In the world of parenting, there were opinions on virtually everything and anything. The perceived ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ decisions, the ‘right’ versus the ‘wrong’ way of doing things with nothing in between, and no consideration for the uniqueness of each family. I felt the pressure to be happy with ‘mother’ as my only identifier which was far from what I wanted to define who I was. As a highly ambitious and driven person with many interests and passions, the thought that my life purpose after worshipping my Lord was to be a mother was depressing. Although I loved being a mother, the truth was, it was not pure bliss every second of the day.
I quickly learnt that working outside of the home was a controversial and sensitive topic among many mothers I met. Depending on who I spoke to and what I read, there were different opinions and judgements made on mothers that chose to work outside the home. Some saw it as a crime and others as sanity. I frequently experience different reactions when people discover that I am a working mother and proud. The most memorable comments are; “poor you, you don’t see your children much”, “I can’t imagine not raising my children” and “how can you leave strangers to care for your children”. Such comments are usually followed by a horrified gasp as if I was shamefully neglectful of my children. These were the words of other mothers who had different views to me. The most offensive encounter which I will never forget was when a fellow mother asked me a series of questions on the times i started and finished work and proceeded to calculate in 10 seconds how many hours I spent with my children in a day. To say I was furious and plagued with guilt was an understatement! In the early years, such negative experiences would cripple me and leave me feeling like the most evil mother on the planet for ‘abandoning’ my children. The guilt that would follow would be overwhelming and make me question why I could not just be content as a mother. Was I being selfish for seeking self fulfilment outside of my role as a mother? I lacked what I can only describe as ‘mummy confidence’, the courage to be the type of mother I chose to be. The constant worry and fear of making bad choices that would negatively affect my children was a reality that haunted me daily.
From a cultural perspective on the other hand, motherhood was not a defining identity for women from my cultural background. West African women are not typically restricted to raising children and are encouraged to seek fulfilment aside from being mothers. It was a common expectation to be career driven or run a successful businesse while raising a family. The periods I chose to stay at home and did not work, I faced disapproving comments and questions about why an educated woman would choose to simply “waste away” at home doing nothing from family members and other West African women.
For years I battled with the many ideals and expectations of me as a mother which did nothing for my mummy confidence. After much soul searching, I gained the clarity i needed to focus on doing what I felt was right for my unique family.Evolving into the mother I wanted to be- a self fulfilled mother was liberating and restored my sense of self.