Last Week’s News: Motherhood…and Shaquan Duley

No, I’m not pregnant.  Though it is a fondest wish, dream, hope, and goal of mine, I’m not yet on the road to being a mommy.   I’m told that I’m young and have lots of time to start having children but, honestly, I’d hoped to have one already! I get all mushy with babies – when I see ’em on the street, hang around my nephews or friends’ children, or even on commercials.  Such a sap.   Sometimes I’m a little impatient about it but nothing before God’s time, eh?

For the past few weeks for reasons other than my loud and persistently ticking Biological Clock motherhood has been on my mind.  First was a conversation I had with a friend who had her second child earlier this week…we were just engaged in usual “hi, how are you” catching up (often prompted by her posting as her Blackberry profile picture an adorable picture of her children) when she confessed that she was tired and overwhelmed.  She’s enrolled in school while raising 2 boys and working.  I’ve seen my older sister go for hours on end to look after her boys (my very delightful nephews who I adore) but too often there’s a tired look in her eyes and posture.  I’ve had another friend describe how her hair fell out while she cared for her sick daughter…she was so worried.  I know without a doubt that these women love their children unquestionably and unconditionally.  Yet, like my friend, they need breaks to do things for themselves.

So when I see stories like the one about Shaquan Duley who suffocated her boys before submerging their bodies and her car in water I am angry, sad, and simply shocked.   Angry because I can’t imagine how and why someone didn’t notice her strain or why she didn’t SAY SOMETHING.  Sad because two beautiful, young lives will not have a chance to experience another summer of running around giddily or to learn their ABCs.   Shocked because I cannot imagine what heights of whatever she was felling to suffocate her children to death.  Part of me also think this is one of the most evil things a human can do – harm a child.  Just, how? How?? HOW??? Much as I understand and can appreciate the pressures of being a mother her actions are still inexcusable to me.  I’m sorry that she felt pressured or frustrated by her own mother but good God in Heaven, no, did she have to harm the children?!

Ms. Duley is not the first mother (remember Susan Smith, the woman who probably first introduced many of us to the term “post-partum depression”?) and I fear she won’t be the last to harm her children because of illness, frustration. Her (or other women’s) reasons don’t justify hurting children but they do offer an explanation as to why it happened.  I don’t know what could have prevented this tragedy and quite likely we won’t ever know.  One of those things, I guess.

Whatever it is that we – society, family, partners, sister, friends, mothers – are doing to make mothers feel like they are alone and must suffer that way, and that there’s no help available or way out of feeling closed in we need to stop.  We need to stop.

My friend has help from her partner and extended family but she was obviously having a moment when she really, really needed and wanted a break from her boys.  So we spent some time talking about who could keep them for a bit while she decompressed, or even where she could go with the youngest to unwind for a bit.  Needless to say I was concerned even as I was glad that she’d had the strength to say something and express her feelings.  She has a lot on her plate and while a strong woman and good mother, she’s not superhuman.   At the time I tweeted that we should be supportive of the mothers we know by offering to keep the children for a bit or taking her out to do something un-motherly and plain ol’ silly.  Or maybe just call to talk and give her a break from children-speak.  Try not to be critical of her parenting methods (I mean we really shouldn’t be doing this anyway because ah nuh fi wi pickney).  Be supportive and ready to listen or provide a shoulder. It doesn’t have to be a HUGE gesture; every little bit counts.

I get the impression that many mothers feel guilty for simply being tired of being around their child all the time.  Why is that? Is it because society says or someone has told her and she believes that this is your job woman so no complaints allowed? Perhaps it’s part of the “losing yourself” process? Apparently this happens with mothers when they just are so focused on their children that their ability to have adult conversation, enjoy adult things and even their appearance suffers (I’ve seen women walking around pushing well-dressed and happy, gurgling  children while dressed in some ill-fitting clothes…yet I know she has fashion sense because there’s an ever so faint hint of it in her own attire  and her children are immaculately dressed. These women used to care about their appearance so what happened?  Sometimes I even want to stop them and say, do you need help?  Yes, I’m nuff.  I, for one though, refuse to let this happen to me and my friends have instructions to stage an intervention at the first signs of me “losing myself”). Whatever the reason it’s not fair for us to make any woman feel as if she has to put up and shut up where her children are concerned.

