Welcome to the Haggard Mothers’ Club!
While I was reeling under guilt about a very ‘motherly’ Facebook post from a friend, another friend’s post cheered me up. It read: “When a mother gets sick enough to need medication, the doctor should also prescribe tranquillisers for rest of her family so that she can actually rest.” A gleeful reaction over it might sound ominous coming from a mother of two very-quickly-(more-than-I-can-cope-with)-growing-up boys, but that expression is so me! Many mothers may not want to be judged or questioned about their motherly instincts, however, this post gives me the confidence and pleasure of knowing that I am not the only one who doesn’t feel as “motherly” as the mothering standards set by our society.
Though I had always known that the supremely sacrificial Nirupama-Roy-styled mothering was never for me, it has taken some painful experience for me to realise that the gorgeous coochy-cooing postcards of chubby kids is nothing but plain hogwash. Those lovely smiles are only a tiny fraction of an otherwise disorienting and depressing day that involves cleaning drools, poops and pukes, changing diapers, feeding and more feeding. I do not resent my boys for that, (may be, I do just a bit) I just wish the parenting books tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Children do not pop-out with instructions attached to them. All the books that one reads cover-to-cover during an enthusiastic, overwhelming, uncomfortable and ‘magical’ phase of 9 months is just a generic description of what-to-do in an average scenario. Nothing helps when exhaustion and hormones kick in. One of the women I made friends with during a mother-to-be-session at Ealing Hospital, London, had suggested that I do not take these books seriously. She was expecting twins and already had a hyper-active toddler to deal with. I smiled at her nodding, and assuming in my mind that my child would be different, and that I was only expecting one. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Each baby has its own rhythm and takes its own sweet time to settle to it. Unfortunately in my case, before my son could find his bearings, I ate one of the huge lists of ‘forbidden foods’ from a restaurant. Poor mite couldn’t sleep for days with tummy cramps. He needed to be held up in arms whilst standing and only then could he doze off. I and my husband took turns strolling with him. We hardly slept ourselves. At least at that point in time it was difficult for me to visualise my son as a blessing. I was glad I had him only when he slept peacefully and looked like an angel, but that span was too little for me to recover from my own fatigue.
Further, the books had suggested to have the nursery temperature of 24 degrees Celcius. And as soon as the thermometer reached 24, I would start removing the covers from the baby so as not to overheat him. It took me a few months to realise that 24 degrees in March, that too in London, didn’t mean that the baby didn’t need layers of warmth around him. Now, at 11, when I tell him to wear something warm or he might catch cold, my son just shrugs off the suggestion saying he’s never cold.
The book also said that breast-feeding a baby was a natural contraceptive. I only found out how ill-informed I was when I found my belly swelling again. I was already struggling with one, the second one was on his way. I didn’t know to laugh or cry. I was doing that intermittently.
Once, during one of my many meltdowns — which continue to still rattle me but are much paced about — a dear friend and young mother herself explained that the affection one felt for one’s child is directly proportional to the amount of pain one endures during one’s labour. I knew she had touched a raw nerve. I have a very low pain-bearing threshold and when it was my time to deliver, all measures of pain relief quickly turned out ineffective. I had to request an epidural which I felt was my only chance of survival. Both my boys are epidural kids, so I wonder if that’s the reason why we fail to bond with each other specially in relations to all things important.
“It’s because you didn’t have the support of the extended family and wise women to guide you through it in London. India is different. You get plenty of rest and ‘malish wali dai’. You and your inexperienced husband had to face the music,” says my generous mum trying to make me feel better.
She’s right, guilt doesn’t help anyone, so look at the bright side. My sons and I now share out-of-time snacks, watch movies, read books, play together and have funny and weird conversations. They’ve outgrown bed-time stories, sometimes find me embarrassing, are getting increasingly busy with their X-Box One and Pokemon yet are the most adored in my life.
The reason why I decided to share it was because after a decade-long experience I’ve realised that right and wrong in mothering is all very relative. There are times when ‘super mothers’ conversation sends me spiralling into the dark depths of guilt. It’s real hard work bringing up children. But now I know, what works for one may or may not work for another mother-child duo. What helps with one child may desperately fail for another. It’s a trial-and-error relationship where we grow as mothers and parents along with our growing children. Its a learning curve for everyone involved.
It’s not to put anyone off from bearing children. It’s to tell them that if you you want children, you may not be able to tick your wish list in life as earnestly as you would have wanted to. Many things, such as careers and friends, need to be put on hold. Zombie-like appearance is more common than others want you to believe. But that’s ok as well. There will come a time when you and your baby will bond. I live in that hope. I’ve started counting my boys as my blessings, at least majority of the time. Trust me, there would be times when, like me, you might also consider starting a Haggard Mothers’ Club and making a lot of money online.
For now, I’ve asked my boys to bear with me and co-operate while I try to figure out how to be a mother to puberty-hitting boys. I’m chuffed that they rate me 8 on a mothering scale of 10 when I am not screaming my head-off, reminding them of homework deadline nth time in an hour. Breath!