I’m not the type of woman one would find in a tribe. Years of learning the hard way that girls are my competition, even the girls I love – has built an emotional dam around my fragile heart. I don’t allow people into my personal space – which may sound like an absolute lie to anyone who has followed my very revealing blog for any amount of time. But most of my interaction with women in my real life was always just surface-level politeness, and a lot of hoping that conversations would end so that I could sit in solitude and endure the awkward aftermath in my head, in which I obsessively question whether I said something stupid or too comfortable.
Well, this was true until I became a mother. At least in my experience.
I became a mom very young, so while my supposed tribe was growing up, having a blast outside of the four walls that trapped myself and my infant – I was slowly descending into madness in the paradox of motherhood; alone and never alone again.
I say that motherhood is lonely because for the most part children only want their mom. I have been both a single mom and a married mom, and in comparison, the mental and emotional load is the same.
My children aren’t interested in their father’s limited culinary skills (eggs and hot chips) or his bowel movements. At the same time, mine have become group activities which include sitting on my lap, or for my older kid, passing me notes on encouragement through the bathroom door. While my IBS does leave me dependent on many forms of digestive aid, standalone positivity has never remedied any of my distress both gastric and otherwise.
I digress, the mental load is the most gruelling. Actually executing all of my daily tasks is fine. What stresses me out is the planning process. I have this idea that every single activity, lunch, moment needs to run into the next smoothly, on a mostly imaginary, very tight schedule. And I stress myself out by trying to plan life – as if I have that kind of power.
But for me, this is the only way I feel as if I am parenting and in the greater scheme of things living successfully.
It could stem from my diagnosed OCD, or from my need to apologise for having a baby so young that I never want to look as if I am making another mistake. But I am also sure it stems from the constant pressure on moms to do everything and do it with a grateful, blessed smile.
The reason I resonated with the Embrace way is that there is no pretense – just real moms, speaking to real moms about real mom things.
In the last week, the focus on ‘the moms are not okay’ theme for the #MomsOnLockdown campaign was a breath of fresh air. I have no generic platitudes to offer about women supporting women and the make-believe sisterhood we sometimes have to endure to not seem bitter and cynical about being mothers. What I can say is that I needed the support from the other moms who are also stuck in a pandemic, locked in the house with no end in sight – left as teachers, cooks, doctors, and even for some kids, psychologists – just trying to give comfort in an uncomfortable situation.
On Sunday, when Julie, Rumbi and I engaged in a LIVE discussion to launch Women’s Month, I was overwhelmed and grateful by the response from moms who were willing to share their journeys; even if the journey was negative, or painful. It isn’t every day that people show their more vulnerable sides. But, knowing that mothers had come together, even just to reassure each other that we were all feeling the same way, and perhaps not descending into madness, but coping with a new world was beautiful and empowering.
Through the rest of the week, moms wrote in and shared their stories with Embrace, which we have loaded to our various social media platforms for other moms to read, comment on and engage with. I urge you to show the women who participated in any sort of encouragement. A few kind words can really change someone’s mood, or their day – or even their perspective on how to cope with what they are enduring.
Psychologist Slindile Mbatha said it best in the LIVE Instagram session hosted by Rumbi on Wednesday; “Moms are experts on themselves. You know when you are not okay”. This is powerful because we have all reached a consensus, without even needing to check with each other that we are not okay right now. We need each other more than ever – be it a simple message of encouragement, a quick call, or an EFT to lighten the financial burden of COVID for a mo whose family may have gone hungry that day. There is no formula, and the mental strain of the unknown is a real one.
As moms, we are responsible for our kids, but also our own well-being. We cannot pour from an empty cup. Embrace is using this month to say; rest, relate, restore. Fill that cup up, even if it’s by doing nothing. Even if we are doing nothing, just for a little while, together.
As a tribe.