Raising children is hard work.  It is challenging.  In fact I think it’s the hardest job; nothing is as important as raising children (whether being done by a single mother or both parents).  There’s a tremendous amount of time, energy, and thought that goes into being a good parent.  And we human beings are whole people who I don’t think should be pigeonholed into any one category or role to the detriment of our mental, emotional and physical health. Raising children is a role that often falls to women and while we may have some advantages when compared to men to do the job best, that doesn’t mean that we should suffer in silence with “our lot in life.”  Motherhood should not be a burden!  Having and raising children is as much a joy and blessing as it is what my friend Lori tweeted (forgive the “there” you KNOW what she means!)

Motherhood has also been on my mind because last week a good friend gave birth to her first child.  A beautiful little girl whose father burst burst into tears.  It was a touching picture to see.  There was also a post by @IamMsNikks – a heartfelt and beautiful letter to her mother.  I’ve been seeing a good spectrum of motherhood in the past few weeks and it’s made me think and feel a gamut of emotions.  Happy, grateful, a little sad, worry, expectation and anticipation.

All of this is to say, think more about the mothers in your own life especially your own mother.  If you’re planning to become a mother, think of what kind of mother you’d like to be.  Think of these mothers in your life yes as mothers but also remember that she’s a woman who’s your daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, friend, godmother, niece, grandmother who may not mind a call or email from you to find out how SHE – not the children, husband, boyfriend, mother-in-law – is doing.

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23 Responses to “Last Week’s News: Motherhood…and Shaquan Duley”
  1. Carole-Anne says:

    I applaud this post Ren… and it can be applied to me with regards to the maternal clock ticking away. My parents are dropping MANY hints about being ready to be grandparents. LOL. Anyway, big up to ALL mothers… you have an important role in your child’s life… and everyone else, your mother has an important role in your life. Respect, honour and LOVE each other.

    • Thankfully my parents have not started dropping hints or asking questions. Daddy, I think, is quite content with the 2 grandsons from my sister. Funny enough, I’m the one pestering my sister and brother 9the older ones) for a niece *grin* Now that I think about it, I think it’s my grandpa who may be thinking about why I’m not yet popping out children…hmm

  2. Gemini_Jamaican says:

    *disclaimer spelling and grammar error will be made* As a mother of two already, you aren’t the only one that feels like your “maternal clock is ticking”. Sometimes Moms do speak up and ask for help but you get that look ” it’s your kids, you watch them” or “Haha what have you been doing to be tired and need help” A lot of times I’ve found that grandparents and sibling are worst people to ask for help. I honestly think it is easier to hire a baby sitter, you pay them to do a job don’t need to explain in details why you need them to watch your child, nor where your going. My parents are great, they watch my kids because I don’t ask (lol) I kinda just drop them off and say I will be back. Of course my mother isn’t shy about making her face or smart remarks but I’ve come to learn to tune her out 😀
    Being a stay at home mom is harder than going to work (9-5) and then picking up the kids, from my personal experience. A Mom has the longest job description I’ve ever seen and it’s always changing. I adore my kids, they are my life and every thing I do is based upon benefiting them. However I’m so guilty of having my children dressed FAB and looking like a hot mess. Honestly I just don’t make the time to put myself together nor shop for me. I always end up passing something that would look cute on them. luckily for me I’ve found someone that say no you can’t buy anything for the kids it’s only you. I love the blog and I know you can’t wait to start a family but God want’s nothing but the best for you that’s why he’s going threw making sure he gets rid of all the unwanted first. And now I have to rush off to get rid to pick up lil one.

    • LOL say hi to the little one for me 🙂 Thanks for your post, hon. You said it right: a mom has the longest job description and it’s always changing…and she has to be able to adapt so quickly too from what I’ve seen. I agree on the stay at home point too though I don’t have personal experience just observations…I imagine it’s more mentally and emotionally taxing that dealing with Joe Blow in the office. Children ask a lot of questions (I know, I was one of them :D) and demand constant attention even if you’re not interacting with them…I’ve had days of watching my nephews and sighing with relief when my sister came home. Felt kinda bad too because sheesh, she does this every single day and just keeps on going…also made me wonder if I’m ready to take on the role myself. But each time I babysat them I learned a little more about coping and managing them…plus it’s fun and I actually don’t mind answering their questions 🙂 Still, it’s hard work.

      As for grandparents and sibling being the worst to ask for help, I can definitely see why you say this. Especially grandparents…and maybe it has to do with how they were treated by their own parents as they became parents. I hope my parents are as generous as yours because I know there will be times when I’ll just need to say “Daddy/Mommy, here! I’ll be back.” Kinda need to break the cycle of making mothers (parent,s really) feel like they should be stuck with the children all the time.

