Jo Fitzsimmons shares with us her thoughts on being a mother.

I recall when I had my first child, my mum said to me “welcome to feeling guilty”! A pretty harsh but accurate introduction to being a first time parent!

Since then I, like you, have laid awake for many hours wondering how to help my children; deciding what school they should go to; whether they should have extra tuition; and – the biggest of all – whether I am to blame for all their quirks and struggles.

My Nan told me recently how much she worried about her children growing up, this was a huge shock as my Nan was an ‘old school’ parent. By this I mean she didn’t show her emotions to her children, discipline was strict, cuddles were few and far between, they received a good old ‘clip around the ear’ if they did anything wrong which they didn’t do often as they were slightly scared of her. This was parenting circa 1950.

Parenting in the 21st Century is the same: worry about our children streams through every generation. Fear for our child flows through us. Guilt that we aren’t doing enough, that we aren’t a ‘good enough’ parent, that we work too much/not enough, that we don’t know their every thought – all these guilt factors impact our relationship with our children.

Guilt when you have a child self- harming is way, way, way further up the scale on the ‘guilt factor’. We beat ourselves up emotionally and mentally. We withdraw from our friends because their children seem so perfect while ours are hurting their own bodies.

We feel guilty as we can’t stop them.

Nor should we.

Our children’s need to harm themselves is exactly that: their need. My husband said that if our child had been hurt at the hands of someone else to the extent he had hurt himself, he would have wanted to injure that person…but what do you do if they are doing it to themselves?

We listen.

We box away our feelings of guilt, fear, frustration and worry.

We swallow our begging pleas to stop.

We go to our GP to get help for our anxiety.

We find people who do get it, who listen to us, so we can empty our ‘guilt box’ into their lap.

And we listen some more.

Whether they are talking or not – we listen to the unspoken body language, the facial expressions, the songs they are listening to which give words to their feelings. To their very breath.

We are ready.

To hold them as our tiny children. To wrap them up. To clean their wounds.

We are ready.

To endure nights of laying outside their bedroom door so they, and us, feel safe.

To fight endlessly, with a lioness strength, to get the right psychological help.

We are ready.

To lay down our own feelings of guilt, shame, fear and anxiety.

We are ready.

To lift up our child’s pain, hold it, feel it, handle it carefully, gently mould it, shift and shape it into a smaller, more manageable blocks of pain; to squash the overwhelming despair they feel into our (fragile) arms that can (only just) hold it.

We are Mum’s.

We are an army of women bearing the burdens of our child’s pain.

We will survive.

As a Christian, I have been asked dozens of times over the last few years, how can I have faith when it must seem that God has let my child get so ill?

My response is always , and simply, ‘Mary’. She was Jesus’ mother, she watched him grow up into a man who some people loved, and some people hated. The people who hated him, put him to death.

Mary was there, she stood, in the deepest depth of the worst agony I can imagine as a mother and watched her 33 year old son die.

A pain that has oddly bought me comfort on dark bleak days.

Mary knew the same pain of watching her child get hurt – physically, emotionally, being betrayed by his friends, being tortured in and outwardly.

Yet she still stood.

Until the bitter end.

She stood.

You will survive this. You will.

You are a Mum. A lioness. A warrior for your child.

You are a Mum. A pair of gentle arms. A soothing voice of calm.

You are a mum. 

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