Motherhood comes with its own challenges but the toughest happens to be the guilt. Key is to shun the guilt in dustbin after all it is the toughest job on planet Earth and YOU are doing it!
A positive pregnancy test had me on cloud nine in June 2011. All those dreamy and wonderful things people talk about being a mother were already running through my mind. I spoke to my unborn son, told him stories, sang to him and even wrote a journal just for him. So after a healthy, fun and smooth pregnancy phase, my baby was in my arms and i was the happiest person in the world! And then the crying, diaper changing and feeding started, and the dream world began to collapse!
All Consuming Guilt
Tantrums started (not my baby’s, mine!) and the guilt crept in everyday. So i was gifted a wonderful child but like every child he cried. Okay a little more than an average child, it was colic or god knows what even doctors gave up after all the tests came out fine. They asked us to wait and watch. All day of pacifying him would leave me completely exhausted and cranky. But worst was the guilt that i felt for feeling tired and angry. My child was a few days old and may be in pain with his tiny little body trying to adjust in this world and here i was, a fully grown adult who wanted a baby all along and was now cranky and crying all the time. Sulking had become my second nature and oh the husband had it worst. I treated him like “Hillary supporters” would treat “Trump’s”….may be worse. Reality was that our entire family was adjusting with this new change and i felt that 90% of the work was dumped on me. And what made it more difficult was that i was first to have a child amongst friends so had almost zero idea about practically taking care of the child. (i had never seen one so small, ever!). And all parents we ever spoke to, always chose to leave the unpleasant details of child rearing from discussions so before the child came, it all sounded like a cute teddy bear coming into our life (only this one smiles and responds). What could be better! Okay now i could always “Google” the nuances of taking care of an infant, but trust me “my baby is making me go mad” kind of articles never appealed to me. I mean those cutesy things in the most wonderful clothes and smelling so innocent all the time…how could they do anything but love you. Well the truth is that it is actually love they need and want but, feeding, diaper changing and inability to indulge in simple pleasures of life is what makes the journey difficult.
To tell you the truth, I was almost suicidal when the above picture was taken. The tiny thing in my arms was somehow making me go completely crazy but was also keeping me from doing anything stupid. A skin allergy that made me scratch until i bled was further making it difficult to cope with the situation. I was insecure that something would happen to my son and was completely obsessed with taking care of him single handedly. It was a big mistake because girls, super moms only exist in movies and fiction. Many people who have seen me raise my child from a distance think I am one hell of a super mom but only those who have been part of the process know that it has been an uphill task right from the word “go”. Do I regret it, no! I think I would still do everything the way it happened because that is how i am. I can’t change the person I am. I want a nice clean house, a timely bathed and fed baby and this quest to perfection comes with a price tag. Now for each one of you, setting priorities and sticking to them has to happen when there is a child involved. And this is a decision which is “each to her own”. Trust me you are right in whatever decision you are taking, if it is cleanliness Vs Sanity and you choose sanity, you are right. If you choose the former even then you are right. I mean don’t judge yourself and don’t let the judgement of others affect you.
Well back to depression, I decided I did not want to see a therapist because basically I had no time. I fought it for more than two years and sometimes I still feel those blues ( though now its my PMS that causes them i hope!). My husband helped me in every way he could. I took up my writing hobby to another level and joined a network of bloggers. It was extra work but helped me relax and gave me a sense of achievement at the end of the day. I was always working before my child came along so being “out of work” felt a little unnatural to me. Slowly and steadily living a day at a time, the situation became better. I realized the negativity that came from certain social interactions affected me badly, so i sidelined such interactions.
Today my son is 5 years old and I feel a sense of pride every time I look at him. I have also made peace with myself and the kind of person I am. I am not a softy, never have been. I am tough task master but I am lucky I have a husband who plays the role of the tender mother to our son. I have some takeaways from my experience as a mom that I think will help y’all!