      • I really really loved & enjoyed the artice Ren. In reference to the lady drowning her children; I break down just seeing my niece cry over a bicycle cut & cannot imagine being the source of her / my nephew’s pain. As a future counselor & active social worker I see the harm that comes to children & it.breaks.my.heart. The breakdown that happens in homes, & lack of coping skills are what need to be addressed & some ppl really do need parenting classes.

        As for support; an entire day w/ my 3yrd old niece & 5month old nephew drains me, so I know how hard it must be for my bro & sis-in-law, which is why I volunteer & help whenever i can w/o trying to overstep my boundaries. Lori, I know what you mean about it being more difficult to turn to family for help b/c I too say that sometimes “its your child, be a parent”. I don’t mean ill will but b/c we help so much, I do see where it’s sometimes taken advantage of & I want them to develop proper balancing & scheduling when it comes to the children. It will benefit them in the long run. Granted I have none, but I’m a bit more maternal than both. I do however know when to keep quiet & scold myself & just take my babieeees 🙂

        My clock is ticking, i think :p But I’m able to channel all that energy to my niece & nephew & be patient, but Ren I feel you 100%.

        Excellent article, you know I’m all about #savethebabies & thx for reminding us to ask about the parents & not the children all the time.

  3. Kaydia Salmon says:

    Good article. It is true in every way considering what I went through and am going through. Thank God my parents and brother are supportive because babydaddy is barely there. I strongly believe that there should be a system in place to help mothers for the first two years of the child’s life. Yes immunization and sixth week clinic are all good, but mothers need more maternity leave time, child rearing sessions,etc. Society barely sympathizes with mothers during this time. On the issue of time, I wish I had started earlier for many reasons: I believe the narrower the gap the better the understanding between mother and child, significant minimization of risk of cancer, earlier start on retirement, just to name a few.

    • Your comment gives much food for thought, Kaydia. Tell me more about the system you suggest: community based (schools, churches, neighbourhood organization?) or run by the hospitals? I think this would work as a community project run by citizens and not by the government. Kinda reminds me of the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.”

      Longer maternity leave – YES! I agree. Seeing women have to go back after such a short time is kinda heartbreaking…most of them are simply not ready. I believe in some European countries it’s about 6 months…I’d advocate for a year or 6 months off and 6 months flex-work. I never thought of the health benefits of having children earlier in one’s 20s but how would have be affected by some women (perhaps) not being mature enough to handle the demands of raising a child? There’s so much to consider! But it just emphasizes the important role that mothers have in society and how that’s not always recognized or supported by wider society.

  4. Sandy says:

    Speaking as a woman, I have learned that people do not appreciate a woman who admits to weakness. As a mother of 2 (ages 15 & 8) I have learned that admitting to being overwhelmed is strickly forbbiden. Society dictates that as parents we should lose ourselves. At the age of 36, I have decided to forgive myself for my weaknessess and move forward & be the best woman, parent, & wife that I can be. It hasn’t made me popular amongst other parents, but that wasn’t my purpose. My purpose is to take care of me so that I can take care of the ones I love. Being a parent is the best & most stressful job that I have ever had. I am strong enough to admit when I feel weak.

    • Seems so weird for us (society) to expect mothers especially to focus so much on their children…but not recognize that all that work, energy, time, focus would have the consequence of overwhelming the mother?? Weird weird weird. I am glad that you are strong enough to admit that you need help, support, and space to look after yourself! That is indeed a very strong woman.

  5. i enjoyed reading ur article. i certainly can relate to feeling like you need a break from your bundle of joy. my son is 6 months old and there have been moments that i just need a break. and i mean, needing a break makes me feel so very guilty. i feel like im a bad person for wanting to get away from my boy.

    first of all my son is a good baby … not fussy; not unduly demanding and very sociable. adjusting to motherhood is what got to me … even now im still adjusting. i knew it would be alot of work but i didnt realise how much. there are so many considerations …. like not being able to pee or complete a bath before the baby wakes up or having him wake every single time i tried to eat. now, im happy to be his puppet because he really is a joy but it gets to you after a while. i wanted to take him to work with me when maternity leave was over but i was also kinda happy to be away from him (that sounds so awful, doesnt it). and that was because it meant a return to pre-baby like freedom. there were time i would just cry from the frustration because i felt like i was supposed to be able to handle everything but i wasnt. i felt like i was letting my son down because i needed time away from him. and even when i wanted time away, i didnt want to leave him because i missed being with him and i also felt like i was abandoning him. i am responsible for and to him … he knows me more than anyone else so i feel like i have no choice but to be there for him and ensure he is happy and stable and loved.

    mothers do need the down time and we need to allow ourselves to be away from our kids because we cant be good for them if we are not good to ourselves (thats a lesson i remind myself of everyday!)

