This post originally appeared on Kidsstoppress
There are times when I wish that having a glass of wine at 8 am was considered normal. How about a shot of something smooth? Just a quick one to calm the nerves. As a mother of two boys - a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old, I have come very close to talking myself into that one glass of wine in the morning before starting a day where I knew a difficult or emotionally challenging situation would arise. I am sure many of you moms are quietly admitting to yourselves that you have thought the same now and then.
Just another day in a mom's life:
Let me explain how and why this thought entered my head in the first place. My best friend and I were venting to each other a few days ago, about how emotionally draining it is to watch our kids scream and cry during their first days of school. My 3-year-old who has been going to school since he was 9 months, old thinks of school as his second home. Of course, there was the initial period when he started going alone where it took two teachers and akkas (helpers) to pick him up and take him inside. But then it got better and school became a part of him.
The only thing he talked about when he came home from school without taking a breath, was school. As most schools do, it recently shut for a 2-week break before commencing Term 2. As the break came to end, I was excited for him to get back to routine. Little did I know what was in store. The “I don’t want to go to school” and crying began again and I realized the 2-week break with him being at home with me more than usual had set him back a step. His familiarity and love for the school did not seem to make a difference. However, once inside the classroom, the crying stopped and he was back to his usual self. Hearing this, I was relieved.
As a mother, my first instinct was to pacify him. Immediately, the “poor baby” and “I wonder what he must be feeling” emerged. I started to feel bad for him and tried thinking of all the reasons possible of why this could be happening. Maybe it wasn’t the 2 week break and it was something at school that was setting him off. But then I realized that he was fussing from Day 1 since school re-opened so it must be something else. If it was the separation anxiety kicking in again, how could I be so mean to send him off to school when he was crying to be with me? After a while of feeling this way and expressing my concerns to my mother, she was the one who finally put an end to the pity I was feeling for my son. She threw two simple words at me – “TOUGHEN UP!!!”
Why moms have to be emotionally strong:
What she said hit me and it hit me hard. I had always thought of myself as strong and tough and as someone who did not get affected by difficult situations very easily. However, it dawned on me that when it came to both my boys, I was faint-hearted.
I realized that if I wanted my elder one to toughen up and go to school without crying, then the toughening up needed to start with me first. I needed to throw him into the centre of the activity and walk away, no looking back.
It is also easier said than done. Whether it is a vaccination or the first day of school, we as mothers need to be emotionally strong. I remember refusing to stand and watch when my elder son was getting one of his first vaccinations after he was born. It occurred to me later, that the example I was setting for him was probably not a very good one, at the same time making me weaker as a mother.
My friends and I keep joking about how a glass of wine before an emotionally draining situation would be a saving grace, making it easier for us mothers to cope with the situation. It would most definitely result in less thinking, more confidence and a tougher heart. I have lost count of the number of times I have come home and cried after witnessing my son being taken into school weeping. In retrospect, it didn’t seem like a situation that warranted blood tears but at that time I had been close to breaking. The one thing I can say for sure is that kids are not for the faint-hearted!
The need to go beyond the comfort zone:
Kids are more resilient than we think. We tend to forget that sometimes. The need for over-protecting arises more than we could have ever imagined but the key is to condition our minds to remember that pushing them in certain situations to go beyond their comfort zone is for the best. We need to judge depending on the circumstances if pushing them to do something they don’t want to do is the right thing or not. In the cases where it is the right thing, we as mothers need to put up a tough exterior, however hard it may be. Our minds and hearts will probably tell us two very different things.
Today, I am a work in progress. The sight of my son crying when he doesn’t want to do something, does not make me go weak at the knees but instead empowers me to help him adapt and adjust to the situation. In a blog post I read recently on Babycenter, the author Stephanie Metz talks about how modern parents need to get real. She says and very rightly so that “the younger generations of today are being taught that they shouldn’t have to ever put up with anything that doesn’t make their hearts feel like rainbow coloured unicorns are running around pooping skittles onto piles of marshmallows.”