1. The Supermodel body vanishes and you hate it!
Which is okay! No one likes a clump of loosely hanging flesh around their waist but it goes within a month. The bigger challenge is to come back to a fit shape. Now remember every body has its own type and just because someone is back into their old jeans within a couple of months, you too will be (It is unrealistic for most of the women). At 20, you don’t have a body of a thirteen years old, so accept it that after the baby you are going to have a mommy body not a girlfriend body! Give yourself time, my son is 5 and it is now that I have really started feeling good about how I look. The key is to eat balanced healthy food and exercise. If you are like me then join classes. When you pay you never miss! Keep trying various exercise routines to choose what you enjoy. So i dabbled between Yoga which was too slow for me to Aerobics which was way too fast. Finally power yoga is what i liked! Also if you keep looking at these glossy mags where models and actors have gone back to looking the same like before remember, there is something called photo shop to make them look thinner, they have make up on and they get millions to stay in that shape. So you just chill!
2. Vanity is not so Vane after all
In between such a serious matter of motherhood, we are discussing vanity! But isn’t it true that most of the women suffer from body issues and inferior body image after child birth? I did not put on weight during my pregnancy or even after i had my baby. It was almost 9 months later that i started piling up and how! And the thing about bad body image is that it affects you badly at psychological level. Confidence takes a downturn, sex life goes out of window and you always find yourself looking ugly. The key to looking and feeling good lies in changing your style. Covering up the problem areas and putting on some make up when going out. A little red lipstick, some mascara and a nice dress is all it takes to feel great! Now let me show you two pictures, both from same vacation….see how i look in one and the other. The secret lies in clothing and camera angle!
I continued to put on weight after this one for some unknown reasons but no way I am uploading those images!!
3. Its Okay to let it go
Again if you are like me, then this one will take time but work on it, trust me you will be happier. One Sunday when i was as working like crazy, setting the house right, cooking, putting things in place, my husband just held my hand and made me sit. He said sit for one and half hour and talk to me. Let the house be untidy, just let it go and you will realize that after one and half hour you are still alive. Let it go! Those were powerful words and now every once in a while, i let it go. In fact when i was writing this piece, it was already afternoon and i had not cleaned the house or even taken a bath. But I was happy with the way this article was turning out! Order food or let everyone eat bread for a day, its okay. Don’t touch work unless it is about feeding the baby which naturally only you can do!
4. Take a Break
We all know taking a break helps. Don’t we take leave from office to go on vacation and holidays? Then why as mothers we feel so guilty about taking a small one for ourselves? Go for a night out, dance and have some fun. You are a human being before you became a mother and we are social animals! We need happiness and happy moments to survive on. If you get somebody trustworthy to take care of the baby then escape as a couple otherwise have your gals night out!
5. Toss the negativity in the dust bin
Are you really stressed out because of your responsibilities and the baby or its the expectation of everyone around you that is affecting you rather badly? Now when it comes to a new mother, whole world becomes expert advisor and critic. You are judged for everything! Now you cannot change that but you can definitely change the way you respond to it. Say “F*** off, i am doing best of what i can, if you want you can help or just get off my back!” If right now, reading all this is sort of bogging you down, don’t read. It is as simple as that. Apart from all this, I strongly believe that listening to negative comments or bitching can make you feel worse later on. So steer clear, surround yourself with people who are calm, always have a nice thing or two to talk about or make you feel welcomed. That next door neighbor who gives you her sofa to sulk, listens and gives you a nice cup of coffee is all you need! That bestie who always has the most obnoxious gossip in the town is what you don’t need right now!
6. Raising is not easy, training is worst!
When it comes to first year of a child, every week is a milestone and every month you are training your child for something. Sleeping, eating, this and that, it looks like a never ending process. But training the child is a persistent effort and no matter how tired you are, you have to work on it. When i trained my child to sleep by himself, he was six months old and it took me 5 days to train him but those 5 days were like 40! Getting him into routine of sleeping at 7.30 pm everyday was something i kept at for almost a month. Exactly same routine, same way and same time! It yielded results. The thing about routine is that even at this time when he is 5, his routine is impeccable and has become a habit! Now it is up to you as a mother to decide whether you want this. Some women are happy sleeping with the baby, they are okay running behind the child for feeding and completely at ease with the fact that the child sleeps late and gets up late…..i would say no problem at all if this is what suits you.