    • Thank you, UncensoredMind. Your comment brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing with me & my readers because I’m sure others reading share your sentiments. I think that your son is lucky to have you because as I said to Sandy, it takes a very strong woman to say “dang it I need help or a break” or “I’m feeling overwhelmed with all of this.” And your son sounds like lots of fun!!

      • 🙂 im always happy to talk abt my boy even if its the frsutrating stuff. our kids may be lucky to have us but ur friends are lucky to have u. trust me there have been many people who “offer” to babysit or lend a helping hand who never turn up. many want to be “godmothers” just for the name. buts it nice when u can have a friend come over to hold the baby so you can get a shower or bring u lunch because she knows u havent eaten in days. friends underestimate the value of asking how we are or offering to help or even a phone call to check in on us or the baby. believe me, its nice to know that all the sleep deprivation and lack of care for ourselves are noticed in our wonderfully dressed, sweet-baby-sscented, giggling tots 🙂

      • Thank you 🙂 and yes I notice the gurgling well-dressed bundles out and about. Hard to miss them & they always make me smile. You sound lucky to have the friends who don’t forget you & look out for you. Blessings 🙂

  6. me codner says:

    help! and then you have a parent who is set in his ways to care for as well. It isn’t just motherhood, it’s being a caregiver.

  7. Mikki says:

    Tru tru Ren– getting support is the most important thing post partum and while child rearing in my opinion. It really does take a village to raise a child! Folks can’t be afraid to call on fam & friends for help– as my old boss likes to say, when you have a kid, if you come over to visit you better have a broom or some food;) Thanks for the shout out;) What a week it’s been! I got your sweet card, thanks sooo much!

    • What a week indeed!! Mommy Mikki *giggle*…and I still remember us running around in prep school! I agree with your boss!! Broom, food, or work clothes ready to get to work. Amen.

      Please be sure to reach out if you need anything, though I don’t think Mrs. T, J or Mrs. L would let you want for anything. Again, blessings. I am happy for you.

      • Reneé says:

        I do remember us running around in prep school. Sigh I feel so old sometimes.. And then sometimes not cuz I guess I have no real sense of responsibility.

        I actually have a much different perspective than you do cuz I never want kids. And if you think the pressure is on with the clock, it’s not that easy on the other side. People will act like you killed their own babies if you say you never want children…

      • Yes, it is unusual for women to say outright that they don’t want any children. I imagine people think you’re revoking some sort of social responsibility or birthright…? However, I think it’s better to know this now and not have a child AND THEN realize o shit, what did I do?! There are many other ways to be “motherly” or “parental” without having children of your own. I’m glad you’re a self-assured woman who knows HER own mind and isn’t falling prey to society’s pressure, which may very well be as important as becoming a mother and not giving in to that “prescribed” role…

  8. Ms. Nikks says:

    Great read!

    One of the things I miss about Jamaica and admire about the people is that the community still know each other and are willing to help each other out. My grandmother and aunts may have their issues with certain neighbors, but they are so very kind and helpful to the neighborhood children.

    Parenting is hard and stressful, especially in American and Canadian societies where we don’t even know our neighbors. So when mothers and fathers get it right, they deserve to be acknowledged and praised for their efforts.

  9. CJ says:

    The other side of the wonderful experience of giving birth which very few people know and talk about is POST PARTUM DEPRESSION! For some mothers if its untreated it leads to mental illness. Coping with a 35 year old mother of 2 who is the psych hospital for this reason.

    Maybe if an investigative reporter checked out the lady in Ja or the one in Dominica who recently killed her 2 girls they might discover that they were depressed and no one knew or thought that it was serious.

    You are right, its nuff work which requires unwavering dedication. Some people forget that it is a lifelong commitment.

    • 35 and in the psych hospital? But I am glad that she’s getting the attention she needs. Do you think it’s an unspoken of issue in the Caribbean? My instinct and own experiences says yes, it is an unspoken of issue. How ironic for something that you rightly point out is a lifelong commitment!

  10. Thanks for your comments ChocLit & CJ. I am in complete agreement that support is needed post-partum. Even I still pay more attention to the babies than the mothers (and fathers) but I am actively trying to break that habit.

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