Motherhood: Taking Stock.
My daughter turned three in November. The story of my pregnancy and delivery is ordinary. Given to a late marriage and later baby, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and was on a strict diet and an almost military walking regimen through six months of my pregnancy. My husband was supportive, my mother who lived in another city was almost always thrilled over the phone, and neighbours and extended family doled out the usual ladlefuls of well-meaning (and unsolicited) advice.
I chose to continue working and resumed work when my daughter was four months old. I even worked out an arrangement so that I could work from home. I thought it would mean that I had the best of both worlds…. keeping at my profession, but also at home to keep track of every fluid ounce of food and every enormous milestone she’d attain.
The rest, is a story everyone’s all too familiar with. She sat, stood, walked and spoke at the right ages and continues to grow like a wild plant, her intense and earnest personality showing through in the things she says and does.
After her third birthday, I figured that some stocktaking was in order. In the last three years, I’ve heard myself say… in my mad moods… that I’ve given up everything for her, that this job of motherhood has consumed my existence, and that I know or experience scarce else.
How far of this was rant, and how much of it was genuine regret, I wondered.
For one, it’s been a very long time that I had a leisurely cup of tea or a meal. Most of my tea is cold and layered with film by the time I realise I haven’t finished it…. My meals are rushed, interrupted constantly by her chatter, sleep, waking up, general cranky moods, or, on a genuinely mad day, her need to go potty.
I’ve also seemingly lost the ability to concentrate because of having to constantly tend to the demands of a toddler. Even when I read, it’s very light fiction… the kind I’d earlier wince at when I saw them in bookstores. I just do not have the patience to read serious writing.
I don’t have much of a social life anymore. Well… at least the kind of social life I used to have before childbirth. No art exhibitions, no theatres, hardly any movies (although I’ve braved two films in a theatre with her, the second one was Moana that she hated and fell asleep in the second half), no girlfriend outings that span all day.
These have been replaced by mornings and evenings in the park, speaking to other mothers about what their kids like eating and don’t, and dozens of birthday parties where toddlers bounce off walls with all the sugar that’s put into them in the form of cake and finger foods.
I can even honestly say that I sometimes despise these gatherings and having to force myself into banal conversation with mothers I’d otherwise didn’t know exist. I’m not trying to be a snob, I’m sure they hate me too.
I’ve also lost out on travel. The crazy sudden backpack plans made on a weekend. Every trip to the mall is instead, an orchestrated opera of juggling with nap time, snack time, tantrums, bottles, and diapers. Well alright, we’ve stopped using diapers now but you know what I’m saying.
Have I gained anything at all? I’d love for this article to show a brilliant rainbow at the end, to say that every coo and chuckle has meant more to me than a thousand books and the pleasure of meaningful conversation.
But maybe I’m just tough to please. Or maybe those other stories they tell of everything falling into place magically is just exaggerated claim.
There have been moments and there have been days. Days when I’ve felt on top of the world, and in control of everything that is happening around me. Days when my work has been kind, and my daughter reasonable, and my mother feeling good. Days when we’ve gone to malls and had donuts and strawberry soda and she’s showered me with kisses to show her appreciation. School sports days when she’s done her best and we’ve clapped till our hands were sore, our hearts bursting with joy and gratefulness.
(I’ve forgotten to mention… my mother is a diagnosed case of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and has lived with us over the past year, and I also need to spend considerable time looking after her and convincing her that she will feel better eventually.)
But I digress. With my motherhood journey, some things have become easier, some others have become tough. We’re finally potty trained but we’ve also got the power of negotiation at every meal and playtime. We’ve started preschool but we’ve also become victims of bullying and snatching sometimes.
Does it all ever get easy? More importantly, are mothers ever able to enjoy their lives, even when their children grow up? Purely from a physical and mental energy standpoint, do we have it in us anymore by the time the kids grow up?
Maybe it’s just a constant road of change and adaptation, and responding in the best way ever to whatever curve balls life throws at you. Just as wild parties and boyfriends gave way to domesticity and home cooked meals and TV with the spouse. And we thought nothing of that.
So yes, it’s been tough. Yes, I live in hope. And if you’re a mother of a crazy preschooler reading this, so should you.
Because just as they’re growing, we are too. Just as they’re mastering skills, we are too.
About the future… who knows. Maybe we’ll have energy to jog in the mornings, maybe we’ll be on a wheelchair.
The important thing is to keep growing and though exhausted and, feel proud that you’re giving it the best you can. Reporting into the Momma Job everyday of your life and trying to build a good home and a good human being.
That’s a lot to accomplish, don’t you think?