Mother Inferior

As cliche as it sounds, I would definitely say that motherhood is my biggest achievement in life to date. I grew an actual human! I carried him for nine months (and gave up wine during that time.) I went through a grueling 16 hours of labour and major surgery to bring him into the world. And I've been dealing with sleepless nights, poo explosions, hissy fits and soft play Saturdays ever since. I am a frickin' machine!

So why then, is the one thing I feel most proud of also the one thing that leads to so many of my insecurities?

In a way I guess it was inevitable. I am, and always have been, a fairly self deprecating person. The sort who can't accept a compliment without a 'thanks, but...' before launching into boring and unnecessary explanations about how any given achievement wasn't that great or could have been done better by someone else. That coupled with the social expectations and pressure from the media that all mums face was bound to leave me feeling a bit wobbly. And yet, it seems to be more than that sometimes.

At the very top of my list of parental failings is the fact that before he even had his first birthday my son was the product of a broken home. I don't like that phrase but that's what it was. I know that separated parents and 'blended families' are becoming increasingly common these days. I also know that it was 100% the right decision for everyone involved and we're all much happier now. But it doesn't take away my nagging worries for the future or the feelings of failure that come with being unable to provide him with a 'normal' family unit.

Then there are the lifestyle choices and the day-to-day failings. I didn't breastfeed. I chose to go back to work. I consistently forget to write important nursery dates on the calendar. I probably let him use the iPad too much. There are Chipsticks trampled into the back of the car that I still haven't hoovered up. I'm shit at crafts. I find lego boring. And on the days where he is running rings around me or I genuinely don't know how to deal with a particularly savage tantrum I find myself thinking dark thoughts like 'I'm not cut out for this' or 'he deserves better'.

Why is that as parents we constantly hate on ourselves like this? Why do we always feel inferior? Like we're not good enough? From the moment they are born the guilt is there. Am I doing this right? Am I meeting his needs? Am I a good enough mother? Even worse, am I a bad mother?

I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said 'nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent'. But most of the time it isn't others who make us feel inferior. It's ourselves. There is a constant internal battle of what we think we should be and what we actually are. For the reasons listed above I've always beat myself up as a mother and yet now Jack has started pre-school and seems to be doing quite well I'm actually surprised to find myself thinking 'well shit, maybe I'm doing OK after all.'

I think that the pressure of raising another human is so all-encompassing that I will always question myself and worry if I'm doing it right. That in itself tells me I'm not a bad parent. If I were, I simply wouldn't give a toss. So maybe it's time to drop the inferiority complex and just be the best mum I can. Even if I do have a messy car and hate lego.


By now you will have seen the image. Maybe you had to do a double take in the newsagents last week as you saw it splashed across the front page of a national newspaper. Maybe it caught you off guard, appearing in between selfies and back to school photographs on your Facebook timeline. The lifeless body of a little boy, three year old Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach after his family tried to flee from Syria. His mother and older brother Galip, who was five, also drowned leaving behind a husband and father who, by his own admission, 'wants to lie in a grave next to them.'

Maybe, like me, once the initial, gut wrenching shock had sunk in you began to wonder why this image was being shown so widely. Why did you have to see it? You didn't want to see it. It's just too much to bear. And truthfully I'm still not sure which side of the fence I sit on here. But whatever you think of the ethics surrounding the publication of such a harrowing picture, you can't deny that it has brought home the reality of the appalling refugee crisis to a lot of people.

For weeks I've been hearing news bulletins about people making perilous journeys in search of safety. I'd even heard stories about boats capsising and people drowning or suffocating in lorries. And of course I thought it was awful but it wasn't until I saw the picture of Aylan - just three years old, the same age as my boy - that the realisation of what is happening in our world really struck me. People are putting themselves in mortal danger to try and flee from horrors that I can't begin to imagine. Innocent children are dying. And we have to find a way to help them.

Sadly there seems to be a minority of people who think we shouldn't help. That allowing people refuge into our country will somehow take something away from them. Unable to understand that the victims of war-torn Syria aren't coming here to 'take our benefits and steal our jobs' but to live without fear of persecution and violence; to give their families the chance of a peaceful life. Isn't that something we all deserve?

'Donate to your own' is another phrase that I'm seeing a lot. And whilst there is no denying that the UK has it's fair share of social and economic issues, I am yet to hear of any Britons loading their children onto overcrowded dinghies in the middle of the night because they are so desperate to escape their country. By all means donate to whichever charity you see fit - none is more worthy than another - but don't lament those who want to help this particular cause just because it's not in 'your country'. Because this is not a them and us situation. We are all human. Some of us are just luckier than others.

I was pleased when I saw the #savesyriaschildren campaign because I wasn't sure how or where to help. I have bags of kids clothing and shoes but don't know where to take them. It's a case of wanting to do something but not really knowing what. Which I guess is true on a higher, political level too because I don't think anyone really knows what the answer to this crisis is. But I do think with a little human compassion and generosity we can all make a difference in our own way. So I have text the word SYRIA to 70008 to donate five pounds. And I have signed this petition to ask that the UK provide more support for refugees fleeing Syria.

It's the least we can do. We are lucky to have been born in a safe country. But it so very easily could have been us. It could have been you. Worse still, it could have been him.