Don’t you just love it when you’re laid into by older and wiser ‘mothers’. Retired mothers who are now grannies and sit on the pedestal of ‘been there done that, got the T-shirt’. My cousin in law was recipient to the round table of advice (more like criticism actually) yesterday. Why? Because her two-year old screams too much.

Now firstly which two-year old doesn’t scream? Secondly did the round table help her to become a better mother?

I’ve also been on the receiving end of the mother hen ‘this is how to do it’ club. These older and, I admit, wiser for having done it and made the mistakes, women look at us mothers like we’re struggling, blind fools. (Which admittedly we are a lot of the time.) My response to them is to listen and be grateful. Because I do enjoy the attention and I do want to learn from their mistakes. But sometimes it can be a bit too much.

We’ve all been there. People on the street, let alone family think it’s their duty to tell us, mothers, how to mother. Wether it’s in the supermarket where our darlings are kicking and screaming for the sweets that are heniously displayed at the check out counters, and we’re given those ‘dagger’ looks from people who have to witness this. I remember being at swimming classes with the three Princes frazzled to the frizzy ends of my hair. I was at my wit’s end with my four-year old, who wouldn’t follow instructions, ie. Get dressed and get going. So I left him and mock ‘went’, marching up the ramp out of the gym. A woman came after me and said in a tone of utter disbelief, ‘You’ve left your child behind.’ I stared at her archly. Does she think I’m so stupid as not to know that I’ve left my mutinous son in the dressing room? My Princes are not to be molly coddled and taught that their mother is their maid servant ready to wait hand and foot for them. (Although I do end up doing that unfortunately.) And sometimes the only way for them to move their royal asses is for me to move mine first. Anyway I didn’t explain myself, I just stared her judgement and criticism down, and the recalcitrant Prince came and we left and marched on to the next issue.

So strangers judge us, and our methods. And so does family. At least you can argue that family does it from a place of love. Which is certainly true of my and my dear hubbie’s family. (He’s not brushing his teeth well enough, you need to give more attention to him, you need to keep your word etc. etc.) But when it becomes mother in-laws, aunt in-laws and cousins in-laws + a great granny in law, all with their individual comments on how to handle screaming girls, sitting around a table – well it’s too much for any mother to bear without tears.

So yesterday I sat there, quietly at first because I don’t have screaming girls. I have shouting, boisterous Princes. I know nothing about girls. (And I have my theory as to why boys are best for me although of course I’d love a princess.) But I did eventually pipe up because my sweet cousin was close to tears.

And this is what I said, and this is what I say to all struggling mothers (except Tiger Moms because they are obviously so perfect and in no need of support). We are in this world to learn our life lessons. That is the main point of life. (Believe it or not – it’s not about the house, being a size 10, the longed for Gucci bag, the trip around the world, yoga pilgrimage to India, published novel, red convertible… you can add your wish list to this. Although you can have all that too, but if you don’t heal your soul at the same time, it’s all so strangely empty.) That being the case we all have our individual challenges as do our children.

Our children are the angels in our life that propel us into those life lessons like mini rockets. We become mothers and end up swimming in space with no gravity to hold us down. We need to figure out our own way to the moon with our children. We need to learn the best way to be ourselves, and help our children through their milestones. It’s our individual journey as mothers and no two journeys are the same. So older mothers whose kids have grown up – you’ve had your journey – did the best you could – and now it’s our turn. Yes we will make mistakes, yes we are ignorant of a lot of basic things, especially how to discipline our kids. But the truth is whatever milestones we struggle with, with our kids, these are the exact milestones that we never hurdled when we were children. (See Harville Hendrix – Imago therapy – ‘Giving the Love that Heals’.) It’s now come full circle.

This is the reason why it’s worth putting the effort into helping our children through their milestones because it heals our wounded child selves who never learnt to separate, or attach or to stand up for ourselves, voice our needs, or just feel loved.

So take the outside advice with a pinch of salt. See the love behind it, take it or leave it and move on with your journey. Space can be a black, lonely space so take with you the loving, helpful, supportive people, voices, books and dare I say blogs that guide you and moreover love you on your unique journey called motherhood.