Motherhood. Nailing it.

By Cathy Ferguson

Recently I had an awful dream. It was so real and so cruel, and worst of all I was cruel.

It was about me becoming a mother.

In my dream I became a mother, but things went terribly wrong and I wasn’t coping.


I think the reason I dreamt this scary dream is because I have a few months until my next birthday. I’ll be 31. I know that theoretically means I have years of fertility in front of me, but, like so many women, I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This is a really common condition. It is underdiagnosed. It can, but may not, impact one’s fertility.


So. I’m contemplating my life’s direction. I have six months left of my current job. I’m working in an institution concerned with sustainable development. For many months now, this has led me to question the ethics of having children when our planet is in such a mess and it seems that we can’t support the people already living here.


I think it’s important to point out that I haven’t decided whether it’s an ethical choice for me to have kids or not. I also don’t place any judgement on people who decide to have kids and those who don’t. It’s an incredibly personal choice. And a choice which is not even made by some mothers, but on some women, it is a forced responsibility with no other option available.


But back to my dream. I did what any self-respecting grown up would do in this situation providing it was a possibility. I called my mum.


I’m fortunate that through everything, my mum and I have a relationship that is solid and healthy. Honestly, I think we’re in the best place we’ve ever been.


I need to set the scene for you. I am an only child of a single parent. My mum didn’t exactly choose to be a single parent, but when I was 18 months old she’s decided she’d had enough of my dad and his crap. I want to say here that my dad was a beautiful man. Much older than my mother, theirs was a true romance. With love letters and everything. But, it wasn’t an easy relationship and at a few different points my mum chucked him out, or, chose to walk away.


As for our talk about my dream. At first, mum was laughing at the ridiculous nature of it. It was so incredible in some ways, but the scary part was that it ended with me being a bad parent. I didn’t cope in the dream.


This really worried me as I’d been contemplating what to do about the whole “have kids” thing. Did I want kids? Would I prefer to study or work? Did I want to have kids with a partner, or would it be good to do it alone? Did I have enough support if things got tough? Would I want to adopt? Would I want to foster a kid? Could I handle a kid who had experienced trauma? Did I only want one kid? Was it right to have a baby on my own when there are so many kids living in poverty all over the world? Could I cope with a baby? Would I get postnatal depression? Could I afford to have a kid? Would having a kid be difficult if I then met a guy?


You can see that there were a million questions swimming around in my head. I have researched these options over the last few months and started mulling.


I’m in the fortunate position of being able to make any choice. Right now, in my career, study, location, finances etc. I can really do anything I want. But when you’re looking to include, or create another person, it’s not enough to solely consider what you want. Is it?


I don’t know. Which is how I found myself on the phone to my mum and telling her about my dream. We got deep and meaningful pretty quickly. She told me, as she has many times before, that parenting is the hardest and yet most rewarding job one can ever do. She told me that being a parent had meant the highest highs and the lowest lows. That one minute you’d think you were doing so well, and then other times you would feel like a complete failure.


So, it was a big call. And being a single parent is a tough gig.


I had heard all these things before. I’d thought about them all. But then I asked my mum what she thought were her biggest mistakes. She told me a few things, and honestly, I think she was right. But one thing she couldn’t say was when she was doing it well. When I asked her “Mum, what were the wins for you? When did you feel like you were really nailing the whole motherhood thing?” She replied, “I’m not sure… things could change so quickly, so it’s hard to say… hard to pinpoint what the best things I did as a parent were.”


This whole conversation had made us both feel a bit reflective. And in some ways a bit sad. I told her about my worries and she shared with me her worries about how she’d made mistakes.


But I wanted to tell her about some times when she really did nail it. Many times, where we I felt like it was us against the world, or that I could rely on her always. So, I thought I needed to write down a few of the standout examples of my mum nailing it when I was a kid. So here they are.


Nailing it at motherhood:

·      When we would sit together on or in your bed having deep and meaningful conversations in our dressing gowns on weekend mornings.

·      When you would bring a bottle of champagne home and demand that I open it and have a glass with you.

·      When we would go on road trips and play Reba, or Stevie Wonder or Peter Allen really loud.

·      When we were broke and as a special treat we would get an ice cream or a milkshake after school.

·      When once or twice a term (or year?) I was allowed a lunch order from school, and you would draw a beautiful picture on the brown paper bag with the money in it. Usually the picture was a bouquet of flowers.

·      When we would go out to dinner or lunch like two grown-ups.

·      Either of the two holidays we went on which you made magical and awesome.

·      When you let me go through your jewelry box and wear your rings.

·      When you would indulge my love of drawing materials and never said that enough was enough.

·      When you would take me to a show in town and we would dress up, often in a dress that you had made for me, because we were usually strapped for cash.

·      When we would go shopping together in the city once a year for Christmas and buy a fancy ornament each.

·      When we went to craft shows and I would invariably be bewitched by one stall and have to stay there to watch their demonstrations all day. And you would wait patiently.

·      When I wanted fish. And you always helped me clean the tank.

·      When I went swimming every week and afterwards you would pick me up, and you would ask, “what do you feel like for dinner?” and then just laugh because it was always spaghetti bolognaise.

·      When I was angry with dad, but you’d make me see him anyway.

·      When you were angry with dad, but you’d make me see him anyway.

·      When you would have dad over for dinner, when I was too little to understand separation, and I just thought that all people’s parents lived in different houses and had dinner together a couple of times a week.

·      When Dad got cancer and you wanted to look after him.

·      When you got cancer and you tried to shield me from it.


I’ll stop there, because I sort of grew up pretty quickly during those last few examples. But there are many more I could add to the list.


So, thanks to my mum, for getting it right so often. Even though it’s the hardest job in the world.