parent opinion

'The other kids feel unsafe around your son': 6 mums on the parenting moment that broke them.

This post contains sensitive themes and might be triggering for some readers.

Whenever a friend of mine has a baby, my message of congratulations is always pretty much the same: 

“Congratulations Laura, Sienna is just beautiful, well done mama! Welcome to the parenthood journey, it is the most amazing, love-filled, glorious, awful experience you’ll ever have. Love Cate xx” 

Yes, I always include ‘awful’ in there. 

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This may sound a little negative, and yep, in some ways it is, but it is also absolutely essential information to share.  

You see, I’ve been a mother for a while now. I have two boys aged seven and two whom I adore more than anything in the world. And for the first few years of my eldest son’s life, I ingested the diet of #gratitude and #blessed social media around motherhood, and I thought there was something very wrong with me.

Because I did feel grateful and blessed to be his mother, but I also felt exhausted, angry, tired, frustrated and hungry, plus a million other things both good and bad. 

And when I started speaking honestly about my motherhood experience, I found out that others felt this too.

Since then, I have taken the opportunity to speak honestly about the good, the bad and the ugly of parenthood as much as possible. 

Recently I put the call out amongst my friends and the Mamamia community to share the moments of parenthood that broke them, be they funny, devastating, challenging or sad, and the response was huge. 

I have picked five of the most poignant stories to share below, plus mine, which is the first story.

Meltdown in aisle seven.

Parenting often breaks me, but one of the most intense moments was a grocery shopping trip with my eldest son when he was two. 

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He wasn’t too happy to be stuck in the trolley and as we approached the aisle with the toys, he started asking for a new toy car (he knew where they were, I had given in far too many times in the past…) and I said that on this day he couldn’t have one. 

As we walked past the aisle and he realised I was serious, he lost it - sobbing, crying, yelling, thrashing about in the trolley and screaming at me. 

Everyone was staring.

I was exhausted from a massive week and became completely overwhelmed by the situation and started crying myself. 

I did not know what to do, I had a full week’s grocery shop done so I didn’t want to just leave, but my poor boy and I were both in a state.  

Unsure what else to do, I parked the trolley in the slightly wider toilet paper aisle, pulled him out for a cuddle and sat down on the floor with him. We sat there cuddling and crying together on the floor beside the toilet paper for about 10 minutes while people stared and mothers offered help until I called my husband to come and get us. 

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Solo parenting.

The moment that broke me was when my youngest was three months old and my eldest was three, my husband was away and I was solo parenting two children for the first time for over a week. 

My tolerance for my three-year-old's antics had worn thin, and when she was rough with her sister again I really lost my sh*t at her.

After that she told me she didn’t love me anymore pretty much every day for a month. It devastated me. I cried so many times, and it took us a long time to rebuild our relationship. 

Blending families.

My most challenging parenting moment (so far) was the weekend my stepsons met their new brother (my son) for the first time. 

I had been in hospital for five days after an emergency c-section and my stepsons weren’t allowed to visit (due to Covid). So when we finally came home, my partner organised for them to come over for a few hours to meet the baby and see me.

When they arrived, their mum had packed them up to stay for the night without checking first. 

Initially it was ok, I adore my stepsons and seeing them with their new brother made my heart hurt with love - they were so gentle, curious and tender with him. 

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But then they were there for another 20 hours, and they wanted me to be the way I normally was. They were so loud and grabby and needy. I couldn’t take it and wanted them out of my space.

My partner had to focus on looking after them, while I tried to look after my sore, broken body and our new baby. It was awful. I didn’t get to come first even in my first day of motherhood at home, and I feared that it would always be like this - there would never be any space for my child and me. 

With time it has got much better. I have learnt to articulate my boundaries, and do what I know is best for my son and me. Plus the boys all adore each other, and we have found our rhythm as a blended family.

An unexpected phone call.

The day after my nine-year-old son received an ADHD diagnosis, I got a call from his soccer coach. 

He said that my son had punched his child twice at soccer training.

We were very close with this family and the child he hit is his good long-time friend. I was very vulnerable with the coach and told him about my son’s new diagnosis and the treatment we were starting soon. 

His response came like a kick in the guts. He didn’t acknowledge what I had just shared and instead said, "it’s not fair that the other kids feel unsafe and at risk."

My son is the kindest, sweetest, most considerate boy, so to hear this said about him was just awful and untrue.

He tried to insist my son apologise to the whole group, which I did not allow to happen. Finally my much calmer husband smoothed it over with a phone call to the coach, but it was really awkward for a long time.

"What’s wrong with her?"

My daughter has cerebral palsy, and a couple of years ago we were at the park and I was pushing her on a swing. Another mother and daughter came over to use the swing next to us, and for about five or 10 minutes the other mother and I chatted while our girls swung and laughed side by side.  

My daughter then said she was ready to get down, so I unbuckled her and helped her out and she walked over to the slide. 

Her walk and posture is impacted by her disability, but she is hugely independent and able to move around without assistance. 

When the other mother saw her walking away, she said abruptly, "oh I didn’t notice there was something wrong with her."

I was very confronted by this, and upset that she’d said it loud enough that both our children could hear (luckily my daughter didn’t).  

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I calmly said, "there’s nothing wrong with her, but she does have cerebral palsy" and walked away. It broke my heart that someone would talk about my child and about disability in that way.  

Always remembering.

My first child Stella was born still at 39 weeks. It was the saddest and hardest thing I have ever been through. 

When she was born I felt this weird sensation that I was now a mother, but also not really a mother because my child had died. This broke me, this feeling that I had grown her and carried her, that I had birthed my child but didn’t get to mother her. 

I now have two more children who are 18 months and four years old. 

It is hard to know what to tell them about Stella, and it is hard to know what to say when people ask how many children I have. 

Even though I get to mother my two living children, those feelings from when Stella was born haunt me, and I am always terrified of something happening to my other children. 

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637. 

Feature Image: Canva.

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