Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Can One Find the Right Way to Motherhood in a Book?

I come from a family of bakers (on my dad's side) and farmers (on my mum's side), I got married as soon as I finished high school or A levels (call them what you want) at the age of 19 (therefore never went to University), and become a mother one month after turning 20.

I was young and inexperienced but I didn't feel unprepared to cover this important role. Love is fruitful and generous and to give up everything to become Pierpaolo's wife was the most natural thing in the world.

Motherhood doesn't require any qualifications and I was (and still am), by the world's standards very ignorant, but my heart was full of love to give and I was determined to enjoy every moment of it. 

Throughout these 16 years of motherhood I had to clash many times with a mentality I did not know existed among mothers... I had to fight against that sense of feeling inadequate, always too young for the particular stage of life I was at and being made to feel utterly ignorant and at times unworthy to be a mother.

Little did I know when I started doing the rounds of playgroups how many books about parenting had been written (It's not that I don't like books! Books have put food on our table and bought our house), how many theories and techniques about sleeping, feeding, weaning, pooping, playing... there were! And little did I know how expert all the other mothers were from day one or at least that's how it came across!

There was me thinking that among mothers I would have found a safe place to be, with my worldly ignorance. I had been too busy having children and raising them that I had missed it all. I was not like most of the other mothers, I did not speak or understood their language. Most of the time I did not know what they were talking about. 

The free time that one has when raising children is so limited that investing it in books written by authors who claim to know what will work for my children didn't seem like an efficient way to use it. 

As Chesterton says parenting is too important a task to be left to the experts. What happened to the old fashioned maternal instinct? Did mothers really need the author of a book to tell them how to nurture and educate their baby? 

Yet the pressure around me, as a young woman discovering motherhood, was high. I was expected to know it all already, to have read the latest revolutionary book and to be able express an opinion on the style I was going to go for.

Speaking to other mothers,  I found that I didn't have a clue what they were talking about and I often still don't. For many years my reaction was to hang around other mothers as little as possible. I felt motherhood had been reduced to something very technical, practical and methodical, something I did not feel comfortable with and didn't recognize. 

If you ask me today which one is our style of parenting I would have difficulties in answering this question, even after six children. Every child is unique and their needs very different. 

I might have practised 'Attachment Parenting' (an expression I first came across last month) with the first one, I might not have... who knows! I do hold them a lot when they are very little... yes! I guess it's only natural ... I don't ever remember wearing them though. They would daily end up in our bed either to feed, because they were cold or scared... it is only human to empathize and care for the other.

The use of jargon or technical terms when talking about parenting for an uncultured woman like me can be disconcerting. I feel it diminishes the importance of my vocation as mother and its context in the ordinary life of the family, by turning it from a vocation into a profession peppered with technical terms. 

I still can't answer the question of whether I am using this or that method because I don't know what I am doing from day to day, but I firmly know what I desire. I don't want a label, I don't need a technical word to describe what I am doing. All I know is that we want happy, balanced, loving children who fear God.

Today, I still struggle with this mentality and I feel very sorry for new mothers who have just started this wonderful adventure which is often overwhelming in itself.

To first-time mothers I say, we were all first timers once and we made A LOT of mistakes... but the children make it through... my first son is 16 today and he is a lovely chap... thank God. We still don't know it all and sometimes have to rethink it over and over again because what has worked with one baby or that particular child is not quite working with the other. 

Women, can be uncharitable and unkind to one another. To claim that one way of parenting is the only way is nonsense, to fight over breastfeeding or bottle feeding is unnecessary... and by all means don't ever mention the word 'Immunizations', I am warning you...whether you agree or disagree it is a lost battle.

Maturing my way to motherhood I have come to the conclusion that it is more important to practise parenting than to talk about parenting, that it is always good to ask for an opinion or advice and to listen to each other's experience, but what is more important is to bear in mind that in the end it is you (and your husband) who will need to work it out on your own. 

We all make mistakes along the way with every child. We are not perfect, only God is perfect! And as Catholic mothers we should be the first to behave charitably to one another and be less concerned on what style or method we are following or should be using.

Sitting in Church, during Mass last Sunday my eyes focus on the cross where Christ was peaceful lying. I thought of all the beautiful mummies around the globe constantly worrying whether they are getting it right or not.
I thought of myself too and of all the times I felt like a big failure. Suddenly peace entered my heart and my mind... I had figured out that I could finally tell people what was the style of parenting I wanted to master... It was the style of LOVE and SELF-GIVING, the style that can only be taught by the Author of Life and can be found in only one book... where each chapter speaks of us, our history and our future. 

Mothers enjoy your vocation, improvise along the way, listen to the needs of your family and your baby will fit in because that is where he or she belongs. 
Put Christ at the centre of your life and then we will find the right way to motherhood. 





  1. So true! Raising children doesn't need to be so complicated and not every catastrophe is Mom's fault, either. As an older Mom I was constantly surprised at how many people treated me like I didn't have a clue when June was a baby.