Something for all us moms to think about.
If you had asked a mom-to-be a few decades ago what her biggest fear was about becoming a mother, the answer would have been related to sleepless nights, breastfeeding or cleaning poop. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Who isn’t concerned about whether they will be able to get a full night’s sleep till their child turns 18? Fast-forward a few decades to the world we live in today and if we ask a mom-to-be the same question, chances of her biggest fear being related to her child’s safety will probably be very high.
What is our role as a parent in ensuring the safety of our children? Safety begins at home; I am sure this is something that we can all agree on. There is only so much that we can expect other caregivers, schools etc. to take responsibility for. The primary responsibility of their safety is very much under our control. There are situations where sometimes their safety is not under our control but we need to do the best we can. We are all aware of the various incidents that have taken place in schools across India, the most recent being at a school in Delhi where a Class 2 boy was the victim. I don’t think I need to go into the details because they were splashed all over the news and internet. However morbid and outrageous these crimes may be, each one teaches us a lesson.
One of the first things I looked at while selecting a school for my elder son was the safety aspect. For me, a good education and other factors play second fiddle. Most schools have CCTV cameras to monitor the halls and classrooms. However, is that enough? It is important to also evaluate how vigilant the faculty members and helpers are. I am sure all schools have safety guidelines or laws by which they are supposed to abide by. For example, my elder son’s school insists on only the parents coming to pick up the children when school lets out. In the event of another family member or caregiver picking up the child, one of the parents is expected to send an email the day before with the name and photograph of the person. Without any confirmation from the parents, the teachers do not let the child out of the gate with anyone. This was something that immediately made me realise that my child would be in excellent and more importantly, safe hands. I have personally seen this precaution be put into practice. I was also comforted by the fact that I did not see many men entering and leaving the school building. Whether your child is a boy or a girl, the safety precautions to be taken remain the same. Gone are the days where boys were believed to be safer than girls; recent incidents in schools have proven that. Now where does our role come in?
Growing up, there wasn’t a day when my parents sent my sisters or me to school with the driver alone or with a caregiver who hadn’t worked with us long. There were a few months where we were sent to school in the school bus. I remember my mother doing a full background check on the bus driver before we even set foot in the bus. Did it take time? Yes. Was it a tedious process? Of course. But it was ultimately worth it. A parent’s worry and concern can never be questioned because it is in the best interest of the child. Trust is a funny thing. You may trust a person to do many things for you but no one other than immediate family or a baby-sitter who is considered family, will ever be good enough to take care of your child. That is just how parents are wired. Not everyone has the privilege of having immediate family in the same city to take care of their children, so they turn to others. I attended a Child Abuse Awareness workshop in Chennai recently which opened my eyes to so many issues that I had never deemed important. The speaker talked about establishing certain ‘trusted people’ for our children. They can be grandparents, baby-sitters, aunts, uncles and so on but the list should not be an endless one. A good idea would be to have these trusted people drop and pick-up your child from school if you are unable to. This is not to say that every person who is not a part of the ‘trusted people’ list is set out to harm your child. Someone once told me that you can never trust anyone but yourself whole-heartedly. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to live life without considering others as trust-worthy. However, we need to pick and choose the people we trust our children with. Problems arise when young children are sent to school with drivers alone and no other supervision. Drivers often do not make the trusted people list. My belief has always been to avoid an unfavourable situation completely rather than trying to salvage it once it occurs.
You know what they say – reality is a b****. I am not being an alarmist and trying to scare you all but we do have to be pragmatic. We always think “it could never happen to us.” I know I always did. But each passing year has made me not only older but wiser. As my elder son is only 3 years old, I prefer to drop or pick him up myself or else have an immediate family member do it. I also wait and watch to make sure he enters the school building before I walk away. My son is a car buff so it is very easy for him to turn around and get into anyone’s car if they try tempting him with candy. After all, which child doesn't love candy! So, we have cautioned him not to get into any stranger’s car unless his parents are with him. Direct questioning never works with young children so during his and my playtime, I try and get some information out of him about how school was that day. The replies often give you a good sense of whether your child had a good day and more importantly a safe day. Feelings of insecurity and fear become evident in the way your child plays and in his/her actions.
