Who said being a successful mother would be easy?
I was talking to a friend today, a mother of four, who was feeling slightly fed up with life, the struggles she has had to endure, the hardships of lockdown and the frustration she has felt with not having a job.
I listened to her because at that point, she really needed an outlet and it was necessary for her to express herself, even if it made her feel quite emotional. I reminded her that she matters. She is important, loved by many and her presence on this earth makes a difference, whether she sees it or not.
You see, the thing with us women these days is that we try so hard to keep it together, that we forget that it's OK to cry and feel deflated on occasions.
Damn, the amount of times I have cried in my lifetime, I could have started the River Thames. People have often said to me, "You are such a positive person. You always have so much energy. I would never believe you could have an off day." The thing is, I am extremely positive and I always figure things out, but I'm only human. Usually, I have to take a step back from my daily routines and distance myself from any negative energy surrounding me. I focus on my mental health, well-being and do the things that make me happy, which for me, is loving myself. Unfortunately, at times this means I have to become selfish.
As mothers, we should be allowed to have time to ourselves whenever possible. We should be allowed to look good if we feel good. If we want to dress up, look amazing and go out, why not? As long as we carry ourselves with dignity, have respect for our bodies and know our worth, why should it matter? It's our right to feel at peace.
I think as mothers we put ourselves under so much pressure to get the job right, that we forget that being successful in anything we choose to do, requires some failure. Who said being a successful mother would be easy? The media? Your parents? The midwives at the hospital when you had your children? Your best friend, who is no longer in your life? I can guarantee, no one in their right mind would say that raising children alone, or even with a partner was an easy job. There is a lot that contributes to parenting. There is the financial aspect. Having to sacrifice some of the things you loved doing before and your time. Don't forget the fact that you are washing triple loads. You feel like you are cleaning every minute of the day. Your kitchen cupboards always seem empty even though you do a big weekly shop, because your children cannot see anything new without wanting to eat it. The constant driving up and down to take them to their football, swimming, dance, or music lessons. The list never ends.
In fact, being a mother has been one of the hardest jobs I have ever had to do. And, to those who said it gets easier as the children get older, they can go and squeeze a lemon. I wouldn't say it gets easier at all. I would say it becomes more interesting and challenging towards adolescence, then it becomes rewarding.
As a mother of two sons I pray that they continue to stay on the right path and use the knowledge they have been taught by myself to prevent themselves becoming statistics. I want better for them in life. I want them to break the cycle of what's expected of them within society. After all, there are less opportunities out there for everyone.
It has been researched that black children are four times more likely to be arrested than any other race. "Since 2005 the percentage of black youth in custody has doubled and currently, over 50% of the youth justice system is made up of BAME young people." - Iqbal Wahhab ( EQUAL Action for race equality)
There is also this illusion that single parents in general raise children who will not be successful in life and whilst this may just be a statistic, there are actually single parents raising happy, healthy children, just as happy and mentally healthy as children living with two parents. "There were 2.9 million lone parent families in 2019, which is 14.9% of families in the UK; London has the highest proportion (19.1%), while the South West of England (10.9%)." - Office for National Statistics I can honestly say these statistics don't mean anything to me because they don't define me as a mother and I will definitely not let any statistic define my children.
The media's portrayal of young black boys in today's world has made it harder for the boys who have been raised with morals, who have had the guidance and are educated to achieve their dreams. Not every black male is a gangster with the need to commit a crime, which is why I have always shown my boys that regardless of the colour of their skin, if they are knocked down, put down or disregarded, they must always stand up strong, sacrifice certain things and work even harder to show that every individual deserves a chance. As parents it's our job to encourage the right choices and only hope that even if mistakes are made, our children will learn from them.
I have taught my sons to respect others, work hard, be ambitious, prove others wrong, be the best they can be, never give up, love others, forgive, even when wrong has been done to them, in order to move forward. I have encouraged them to be leaders, not followers. To support others, not turn their back on them. But, most of all pray, have faith and allow the universe to bless them with beautiful experiences. It hasn't been an easy job. Far from it. I've had to work hard to become successful in life, to show my sons that anything is possible. I've juggled two jobs, tried to run my own business at times, written books to bring that extra income in so we could do amazing things and travel to exotic places. It wasn't down to luck, or being brought into money. I have earned it. I have had situations knock me down financially, but I have had to pick myself up again, act wisely and come out on top. I may not be a millionaire, but my children have been blessed. I have done more with them, than many have done with their children because I have pushed myself harder to be mum and dad, although I could never replace a father figure as I know nothing about being in a mans shoes. I have had to keep pushing even when I have felt unwell, or overwhelmed by life. After all, who else was going to do everything for me? I have pushed harder to be an example, to prove that single mothers can too be successful in life. What better than to uplift other amazing women out there who want to feel motivated and inspired. I have offered my support to other mothers who have needed a little encouragement to help them acknowledge the amazing job they are doing too.
