“You are a good mom, you are doing a great job”. These are the words I yearned to hear as a struggling single mother of a small baby.
Instead I lived in isolation. I created my own little piece of heaven in my parents’ home. I doubt that anyone will ever understand how I struggled as a parent, as a daughter and as a sister during my son’s first year.
At 5 months pregnant, two events cracked my foundation on which I planned my parenting journey. My unexpected retrenchment and the “text” message from my boyfriend that changed my relationship status, and my perfect family plan. The one ruined me financially and the other broke my heart; I felt like I failed my child before he was even born!
A few months later I birthed my son into a family who loved him immensely, BUT, a family who, at the time, were dealing with a minefield of challenges.
My brother’s drug addiction took its toll on all of us. We never knew what to expect . . . My parents were verbally abused, and at times my brother lashed out with violence. During these outbursts we would seek “sanctuary” behind my locked bedroom door, my small piece of heaven.
I don’t know how my parents survived; they didn’t have the luxury of a “sanctuary” within their home like I did. They were always in the face of it all.
Shielding my son from the chaos outside our “sanctuary” became my sole focus (apart from searching for employment). He was well cared for, he had everything he needed and he was happy! I provided for his basic needs, somehow, even though I had no job and lived in a constant state of anxiety.
All the while, the only thing I desperately needed was for someone to say, “You are a good mom, you are doing a great job”. I needed these words to come from someone who understood the state of our reality. I needed these words from my parents, and these words never came.
It never came, because they were fighting their own battle, a battle to save themselves and to save their son. A battle that only became comprehensible to me when I held my son in my arms. I could only understand the magnitude of their own turmoil, and fight for survival, when I became a parent.
My parents never said those words. Yet, through the years I’ve gained the clarity that comes with distance, change and growth. I realised that their silence said much more than their words ever could have.
Their entire world centred around saving my brother from himself and saving themselves from their own parenting nightmare, while ensuring that my “sanctuary” remained just that, a place of safety for my son.
As a first time parent, my insecurity led to a need for validation from others. My first year as a mother changed the way I view parenting.
I’ve learned that MY validation, as a parent, comes from within. It develops as I learn to trust in my own ability, to trust in the knowledge that comes with getting to know my child through being present and observant.
My parents’ experience also taught me that as parents we develop and grow with our children. Having observed them all my life, I’ve learned through them, that parenting is a journey for which no one can ever truly prepare for.
Parenting is a journey of self-discovery, a unique journey, tailor made for each individual child, because each child requires a different kind of parenting . . .
Today my son is 8 years old and I continue to face many challenges as a parent, and I validate myself in the knowledge that I am the best parent that I can be. And I accept that with parenting comes a vulnerability that I never want to be free from. Right here. Right now.
“Seek validation from within and your world will blossom with self-discovery” – Chevone Petersen