Every parent has their own set of measures to ensure their child's safety; you have now read some of mine. I would love to hear from you all on what yours are.
This post originally appeared on Kidsstoppress
Parenthood comes with a wide range of expectations and responsibilities. Having someone depend on you 100% for all their wants and needs is probably the biggest responsibility a person can undertake. When it comes to raising our children, we face moral dilemmas daily. We question ourselves every second of the day, wondering if anything we have said or done has been detrimental to them.
As parents, we all hope for and want our children to excel at everything they take on in life; be it academics, sports, theatre, art and so on. Moreover, we crave for happiness for our children. We try to give them the freedom to learn and discover who they are for themselves and teach them to be passionate about whatever they decide to pursue. These days so many contrasting and interesting methods of learning are being utilized, and therefore school for most children has become a place of self-discovery. Sometimes during this process of self-discovery is when many parents detect certain learning disabilities in their child.
It is often confusing for parents of children with learning disabilities. Many times, the signs are extremely subtle and difficult to identify which is why we sometimes see the learning disability being identified when the child is much older. It can be hard for parents to know whether things are normal or not, especially if it is your first child. Some of the familiar learning disabilities children experience today are ADHD and Dyslexia.
Dealing with the truth that your child has a learning disability is often a very emotionally draining process.
Denial is one of the most frequently used defense mechanisms. It can only temporarily repress the situation but not erase it completely. In this case, denial of a learning disability in your child can be tricky. I remember a case where a mother was slowly realizing that her child was not developing speech as per his age mandated. At the age of four, he was still speaking single words and not in full sentences. Following her gut instinct, she concluded that something needed to be done. She lived in a joint family along with her husband and son. When she mentioned this to her mother-in-law, her belief that her son may have a learning disability was instantly quashed. She was told that she was being fussy and over-thinking the situation. This was a case of the child’s grandparents not being able to accept the truth. Her husband was neutral. However, the mother still had her doubts so she went independently to consult with a speech therapist who then confirmed that her son did, in fact, require language therapy. The next step was to engage the entire family in counseling with the speech therapist.
The role of schools
Schools face a colossal amount of backlash from many parents for suggesting that the child may have a specific learning disability. There is an increased amount of awareness and engagement from schools today regarding learning disabilities and the symptoms. Earlier, unmotivated children who did not show any interest in school work were pulled aside and termed as having a learning disability, when in fact they just needed to be pushed a little. Many children are often referred first to doctors and psychiatrists to see if the learning disability can be ‘treated’ with medication. It is challenging to distinguish between a child who cannot learn and do something from a child who will not learn and do something. However now teachers are trained to spot any form of learning disability early on, alert the parents and work with them on a special and structured routine for the child.
Children with learning disabilities are as smart and talented as their peers; they are not ‘different’ in any way, contrary to popular theory. They are just not able to accomplish the task at hand at the same speed and with the same method as their peers. So, parents work with professionals like special educators to help their child stay on track and on par with their peers. They are taught that many people are successful in overcoming difficulties and that they will soon be among those people.
A learning disability is not the result of any form of negligence from the parents. This is something that parents need to chant to themselves repeatedly. The most you can do is keep your eyes open for signs of difficulties your child may be facing in school or even at home when one on one time is spent with them in educational activities. Support from the parents is crucial and focusing on optimistic outcomes can make a world of difference to the child’s progress. As Ignacio Estrada said, “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
This post originally appeared on Her View From Home
There are certain things that make my heart skip a beat. When I was young and restless, it was if a guy I liked smiled at me or if I was expecting some exciting news. How life has changed. My heart now does a double take every time my sons smile at me – one with his bugs bunny teeth and the other with his toothless smile. But yesterday when my elder son told me he was happy, my heart melted.
