Mother’s Guilt

I like to say that I don’t experience mother’s guilt* Recently, this has become dishonest of me.

I have no doubt in my ability to provide in all the practical areas; cooking healthy meals, and baking fun ones, providing seasonal footwear, extracurricular lessons and classes, teaching and loving; and, indeed, I experience no guilt whatsoever when it comes to my youngest daughter who, from the very beginning, has had an exceptionally easy going and compassionate personality. 

No, I lay awake every night, worrying over and documenting the dozen of ways in which I am surely failing my oldest daughter. IMG_8528

I became pregnant with her at age 17. It’s an old story. I spent the first month crying, but certain I would have her. I promptly quit smoking (I found out at 2 weeks pregnant so this habit hadn’t much of a chance to have a negative impact on her), quit coffee and all the hazardous foods like brie and egg yolk, refused to take any painkillers, and even avoided certain food colouring and additives. I have always been a well read individual who enjoys researching and immersing oneself in new experiences, and this is what I did with my pregnancy. 

I will always recall the day I heard her heartbeat for the first time. I fell so instantly, and deeply, in love that my heart would be forever transformed. My tears over the pregnancy stopped after that. My pregnancy was a source of great joy for me, and I was very excitedly and impatiently awaiting her arrival (and boy, did she keep me waiting!)

Overall, I always felt I managed pregnancy well. The act of giving birth was done with as much ease as you could reasonably expect; my labour was 6 hours, complications were nonexistent (besides the minor nuisance of her being posterior), and I didn’t need pain relief until the last 40 minutes. We were very lucky. 

The newborn stage was typical, but I never felt unnaturally out of my depth. The same could be said for the toddler years, and the kinder years, and even the first year of school. 

It is only now, as she rapidly nears 8, that I am beginning to panic. She is such a clever, witty, snarky, mixed up little person. She is extremely sensitive and somewhat short on empathy (except where her little sister is concerned.) She has a number of sensory sensitivities (namely a dislike of loud, sudden noises; including crying, and warm temperatures; especially water.) 

She is beginning to develop insecurities; a body consciousness of the sort I remember beginning to feel around that same age. She is an attractive child but, naturally, convinced she isn’t very pretty. I try to steer the emphasis away from her looks but, at the same time, I do tell her she looks lovely whenever she asks me. I want her to believe it, to feel it, but also to appreciate it doesn’t matter. But, of course, is that entirely true to the world? The emphasis on appearances is huge. Society certainly asserts that it does, in fact, matter. How do I begin to unravel these conundrums? How do I instill a deep sense of self worth that will save her from suffering through the same insecurities and doubts so many of us have? 

She is mixed race; Chilean and English/Australian, and shows a deep respect and awe, and longing, for blue eyes and blonde hair. I try to stress that these features are not superior to her own, but she is disinclined to listen to me. Even more disturbing is the cultures surrounding her put such a strange emphasis on these features too- on both sides. I am close to certain they don’t do this intentionally. It’s in the hundreds of little comments they make, and the huge fuss made over blonde hair or blue eyes. I wonder where this obsession stems from; a leftover bias in the world from Nazi Germany, one might expect, but that seems quite an extreme connection to make. 

My oldest daughter has ADHD. This diagnosis is still very new to us. I want to help her navigate this, and I long for her to reconnect with her true self; before her angry and extreme behaviours became the norm for our days. 

We used to have a close and wonderful relationship. Lately it feels as if we are locked in an endless battle. Every day begins, and ends, with her screaming, and shouting string of expletives complete with rude hand gestures. Nothing I say or do makes much of an impact. No reward system works, and no disciplinary action proves effective. The only thing that works is to calm her down; insisting on quiet time with a book, a tight hug, or stroking her arm or back. It is my biggest fault as a mother that, exhausted from hours of her raging obstinance, I don’t always have the patience and I yell back. 

I yell back too often. 

As an example of what I am talking about; one morning, quite recently, she told me that I don’t deserve to live. Out of nowhere, for no particular reason (I had asked her to put her shoes on for school- but she was in full hyperactive mode due to an upcoming visit from her Grandma.) All of her friends mum’s are much cooler than me, she followed with. The last is quite a normal insult, the latter less so (but that she knows exactly how to hit home with her remarks underscores her intelligence. She understands.) Often I think that I must be failing her in some way if she is this angry and hurt. But where, and how? And how do I fix it? 

I do not believe, as quite a number seem to about their own children with ADHD, that she is an Indigo child. I reject that nonsense. I don’t think that belief in it would prove particularly helpful, besides offering up a way for the both of us to further excuse difficult behaviour.  I am determined to avoid being that parent in the park, or the checkout line, saying “I’m so sorry- she has ADHD.” I do not judge those parents at all, I understand completely how they feel and why they need to explain (the public tantrums and resulting stares are hard.) I want to try and teach my daughter how to navigate and manage her compulsions, rather than excuse them. In short, I am wary of teaching her to box herself in with the label. I want to respect the ways she is different, but I don’t want the diagnosis to be a cover she hides behind. It is a balancing act that is hard to get right. Sometimes I feel too harsh; at others, too lenient. 

I want to get this right. I want her to feel good, be good, and do good. I wish I could be certain in my actions, and my decisions, but certainty is impossible. We take two small steps forward before doing a little leap backwards- and so it goes on. 

I haven’t written this for praise, or reassurance. I’ve not written it as an invitation for your judgement. I simply want to join in the conversation. I am hoping parents in a similar situation, struggling to connect all the dots and sometimes uncertain, might read this and see that worry over the complexity of their task, and their doubts in regards to it, are okay. Understanding the depth of the little person in your life, and getting it right, isn’t always going to be easy. 

