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It can be easy to take for granted the role that a mother plays in the family. From the moment a woman becomes pregnant, she automatically assumes the larger share of responsibility for the child she carries. While her partner may feel a bit alienated during the process, the mum is the one who feels the discomfort as well as the joy of carrying this small treasure - so as mums we feel torn between obsessing about our unborn child, and making sure our partner feels included as much as possible.
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Mum is then the one who feels the pain of childbirth and from there begins the all-consuming task of keeping this new tiny person alive. This is when we need to involve dad as much as possible in the nurturing. Suddenly the whole family dynamic has changed. No longer are we a couple – we’re a family with a huge responsibility outside our own happiness. We’re no longer living just for each other, but living for our child. It’s too easy at this point to begin to neglect our relationship with each other and forget to nurture each other as well.
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Whether or not a mother returns to the paid workforce after having a child is a choice that needs to be made by both parties. It’s imperative, if she does return to work, that the parenting responsibility is shared accordingly. No longer should it be completely up to mum to shop, cook, clean, nurture and do all those other myriad of tasks like remembering birthdays and school photo day.
Of course, we also have to face the reality of single parenting. ABS statistics show that 84% of single parents are mothers, and that can add a whole lot more pressure. Single dads seem to elicit a lot more concern and sympathy – and even admiration - than single mums.
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What mums need to know is that it’s ok to question ourselves, to worry, to feel overwhelmed at times. What is also crucial to keep in mind is that we as mothers are pivotal to the family. We need to look after ourselves. Putting ourselves first every now and then is not just ok – it’s essential.
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If we've had a tough day, it’s ok to feed the children a sandwich and a glass of milk for dinner. It’s ok to let the kids crawl into bed with us now and then in order to get a bit of extra sleep. It’s ok to miss bath night once in a while and substitute a cloth wash, and it’s ok to set them some activities to do while you take some time to relax and read a book. It’s also ok to lower your standards of household cleanliness and organisation a little bit for a while, as long as it’s still safe and healthy.
What we need to do most of all is to stop worrying what other people think, and stop trying to meet the unrealistic standards set by the media. As long as our children are happy and healthy, then we’re doing the job well.