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OPINION: On the rollercoaster of being a mother

Tuesday 10 May 2022 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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OPINION: On the rollercoaster of being a mother
Ruta Tangiiau Mave. Photo: CI NEWS

Last Sunday, people celebrated Mothers’ Day,, honouring the person who birthed them. However, we say that it takes a village to raise a child, so we should also acknowledge all those who had a hand in “mothering” the child.

There are the family members who took them for holidays and housed them during emergencies; aunties and uncles who play the “good cop” to the mother’s “bad cop” rules and regulations.  Grandparents who gave up their retirement years to parent their mokos living with them. Grandies who act a bit like drug dealers every time the child visits: they beckon to the child in hushed voices, looking from side to side making sure the mother can’t see and then surreptitiously they pass a roll of bank notes into the child’s palm or in their shirt pocket.

However, not everyone wants to celebrate this day, because they didn’t have a sweet angelic mother who they want to shower with chocolate and flowers.

Not all mothers are still living, so Mother’s Day becomes a sad day of remembering - especially if when she was alive, the children reluctantly dragged themselves together to argue whose turn it was to make the cup of tea or get the washing in to appease her. Now she’s gone, they regret the lost opportunities they had to say, “Thanks Mum”.

Similarly, not all motherhood is crayon drawings on the fridge and special snuggles on the couch watching cartoons.

Sometimes being a mother can be ugly. 

It’s wiping up the explosion of diarrhea that has streaked up the child’s back and over the neckline onto the car seat and leaked down the legs and onto the car floor on a hot day on a long drive from home with no tissues cloths to clean it or change of clothes. 

It’s the racing towards the screams coming from the yard where axes or knives lie in the garden and blood is pouring from a limb, or bikes lie crumpled wheels spinning and the child is tangled in barbwire, impaled on wooden spikes how the hell did that happen? There’s no time to think only act.

It’s the nursing of the broken heart, that all-encompassing first love that seems so tragic to them but “that’s life” to you, only to discover it is causing her to self-harm by cutting and now you’re forever afraid of leaving her alone.

That phone call in the middle of the day, the one you are prepared for late at night when they go out on their motorbike - not when you’re at work and they’re supposed to be at school, and it’s the police saying there’s been an accident with a truck and your son…

Motherhood is also full of difficult decision-making, creating boundaries and enforcing rules and regulations to mould a self-reliant, self-confident, independent young being to survive in the world. One of those hard conversations stems from the reality that sexual abuse starts more likely at home than from strangers.  

I remember making myself have a conversation with my then five-year-old daughter after a defence lawyer told me 95 per cent of his rape and other sexual misconduct convicted clients knew their victims.  He said, “warn your daughter and son about personal significant males in their lives the one’s they trust before you talk about stranger danger.”

This is easier to hear than believe, and easier said than done. There are no books on this subject, there are no chapters in the Plunket book with how to, or what to do if? or when? scenarios.  Where do you start? And is it wrong to even think it could happen in your family?

I started when my daughter was a “big schoolgirl” and could go to the toilet by herself. When she sleeps over at her friends, she can tell them she can bath and shower by herself.  I also told her that if a teacher or friend’s dad says they must see her privates, it’s not okay. Okay?

What about a doctor or policeman? Only if Mum is there. Once you get through the young years, the problem is ongoing and it must be addressed differently as they get older and become teenagers. Mums must learn to recognise the grooming behaviour of the males involved with their children, then take the time to listen to and believe children by acting on their gut feeling when it feels wrong.

With or without abuse calls, most Mums will always feel guilty, wondering if they could have done better.

Being a Mum is a rollercoaster of highs and lows and a lot of repetition. Mother’s Day should celebrate surviving each year.