I like to say that I don’t experience mother’s guilt but, the truth is, I remain amidst the ranks of mothers who lay awake at night; staring into the past and the future, and worrying over the many ways they’re too human to be a perfect parent. 




*It’s always on the mother, eh? 🙄 But that’s a post for another time. 

Magazine 11 Reflections

Take a kick-ass subject and add to it a brilliant lecturer and what do you have?

(Translation: Please give me a HD.)

I’ve learnt so freaking much in this class (am I allowed to say ‘freaking’ if this is for an assignment?) When I nodded along when we were all asked if we knew what a media kit was, I was lying. I had no idea. I was surprised everyone else knew. Were they lying too? Or do I really need to get with it? Either way, I know now.

I also designed a magazine insert for this class which is something I would never have even thought of before. It’s so simple but, still, it wouldn’t have occurred to me.

I am really happy with how my InDesign skills improved this semester compared to last. I haven’t actually had any of the classes were we’re taught InDesign so I’ve been learning by watching tutorials and playing around with it. I think I still have a long way to go.

At so many points I wanted to smash my face through the keyboard because, dammit, designing a magazine is so…fiddly. Every time I’d sit back and think ‘there now, it’s perfe- oh, f*ck!‘ Literally every time I think I’m done with it, I discover some tiny new error that irritates me.

The cover to begin with was atrocious until I purchased some stock images for it. The TOC (table of contents) was atrocious until I’d scanned some tutorials. As you’d expect, it’s still  little (a lot) on the basic side. Really, as far as the design goes, I have little to say. You can clearly see a colour scheme and I used the same two fonts throughout (why? They just have the right look). I just experimented in InDesign and messed around with colours and layouts until I had something nearing how I could picture it. There is still so much potential with designs that hasn’t even occurred to me though. The magazine presentation day illustrated for me the variety of layouts it’s possible to have. It’s something I’d want to experiment with a lot more.

That said; Lo and Behold! Here is an example of some of the magazine:

Magazine116 Magazine11 Magazine1113 Magazine1112 Magazine1111 Magazine118

I had the idea for the magazine in semester one when I was put on the spot and asked what I might possibly want to do a magazine on. I came up with a parenting magazine out of nowhere. I prefer writing about women/feminist topics. The thing about this magazine though is that it’s about parenting and being a young mother in general- it’s not for children. I did some research on parenting/lifestyle magazines and realised there is definite gap in the market where younger parents (and even single parents) are concerned. There seems to be plenty of parenting magazines for older, married mothers that are still trying to sell the image of the perfect, nuclear family.  I knew I had found a good angle for my magazine.

My other motivation is being a passionate believer that having a child young doesn’t mean the end of your life or that you’re a hopeless, brainless idiot. Lets face it, there is no end to that attitude. When I found out I was pregnant I had to deal with the most ridiculous comments. For example, being snidely asked after mentioning my desire to go to university, “You’re going to study and have a baby. Do you, like, even know how to do that?” Guess what, I know now. At my year 12 graduation I was also told the parents in the audience were disgusted that I was allowed on stage. I always wondered why there was this attitude that I shouldn’t be allowed to continue on with my life. There was definitely this expectation within the town I lived that I should drop out of school and do nothing with the rest of my life. Luckily, my family and I did not share that expectation.

Young Parenting was created with the purpose of delivering an honest yet positive take on being a young mother. It’s purpose is to inform, encourage and unite young mothers throughout Australia between the ages of 16 and 23. It would stress the importance of continuing with your education and taking your aspirations seriously. It would not be condescending, demeaning or be written with the assumption it’s audience knew nothing.

If it were an actual glossy generating a profit, in line with the above values, the magazine would offer two successful applicants a 10 week paid internship each year. The magazine would also keep readers up to date with various study and skills building opportunities and scholarships.

Studying With Children

playing at the park.

playing at the park.

One of my assignments for this semester at uni, for my Writing Life, Self & Other class, is to write a blog post.

Well, that’s okay… I can do that. I’ve been doing that.

“Choose an area of expertise,” the lecturer instructs us when we ask for more details about the assignment, “and write a post on it.”

Damn. An area of expertise… What am I an expert on?

Nothing? I ask myself kindly. Ok, well let’s narrow it down then. What things do you do? What are you good at?
(Yes, I do really have internal conversations with myself. Well, arguments usually…)

Feeding and bathing and bedtime story telling in under an hour on busy nights. I’m always ridiculously proud of this. Although, I usually end up soaked to the bone from energetic splashing during the bathing part.

I have a four year old daughter and am in my fourth and final year of studying.

I have totally reached the level of Expert Student-Parent.

Two Weeks Ago:

I am sitting at my desk in my office (papers strewn everywhere, books spilling from the shelves, books stacked in shaky towers on the floor, leaky pens scattered around.) and Olivia is playing behind me, singing passionately about fairies turning blue, and setting up a tea party for her toys. I get to work designing the cover for ‘Behind Closed Doors’. After a while I make the mistake of turning around.


Toys are everywhere, bits of lego looking gleefully up at me, just waiting for a chance to puncture an unsuspecting foot. Focus, I remind myself. I finish the cover and begin an editing project. A few pages in, the computer screen goes blank.

What? I stare at the screen for a moment. Olivia has migrated to sitting beneath the desk, having just switched the computer off at the power point, she looks up and smiles at me.

 Back In The Present:

Maybe I’d better hold off on awarding myself the title of Expert Student-Parent.

Now, what’s my area of expertise…?