I’m the mom of an almost-two-year-old. The past two years have taught me a lot about myself and I have a newfound respect for children and their wisdom and intelligence, which I wasn’t fully aware of. As I complete two years of being a mom, here are some thoughts I’ve had about motherhood. Do let me know if you can relate to any of this. Because one of the strengths of being a mom is having a mom network!
The Luxury of Research
To have access to a plethora of information about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting online is truly a luxury our parents didn’t have. Being an overachiever, I had 4 different pregnancy apps telling me what to expect every week of my pregnancy. Though it was information overload, information was power too and made me feel like I knew what I was doing, and I had explanations for every little symptom I felt.
No amount of research prepared me for childbirth though. After 12 hours of labour and drowning in an unending sea of pain, I finally had a C-Section, which at that point felt like mercy. But the moment I saw my tiny, puffy, pink baby, I was in awe.
Research taught me to be unapologetic about my new-mom paranoia and hysteria. It prepared me for the pain and eventual triumph and satisfaction of breastfeeding, it steadied me every time my baby did something different, which allowed me to calm my husband down too. It gave me strength and wisdom I didn’t earn but just read about.
Listening to My Child
No one told me how wise children are, even newborns. They know how to keep themselves alive and protect themselves from clueless new parents. The first time I realized this was when my son had his tiny head resting on my chest, and when his nose was blocked, he somehow lifted his little head to free his nasal passage. At that moment I knew he was wiser than I knew and I needed to listen to him, observe him and follow his lead. Once this realization hit, it changed my parenting game. Whether it was his sleep pattern, his feeding schedule or hitting his milestones, he knew what he had to do and when he had to do it. I just had to be patient and look out for cues to help him.
Even now as a toddler, I listen and encourage him to talk to me instead and communicate his needs, because more often than not, he’s right and he knows what he needs best. Of course, I don’t give in every time, and when I don’t, he knows I mean business and gives in.
I believe my culture, and many cultures, don’t really believe in listening to our children and giving them a say. Listening to them doesn’t mean we’re spoiling them, it means we’re showing them from a very young age that we respect their thoughts, feelings and needs, and that most times we will listen, and sometimes, though we will listen, we won’t follow, and they’ll just have to trust us. Even with the tone of voice I use, I try as much as is reasonable to speak to him like I would to a colleague or friend, with respect and kindness. Unless he acts like a brat, then I use my MOM voice!
Tantrums are not Personal
The tantrums started a little after he turned one. It isn’t constant, but when it happens, it’s a lot. At first, when it happened, I was totally inept to handle it. I’d make it all about me, why he was doing this to me, what had I done for him to be behaving this way. I would get worked up too, his mood would rub off on me, and mine on him, and we’d end up in tears on the floor.
But once I decided to make it about him, how he is feeling, how he is trying to cope and how hard and scary life must be for him, things changed. I started having empathy for what he was going through by seeing it through his eyes. What works for me is to not take that moment to discipline or be stern, to just be passive, stay close by, make minimal eye contact and wait it out. Everyone has their own formula, but the take away is to wait for it to pass.
Moms are Needy and Insecure
I’ve always considered myself to be a strong and independent woman who doesn’t need another man’s attention or love to validate my own existence…until I had a son! Motherhood has made me a very emotionally needy and insecure person who needs constant validation from my child. Am I relevant to him? Will he miss me when I’m not around? Does he even know I exist? Does he love me? This goes on and on. Add to this the mom guilt for the simple pleasures of life, like working 8 hours a day, going out with friends or taking a long shower. When I share my insecurities with my husband, he always tries to reassure me that it’s all in my head. But I know one thing for sure, I’m the happiest when I feel close to my child. The joy I get from being a mom is unparalleled.
‘Me Time’ is Important
So ladies, go to work for 8 hours without feeling bad, go out with your friends for coffee or take that long shower. Because not only do you deserve it, you need it for your sanity and happiness. If we aren’t feeling sane and happy, neither is our child and the rest of our family. And I believe mom guilt is a biological mechanism to make human women care about their children and not abandon them! So as long as we aren’t planning on doing that, ignore it!
Having a 50-50 Partner
I have to admit, everything I have been able to accomplish as a mom is because I’m blessed with a husband who is a 50-50 partner. Very early on in our parenting journey, I made it clear to him that he isn’t here to ‘help’ me with the baby. He is here to do 50% of the work. Once that expectation was established, it was much easier. I can always rely on him to be there, be as committed as I am, and share all my frustrations and accomplishments with. I also have someone to take over when I desperately need a break, or I just cannot handle it.
