“Where’s Mummy? asked Sarah.
Oh my goodness, said Percy.
I want my mummy! said Bill”
When my girls were small, one of their favourite books was Owl Babies by Martin Waddell. It’s the story of three little owls (Sarah, Percy and Bill) who live in the trunk of a tree and who wake up one night to find their mother gone. The baby owls grow ever more anxious as the night progresses until at last, their mother returns and they are delighted.
I read this book to my children hundreds of times when they were young and yet now as they are in their tween/teen years, it seems ever more poignant.
My girls are amazing and I love them with all of my heart and soul. Like most mothers, I feel they are my heart walking around outside my body. And not being with them all of the time is one of the hardest parts of this splitting up process for me. Their dad and I share custody 50/50, with one week on and one week off.
On one level, I hate the weeks they are with their dad as I miss them so much. But on another level, after years and years of putting everyone in my family first and trying to be a massive people pleaser, it is a relief to have some time to myself.
It took me a long time to not feel guilty saying this. And sometimes I still feel like I am a terrible mother for not being in their life 24 hours a day anymore.
I do hate not being there when they are sick. Or not being the one who hears their news first. Or not being there when they have a great sporting achievement or receive some award at school. I miss them terribly and sometimes I think my heart is going to break into hundreds of little pieces.
Their dad is a good dad but he’s a dad. There’s just some stuff that a girl doesn’t want to discuss with her dad. But I always knew he’d be a good dad. That’s a big reason why I married him in the first place. So I don’t want to deprive them of their dad.
But girls really need their mothers. I’ve learned in the past year how much I still need mine and I am grateful each and every day that she is still alive and I can talk to her. So many of my friends have lost their mothers and I can see that at times (even years after their mothers’ death), they still feel their loss.
My girls need me. They both have phones and know they can ring or text me at any time – and they do. But it isn’t the same as being able to talk face to face or rub their back or give them a hug.
But much like I knew I would be a better working mother than stay-at-home mother after having babies, I know I’m a better mother for leaving my marriage and for showing my girls what a brave woman looks like. A woman who knows what she wants. A woman who stands up for what she wants. And a woman who is true to herself. I wasn’t any of those things for many years because I was trying too hard to fit into someone else’s idea of how to be the ‘perfect mother’ and the ‘perfect wife’.
I’m also a better mother now that I have time to explore my inner self. I have time to meditate, to write and journal, to walk in each morning’s stillness, to sit quietly and reflect on life.
I think it’s better for my girls to grow up seeing me face my challenges as I work out how to live on my own and to think for myself. It’s better for them to see how I’m following my intuition now and for them to learn how to follow theirs. It’s better for them to see that women can be independent. That we can hold high powered jobs. That we can be financially secure on our own. That often it’s our girlfriends who help hold us together far more often than our husbands or partners do.
I don’t have all the answers, but at least I can be honest with my children. I can look them in the eye when I ask them to be true to themselves, because I’m finally being true to me. And I can only pray that I will be there for them when they really need me.
Because sometimes you really do need your mum. Just ask Sarah, Percy and Bill.