word. You are not doing your kids any favours by keeping them babies for as long as you can, because sadly you are missing the most magical part of parenthood… the child’s journey. Your constant need to be needed by them – that self gratifying itch you need your baby to scratch to fulfill something lacking deep within you – is an insult to your child and utterly selfish. You aren’t thinking about what is best for them, you are worrying about what you need. What will make you feel worthy and special in this world. You are mistaking your child’s survival instinct of needing you with the sensation of unconditional love.
Like I said, it’s not healthy and it’s not a good enough reason alone to keep having more babies because (newsflash!) they keep growing up whether you like it or not.
So if you dread every one of your child’s birthdays and every one of their milestone because those baby years are zooming by way too fast – then here are 7 ways to help you let go of your baby:
1. Learn to separate the difference between being needed and being wanted. Just because you don’t have to wipe their butt any more, doesn’t mean they don’t want you beside them while they figure out their maths homework. Your child won’t always need you in their life, but if you give them enough space and support they will always want you to be part of it. And that’s what really matters.
2. Accept that all children grow up, and that the kids that become independent and successful adults are the kind whose parents have let go. You want them to soar to great heights? Then cut the string and watch them fly and don’t worry… they won’t stay up there forever.
3. A Smother Mother isn’t demonstrating her love for her child, she is exposing her vulnerability and her gaping desire to be loved. Your need to fuss over them is about you, not them. Letting our kids grow up and enjoying their journey alongside them is the best way you can show them that you love them. It’s about respecting them and giving them space to stretch out their wings.
4. Avoid Empty Nest Syndrome by filling up your life now, years before your babies fly away. Find other ways to be emotionally and spiritually fulfilled apart from motherhood. Top tip: Don’t look for the answer in other people (your family, partner, kids), you will only find that kind of happiness within yourself. What hobbies or interests can you get involved in that will fill the void that has been widening with every year your child gets older?
5. Distinguish the difference between the You that’s a mum and the You inside. Who is that person that isn’t always running around after her children? What does SHE want when she isn’t so busy fulfilling the needs of others? No one is going to look after you until you can look after yourself. It’s time to stop looking at ‘Me Time’ as selfish but as a vital part of being a more fulfilled woman.
6. Remind yourself what it was REALLY like to be a mum to small children. The crying, the sleepless nights, the tantrums, the lack of time to do anything. It’s too easy to look back at only the sweet parts, the things that don’t happen any more – drawings they painted for you, all the wet kisses and cuddles, the ‘I wuv you mummy’ and look of pure joy in their eyes when you entered a room – but that made up about 16% of the day. The rest was hard hard work. Do you really need all that again?
7. Instead of looking backwards, look at what your kids are doing now. Look at the way they admire you and try to emulate you. I know your children aren’t climbing over you any more – in fact they are probably trying to avoid you as much as they can now. But that’s a good thing. They still love you, they are just confident and self sufficient enough not to need you any more. Congratulations, you have converted a child into a fully functioning adult.
Our kids don’t belong to us. They cease being an extension of their mother once the umbilical cord is cut. So yes, make the most of their baby years while you can… but don’t look back with rose tinted glasses and tears in your eyes at the ‘lost’ years of their youth. Look forward and smile, their journey has just begun and their first steps will turn into a gallop and a bright exciting new future. With you beside them every step of the way. Exactly where they will want you (not need you) to be.