Work and the Stay-at-Home Mom
I have infinite respect for stay at home moms! What they do- stay home all day with the children, have no escape, be constantly on-the-job, must be excruciatingly hard and emotionally draining. When I first got pregnant, I had decided to quit my job to focus on my baby, at least for a year or two. Every mom I shared this with strongly advised me to wait, have the child first, go back to work, then see how I feel. I’m so glad I decided to listen to them, because, I’m so grateful to have somewhere to go every day for 8 hours where I can be my old self, contribute to society and be productive. Yes, I do feel guilty, and count the number of hours I spend with him every day and the quality of the time we spend together. But I wouldn’t give up my job for anything.
The Mom Network
When I became pregnant and posted about it on social media, many women I’m connected to online but hadn’t spoken to in years got in touch, just to touch base, congratulate me on my pregnancy and just check up on me. After having the baby, I realized there was a small network of moms that was forming, both online and around me. Moms who would reach out to ask doubts, share stories or reassurances. I started doing it myself. Having a network of women who are new-age moms, with an explicit understanding that there is no judgement and we’re all just doing the best we can, is amazing. It reminds you that no one is perfect, that you may be doing better in some areas than you thought or that you’re not the only one going through something.
Falling in Love with your Child
So I didn’t fall madly and deeply in love with my baby the moment I laid eyes on him. Ours was a more slow-burn kind of love. I spent the first six months desperately trying to keep the little guy alive. There was no time for love. It’s the phase when you give and you give and get nothing in return. Not a smile or kiss or a word of gratitude. Then they hit that six-month mark when they become super cute and can communicate with you in their own way. Slowly they learn words and gestures, show you that they prefer you over other humans, they laugh at your jokes and miss you when you’re away. Before you know it, they become your little buddy, and you start having fun with them. This was my love story with my son. I slowly and surely fell in love with him over the course of these past two years, and I know my love for him is only going to grow, though I can’t imagine how I can love him anymore, but I’m sure my heart will find the space.
Accepting Your New Body
There isn’t an easy way to say this, but you give up a lot through your pregnancy and motherhood. One of the hardest things you will give up is your body. We associate a lot about ourselves to how our body looks. We attach our self-worth and confidence to our bodies. And after you give birth, you don’t recognize your body anymore. Not just how it looks, but how it moves and feels. Standing up after you’ve been sitting gets hard, sitting down on the playmat and playing with your baby can be a task! Clothes don’t look the same, your skin and hair might change too. It’s a very difficult transition to go through and it can be a depressing one. The moment I just accepted it for what it is was the first step towards happiness. The next step was when I decided to do something about it, with diet and exercise, a year and a half after my child was born.
The New Mom Fog Lifts
Just after birth, while you’re in the phase of trying to keep your baby alive, you don’t realize that you’re surrounded by a sort of hormonal fog, your head isn’t clear, everything is a blur. Its the hormones and the sleep deprivation. I assumed this was my new normal and I’d always be like this. But as time passed, the mom fog eventually lifted. I started thinking clearly and getting a better perspective on my life. I was slowly getting small parts of my life back. More sleep, more independence, more freedom. And I was less paranoid and hysterical. I slowly started recognizing myself again, I still had an identity outside of just being a mom. I now remind all my new mom friends that the fog will lift, and you will be yourself again, sooner or later.
Its Tests Your Relationship Like Nothing Else
I was with my husband for 11 years by the time I had my child, and we’ve always had a tight bond. But my new-mom hormones turned me into a hysterical woman and really tested our relationship. But you come out of it stronger and you have something to show for it, a mascot for your love and friendship, your cute new baby. We fought a lot, weren’t in sync, I kept looking for reasons to yell at him because I just didn’t have any other way to expend my frustrations. I couldn’t take it out on my innocent newborn, neither on my well-meaning mother. So I chose my husband. And I always tell my friends, its the bargain husbands make. We carry the child and birth them, they, in exchange, put up with our craziness for a short amount of time! I think its more than fair!
I’d really love to hear from you what your major realizations have been after being a mom. Please do share your stories on here, so we can have a small network of moms right here and we can feel a little less alone.