I recently met a friend who didn’t yet have kids, but was thinking about starting a family. We had lots to talk about as we hadn’t met for a long time, and one of the questions she asked me was, “What is it like to be a mum? What does it take?”
All I could manage to tell her then was that it was challenging, yet rewarding at the same time, and that it took a lot of patience and love. Such a simplistic description when you think about what it really takes to be a mum.
So, when I meet her again, these are some of the things that I would like to tell her.
To be a mum gives human emotion — especially love, which is intensified beyond measure — a whole new meaning.
It means that you will never put your own needs first, ever again. Mums will delay meeting their own basic human needs such as hunger, thirst and sleep in order to care for their children first.
It takes absolute determination. The determination to only do good by your child, to protect her at all times, to teach her, guide her, see her blossom into a responsible adult.
To be a mum means you constantly worry about every decision you make for your child, right down to what’s on her plate.
Is this meal more nutritious than that meal?
Why did I let her eat junk food today?
I should have made sure that apple she just ate was organic…
Let’s not even go into how much you worry about her wellbeing, her health, her education and other aspects of her life.
It takes patience to be a mother.
Unbelievable amounts of patience really, as you rock your colicky newborn through the night. As you tackle your toddler’s terrible tantrums even though in your mind, you’re shrieking “I CAN’T DO THIS!” yourself. As you answer your four-year-old’s million daily questions. As you explain to your tween why she can’t wear that skirt just because her friend does. And, as you stay up into the wee hours of the morning until your teenager comes home.
It means you feel guilty – for not doing enough for your child, for doing too much for your child, for wanting to do even more for your child.
To be a mum means you develop true empathy for other mums.
You cry when you hear of a sick child and you agonise along with the mum, and you try your best not to think about what it would be like if it were your child. You shudder with pain even to think about it.
To be a mum means you now understand your own mother. You now know exactly what she was feeling when she cooked warm and delicious lunches for you to take to school every day, waking up at 5am to do so.
You feel her frustration as you try to wake up your 10-year-old so she doesn’t get late for school, as you pick up the trail of clothes your nine-year-old insists on leaving on the floor.
It means having the ability to say “I love you” and meaning it with all your heart, even when your teenager throws a furious “I hate you” at you and these words hurt you to your core.
It means hating yourself for having lost your patience with your toddler, who just refused all three different meals you lovingly cooked for her. Crying as you watch her sleeping sweetly that night and feeling like a terrible mother.
It’s to finally understand what true love is as you see your own eyes looking back at you, as you stroke the sweet curves of your baby’s face as she sleeps, as your heart bursts with pride at your child’s achievements. It’s to know without doubt that you would lay down your life for your child, without hesitation.
That’s what being a mum is and so much more. I still don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface of what it really takes, what it really means to be a mum. Because there are parts of it that can’t be described by mere words.
But you out there, reading this, you know what my unspoken words are for they are etched in your heart in a timeless language.
They are the sweet hugs your little darling gives you, the petal kisses, the perfect fingernails of your newborn, the “I wuv you, mummy” lisped with complete adoration.
You know what it takes to be a mum, don’t you?
What does it take to be a mum in your own experience? Tell us in a comment below.