The thing is, society puts so much pressure on how a mother should be. People focus so much on the failures and don't give us enough credit. The stereotype of a single mother can vary from us being promiscuous and immoral because we’re not married. Say what you will about unmarried mothers, but views about marriage are changing. Marriages are are not last as long as they used to. There is also this preconception that children of single mothers fare worse overall. Really? It has been revealed in studies that "a child raised by a single mom has no less of a chance of completing high school, or otherwise becoming an independent adult. The study concluded that the outcome for each child relies much more on attitudes, parenting, and other factors in the home—factors that can be present in anyone’s home and impact any child. While poverty and education are a disadvantage to long-term development, they are not predictors of failure." - Audrey Cade
Whenever I hear that single mothers leech off the system, it makes me quite angry, because I know many mothers who have worked all their lives, or have just been unfortunate to lose their job, especially during the pandemic.
People used to assume that single mothers were uneducated and unemployed and this myth has been circulating for years, but the reality of it all is that, 75% of single mothers are actually employed outside the home, a greater percentage than married mothers. Many may be surprised to learn that 58% of single mothers have at least a bachelor’s degree. Although, it is true that households led by single mothers have a lower income than married or single dad-led homes.
I consider myself to be a modern day woman. I am independent. I like to pay my own way, pay my own bills, change the tyre on my car and I love DIY. I am sure like many women out there, we don't all stay at home and look after our children, not saying there is anything wrong in doing so. But, I'm sure if anyone had the choice to do so, and could afford to, then it's their right and their decision. The thing is society puts so much pressure on single parents, that we find ourselves driven to be successful. Well, I do, because I would rather know in my heart that I have tried. I have had to go that extra mile to ensure my children have had a fantastic upbringing by giving them a roof over their heads, food to eat, experiences to cherish and the opportunity to be creative in their hobbies in order to break that judgmental view that as single mother I am not able to give my children a decent upbringing. I have always said my children are not my friends, I am their parent and they must respect that, understand it, be obedient and follow my rules. The unnecessary pressure I used to put myself under to ensure I didn't fail was ridiculous. I gave myself anxiety always trying to get motherhood right. I didn't want family, friends, external friends, or associates judging me, especially when I was at my lowest points. The times when I tried my hardest to cover up my sadness. The times when I felt exhausted, emotional, fed up or depressed. But as time moved on and I started to focus on the love for myself, not just for my children, I realised that anyone else's opinion of me was just that. They were not walking in my shoes. They didn't know how I felt and I got to that point where I no longer cared. Anyone else's opinion of me was their business, not mine.
Growing up, I would hear how important it was to be married to raise children. You were more accepted if you had children for the same partner. In the eyes of the church is was a sin to have children out of wedlock. Then there was me, a single mum with two sons, two different fathers. I felt I had got it wrong. I wanted to be married. I wanted that 2.4 family which many of my friends had at the time. But in fact, being a single mum made me no different to them, because in fact some of them had partners who were rarely around due to their jobs, travelling, or just simply not pulling their weight around the home. Some of these women are now even single, due to separation or divorce. This made me realise that everything is not as perfect as people make out. Life is the way it is, because that is how it was supposed to be. I cant dwell on what didn't happen. It is what it is and I just need to be thankful that my kids are healthy and happy regardless. I haven't given up on being in a loving relationship, or getting married because I know I still deserve the best and of course, who wouldn't want a beautiful spirited soul like myself? Besides, I still have time. When the universe is ready to bless me with love, marriage, a nice four bedroom home, I will be ready. I know at my lowest times when the boys were younger, I'd wish for a father figure to help me raise my boys. I'd feel jealous of those who got it right and had that ideal family life where the fathers lived in the family home. I would sit sometimes and question what I had done wrong in my life, why I couldn't be blessed like everyone else? What I failed to realise is that we should never be envious of others, because not everything is as it seems behind closed doors and no ones situation should ever make you feel that they are better than you. Being a mother should be a rewarding and fulfilling job and if you are struggling, where you get to that point where you feel like giving up, or your children are stressing you out to the point you cant deal with them anymore, seek help and support. Because no matter what you are going through as a parent, it is not our children's fault. They never asked to be brought into this world. They should never have to sense that feeling of not being wanted, or loved. This is what can trigger behaviour issues to draw for your attention which more than likely be the wrong attention. What I have loved from being the mother of two beautiful boys is building our mother and son relationship. Being open with one another, communicating and learning how to trust. Trust me, it hasn't always been a close relationship with my eldest, but I had to make sacrifices that broke me in order to make our relationship better, even if it meant him living with his father during adolescence.
Unfortunately, parenting has never come with a handbook and even if anyone has written a book about being a perfect parent, you will never be perfect. Its a trial and tribulation aspect. Every child is unique. Some may experience things others don't and not everything will apply to every child.
Some of us don't give ourselves enough credit when we are already doing an amazing job with our children.
Every day we wake up and our children smile at us with love, we have succeeded. All we can do is our best and hope for the best outcome.