7. Socialize with mommies …but beware!
Being part of a circle which has mother and kids of the same age sort of helps. Now it helps because you realize you are not the only one who is exhausted and going through this phase. But refer to point no. 5, don’t let those better than perfect mothers make you feel absolutely worthless. Frankly as i said there is price tag to everything. May be its all a facade, or their child is not as cranky or awake as yours or may be they have help at home or whatever reason that will make you feel happy about the work you are doing. If it still makes you feel miserable, bow down and get back lest negativity shrouds you again!
8. Sex life…what Sex Life?
Frankly after seeing so much of poop, diapers, feeding and having a child clinging on to you, sex is the last thing you are thinking about. Add to it the inferior body image and you would probably not even get naked in front of your own husband! But you know the thing about guys….they are not as observant as we assume them to be. He probably would not even notice those stretch marks even if they were staring at him in the face. In fact he would be super thankful that you thought about him in the middle of all this! To tell the truth, getting back to that amazing sex life you had may take time. And it is perfectly alright. Accept it, talk about it to your partner and move on. For more refer back to “take a break” and “let it go” points!
9. Help Me!
We all need help and when you are shy or too egotistic to ask for it, it backfires. I asked my husband for help and he understood that i needed it quite badly. He understood that i was trying hard to adjust with my new life with the child. He helped me. In fact he is the reason i coped and came out of my post natal depression without a doctor. He would talk to me, took care of our son after he came back from office and was with him on all holidays so that i got a break. There was this amazing thing he made me do once when i was down and out. He asked me to list all negative and positive things about my life. When the list was done, there were just a few negatives against a heap of positives. It made me feel great instantly!
10. One Day at a Time
This is probably the biggest point- acceptance. Accept and appreciate yourself. As I mentioned earlier i am not very tender or motherly. People ask me “how can you see him cry?” and I tell them “i don’t let my son blackmail me with tantrums”. I know i can go and talk to him in a loving way and may be he will understand. But I choose to stand aloof ignoring him until he gets his act together. I feel bad at times, but this is who I am. Just like this, there are number of instance when i don’t feel i am doing a great job as a mother. I have had comments like “There is no mother inside you” and i have taken it all with a smile. The fact is even though there is no mother inside me, i am still a mother and doing my part and just like i don’t have to prove my faith in god, i don’t have to prove my love for my son to anyone! In the end i have learned to live one day at a time, the good, bad, best and ugly are all part of it!
The Day Today
You see my profile pic or even the pictures in this article where i look all happy and quite nice? Those were the good times of being with my son, and frankly this is what I will remember (or at least prefer to remember) in the time to come. You will think, my child is 5 and now things must be looking up at my end. Well let me tell you how mistaken you are. He goes to school now, has a strong individuality of his own, doesn’t want to do homework, wants to see tab and phones (i am absolutely against this one!) and has an ego, the size of an elephant! In fact this morning husband and I had a fight over him. My son cried, i got angry and husband got emotional. But then there are good days and bad. I still have guilt but i do not let that guilt take over and prevent me from doing the duties I must. And I am talking about the duties that hold me responsible for myself, amongst other. Sometimes on a rough day i go to my son’s room and sleep by his side to feel better looking at his innocent face. I go to my husband and say sorry without getting into wrongs and rights. Write, because that is what i really like to do. I concentrate on the good habits my son has. Take a time out and feel good about it. When i start thinking clearly i go, hug them both and go on with the perfect life god has given me! I might have a meltdown tomorrow but what matters is that i get up every time I am hit hard…..that is the life of a mother and now that you are in it, live it the best way you can because that is exactly each one of you is doing already! In the end- cry, feel guilty, get angry, be crazy but come back from it all more resilient, composed and wonderful! “Keep calm and keep being mother does not work” for everyone!
Hope this piece helps you all wonderful mothers out there! Let me know how has been your experience with motherhood, tell me your stories and just about anything about being a mom in the comments below or mail me on [email protected]!
Originally published at medium.com