A letter to African mothers struggling to be good moms; love your children and show it

I would always hear about struggling to be a good mother although I didn’t get it then. Now I do and this is why.

We had a stressful childhood and have been trying so hard to heal and recover over the years. Born in a remote village deep in Gulu, with over seven other step siblings; life was not a bed of roses. There was competition to stand out or else you would risk being forgotten. Hell knocked on our door one fateful morning that sent our father, the sole provider to the grave.

It was time to face reality. We were distributed after the burial day; joining uncles in Kampala as maids and my lucky brother married at 18. This was luck for him, because he wouldn’t have to go through the trauma of living under the mercy of relatives.

I can’t blame my relatives for the mistreatment they put us through. If only my mother had been strong, we wouldn’t have been the punching box for that wicked man I call uncle.

Now, I am a mother of three beautiful children who look up to me as their superhero. At times I become something that no child should have as a mother. Then I remind myself that we are fighting that ugly character that trauma brewed.

I still give excuses not to go to parties or attend girlie nights, growing up knowing that I was all I have got. I caged myself out of enjoyment and luxury, even when I got the money.

My husband on the other hand comes from a different world; both parents are extremely supportive and loving. He always tries to help me out of my constant mood swings, by reading therapy books and he believes that someday I will completely heal.

My worry is that my children may pick the bad character, habits and personality that I exhibit. I don’t want any of them to be anything like me. I want them to be jolly, open minded, excited, loving and all the good there is.

For the insecurities, I have fought half of them by learning to trust my husband and trying to be the best mother. Will my children turn out right? I wish they could be like their father.

My therapist said its time to get over the pity party orphan spirit, and build a good jolly mother for my children.  For months now, I have been trying that. The results are what I least expected.

I am learning to love my children and show it, I hug them at every chance. I even play dodge ball and roll in the grass with them. They are now learning to come to me easily and trusting me as their friend.

Our parents loved us but never showed it. So, we weren’t sure what they felt towards us. Reward your children when they do well in school or with house chores. Smile at them, explain to them how much they mean to you and give them all the love you can give, let no one tell you that loving your child right and showing it will make them spoilt brats.

Reassurance that they are loved will help them to lean on you and trust you even more. Get over the African notion that “it’s a hard life parenting” and lavish your children if you have the means and change the story for them.

Your toxic family and violent upbringing is not their fault, so don’t use it as an excuse to deny your children the best. This will help you too to heal gradually.

By Acan Violet

A mother, wife and feminist