Charlene Allcott thought she was ready for motherhood – she’d read the books, practiced with friends’ kids – but it brought some deep-rooted issues to the surface. So she started Mission Acceptance: a journey of self-discovery…
In many ways, I feel I have been preparing for motherhood since my late teens. I bypassed exciting but reliable bad boys to settle down quickly with a low key lad with a bright future; I focused on stable career choices that offered supportive maternity leave options and a couple of years before introducing Roscoe John Allcott to the world, we moved from a bustling but not so baby-friendly east London to the leafy edges of Brighton.
My husband Graham trains people to be more productive, so he had everything mapped out until the kid’s first Easter break in 2023. I’ve worked in social care for years, supporting the most vulnerable families at the most challenging of times; I’ve helped mothers thrive in every circumstance known to man, with resources flimsier than gossamer – so surely it would be a breeze for us?
We spent some time canvassing friends, encouraging them to share their childrearing triumphs and occasionally convincing one of them to let us borrow a tot for a spell. I say all this to make clear that I was ready. I was over ready. I had read the books, attended the classes and bought the pregnancy T-shirt. The general consensus was that children were a bit hard (I have done hard) and a bit messy (me and messy are homeboys) but overall indescribably, fantastically wonderful.
And it was. And it is. But obviously, there’s a but. Prior to having a child I would have categorised my twenties as a period of growth and exploration, yes maybe I’d had a few too many Jaeger Bombs, but overall I thought of it as a period of huge development. I did not realise until my son was born that I was wrong.
Have you ever had to tidy your house in a hurry? Perhaps had unexpected guests and wanted to create the illusion of order. I’m sure under those circumstances you do what anyone would do and find the biggest cupboard you can and shove all the junk in it. When my son was born I realised that my twenties was that cupboard and I had just been piling all my emotional junk into it – out of sight, out of mind.
I used Jaeger Bombs and so-called exploration to distract me from the mess within. Having a baby was like opening the cupboard door and having all my spiritual shortcomings rain down on my head.
When you become a parent there’s nowhere to hide (I mean literally you can’t hide, you can’t even go to the loo alone). Whatever you didn’t want to accept about yourself will show up in your life, in your parenting and ultimately in your child. For example I very quickly learned that I loathe responsibility. I had always shied away from leadership roles, claiming to be consummate team player, when the reality was I just couldn’t handle it.
Whilst breastfeeding I found the pressure of being solely responsible for my son’s nutrition almost overwhelming. Special snowflake that I am I didn’t believe I could be the only one to have experienced this? Yet despite all my careful research no one had mentioned the fact that all your emotional baggage is gonna show up straight after the placenta.
I started my blog The Moderate Mum when my son was just over a year (and finally sleeping through the night). I felt that the reason the parenting experience had been such a shock to my system was because there’s still pressure placed on women for mothering to be a ‘natural’, effortless process. It’s illogical really to think that millions of people should be able to succeed at the same job and yet the expectation pervades, generation after generation. I wanted to offer parents, but particularly mothers a voice saying – this is going to be hard, this is going to test parts of yourself you forgot you had and when that happens, accept yourself.
As I was offering advice through my blog it became clear that the solution to almost all parenting challenges is to accept your strengths and your flaws, stop trying to fit into some store bought motherhood mould and celebrate the very things that make you and your family unique. Mission Acceptance was born out of this sentiment. Every week since the start of the year I have undertaken a new challenge in the journey to self-acceptance.
For example one week, being a non-confrontational person, I forced myself to ask those closest for criticism. Another week I tried, as a relentless people pleaser, to speak only my truth. I’m calling it a year of learning to live with myself. The thing I love most about the mission is that hundreds of people have signed up to join me each week and so what started out as a year to help myself might help many mothers and more importantly their children.
How have you found motherhood? Have you found is surprisingly easy, surprisingly challenging or is it exactly as you imagined it would?