Poems & Essays

21 Nov

A Myth of Bad Mothering

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A myth of bad mothering

I am a bad mother. I’ve felt so since the birth of my daughter. For the first few months when I was asked if I had given birth to a child, I couldn’t bring myself to use the verb ‘give birth’, as she had been born by C-section. I felt that I hadn’t contributed to her birth, though I had spent a full day in the throes of labour. She was ready to be born, but I couldn’t get her out. The doctors said that in order to save the child, they needed to perform a C-section. And I said yes, because at that moment nothing in the world was more important than the life of my baby, not even mine. So no, I didn’t deliver her myself – but I sacrificed my body for her to be safe.

I am a bad mother. I was not producing enough milk to meet my baby’s needs, and no matter how hard I tried with different methods, nutrition and folk medicine, it didn’t change the situation. So, apart from the small amount of milk she received from me, my child was growing thanks to supplements. We had this special connection through breastfeeding, but it was not enough to satisfy my baby. And there were some ‘good’ friends around who were telling me fabulous tales about how their milk was bursting from their breasts like Niagara Falls and that they breastfed their children for up to one year. Well, my breasts were obviously drifting icebergs in the Sahara desert.

I am a bad mother. When everyone else was telling off their children or being over-protective towards them, I tried to give my daughter independence and respect as a person in her own right. I gave her freedom in her choices and didn’t dictate what she had to do and wear – and she was only one and a half. People were wondering what a child might understand at that very early age, but I knew that my baby had her own personality traits from the moment she set eyes on me. And I believe her habits and behaviour should be observed and delicately navigated, rather than wrecked. She will learn right from wrong not from pre-defined limits but from her own valuable experiences.

I am a bad mother. I don’t call home frequently while I’m at work, and I don’t check on her. Because we both understand that there is a day to be lived, we don’t miss each other when we’re apart. The events of the whole day culminate in the moment I unlock the front door and she runs to me: she stops and we stare at each other for some time. Then we hold each other in a tight embrace and cry because we have missed this special connection during the day. This is when we know we are back in each other’s life.

I am a bad mother. I live my own life; I don’t immerse myself in my child; I don’t impose my desires, expectations and hopes on her; and I don’t burden her with responsibility for me. But I show her the variety of this life, take her to new places, and do everything that will broaden her vision and diversify her perception of life. She’s got her own path to go down, and she knows that I’m always there by her side, ready to support her in every endeavor and every venture that she is willing to take.

I am a bad mother for those who don’t appreciate that a real parent’s love ‘liberates’. And as Maya Angelou said about her relationship with her mother: ‘I love you…I would like to be near you…But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.’


Leyli Salayeva is an Azerbaijani who writes contemporary poetry in English. At the same time she is a mother of 3 year old baby girl. Her first poetry book Twelve Thirteen was released in 2014, and her second poetry book Youtopia was published in 2016. She is also the author of the book for kids Dilber and Her Spoonful Journey, that she dedicated to her daughter Dilber. She finds her inspiration in music and in people.

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