What we’re afraid of

posted in: Meetings | 0

This week’s meeting has given me much pause for thought. I love our meetings, I love soaking up the atmosphere of relaxed, calm, confident moms and their children. It’s very rare to hear a baby cry during the meetings. Very seldom are there toddler tantrums or fights between the children. All in all, there’s a sense of peace and nobody seems frazzled or stressed.

I’ve been wondering why this is. If all the literature and expert opinion out there is to be believed, mothers who are for the most part young, single, poor, relatively uneducated, probably unemployed and certainly not up on the latest expert parenting theories should be struggling with motherhood more. You’d expect them to be needing more help, somehow.

And it’s just not what I see. Sure, the mothers who come to our meetings are moms who are already taking their motherhood seriously and doing their best, so it’s logical that their babies should be doing well. The lousy, uninterested, neglectful or abusive mothers wouldn’t come to our meetings anyway. So yes, we’re preaching to the choir, but it’s a beautiful choir who needs to be told how awesome they are, so I’m happy to do it. 🙂

In other communities, a room full of new moms and their babies might feel a lot more fraught – and moms might go home feeling more exhausted than anything else. So as much we started this group to help moms with their mothering, I’m realising that for the most part, it’s not the sort of help they need. Of all the moms and children I’ve meet since December 2010, I can think of only one child who I’d be worried about – who I’ve wondered what he’s seen and experienced to make him the way he is.

So I’ve learnt that mostly – our moms are fine. They all have worries – most of which are pretty similar to yours or mine. This is what we discussed on Saturday. We all wrote down our fears anonymously, then I read them out and we discussed them.

The biggest fear and most common fear – that their children would be raped, murdered or molested. Moms spoke openly about their own experiences of rape and abuse and it’s something that’s foremost in all of their minds. Because as one mom says: “You don’t know what a rapist looks like. You don’t know what a molester looks like. I feel like I can’t trust my neighbours and I don’t want to feel like that.”

Other fears included:

  • paraffin stoves
  • cars
  • alcoholism and drugs in the community
  • violence in the community
  • corruption and crime
  • finances – needing work
  • their children’s future and opportunities to study
  • their daughters growing up and getting involved with abusive men
  • their children making the same poor life choices that they may have made in the past
Another one which struck me was the fear that because she’s unemployed and not able to provide adequately for her child, she’s not a proper mother. She feels that she’s not good enough. We spoke about how motherhood is  about much more than money.  Another mom has had to send one of her children to live with their granny as she can’t afford to look after her right now. She’s scared of losing the bond she has with her child, but she has no other choice right now. There were no easy answers, just a commitment to doing all she can to change her current situation and maintain contact with her child. 

You may recognise some of these fears in your own life. They’re universal and real for all of us. Some of the others may be very far removed from your own reality. Do me a favour and just think about it for a bit.

Think of these very real issues which are facing moms like Portia, Gloria, Nolufefe, Thandiswa, Liezel and others. Next time you’re reading an article about disadvantaged communities, or struggling parents – and if you are tempted to judge (although all of you lovely people reading this would never do that! :))  – remember that our group moms want exactly the same for their children as you do. They worry, they try and change things in their homes, families and communities, they come to meetings like ours and talk about it, trying to find solutions. And then they go home and do it all over again. Through all of this they somehow manage to raise healthy, beautiful, loved children who – given the opportunities they deserve – will go on to do great things and be great people.

Our lives may look different – but inside the head and inside the heart, as moms we’re all the same.

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