There was no preceding event based on which he said it. He just came up to me, put his head on my lap and said “I’m happy”; this from an almost 3-year-old. As a mother, those three words are the most sought after ones. Happiness is what we aim for, among other things.
But is it only happiness we want for our children? I think aside from this, what most mothers want for their children, is success. Wanting success has become an obsession. To achieve this, mothers are now going that extra mile to cultivate their children to survive in the constantly changing world. We are preparing them to survive in a world which we can’t even imagine so we enrol them in all kinds of classes– language, sports, music, drama and more. There is, of course, always an upside and downside to everything in life. The upside to this is that children in today’s generation are brilliant and incredibly talented. Gone are the days when only academics mattered. The downside? All this focus on “training” children is causing anxiety and exhaustion in them and in us, leading to various degrees of unhappiness. This is something many mothers do not want to admit. The competition today among children is brutal, resulting in them losing out on
their childhood – a childhood meant to be filled with freedom. Structure, stability and various degrees of freedom make happy children.
I have always questioned myself in my role as a mother. I think that this self-doubt is an ongoing process with most mothers, always questioning ourselves every step of the way and wondering if what we are doing is good for our children or hurting them in any way. We are always in doubt about whether or not our children are emotionally happy. We search and ache for some sort of validation for our actions concerning our children. This is normal and human. No mother knows it all and some self-examination and re-evaluation is sometimes good for the soul. This is how we as mothers incorporate change and take motherhood in our stride. Motherhood is a continuously evolving process, forcing mothers to change with it. However, I have learned that the biggest validation does not come from family or friends, but from our children themselves.
Happiness is an emotional state which needs to be developed. The Law of Cause and Effect is something I try to practice as a mother. I have learned from my own experiences that when you direct positive words, actions and energy (positive energy) at someone, the same positive energy gets thrown back at you. The quality of your thoughts controls your actions. We want our children to be healthy, happy and free. Simple as that. For them to be so, their mothers need to be healthy, happy and free individuals. I truly believe mothers are responsible for the energy that is received by their children and we all want to nudge positive energy in their direction. If we are able to do that, based on Newton’s law of motion, this energy will bounce right back to us.
Lasting happiness is complicated, but rewarding. It is a habit. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product”, a quote which rings true and one which would serve all us mothers out there, well.
I remember my elder son’s first day of school. After a year of Mom & Me classes, the day had finally come when he would be attending school on his own. It would probably be the most emotional day for me as the mother, having realized that the time had finally come for my son to spread his wings. Choosing a pre-school for my son had not been a difficult task. My husband and I were always very clear on the kind of school we want for our children; a school that would focus on letting them live, make learning fun and focus on helping them experience their childhood. We were lucky enough to find a school whose philosophies matched ours. But this is now.
A video called 'The Kindergarten' by Innovative Global Education was sent to me recently and talks about Friedrich Froebel's (who laid the foundation for modern education) Children's Garden and about the US education system. The content of that video made an incredible impact on me and got me thinking about our children. Times are changing and the way children are being taught is contrasting compared to a few decades ago when the teaching methods were traditional and text book based. We as parents along with the schools are now focusing on changing what we want our children to grow up learning. The focus is less on WHAT they learn but rather on HOW they learn.
“I want my daughter to go to IIT when she grows up”, “I want my son to study Medicine and become a famous Doctor when he grows up”, “Why are you playing with a Chef’s hat and frying pan? You need to be sitting and doing a page from your workbook and not wasting time playing”, “Unless you can sit in this chair for a half hour and write the numbers 1-50, you are not getting up”. I think these and similar statements are ones that we are all too familiar with as parents; we have either said it ourselves at one point or another or have over- heard another parent say it. These statements are also nothing out of the ordinary. But if we dig a little deeper, are they conducive to helping our children grow? We all have ambitions for our children. It is natural to want to check off pre-defined milestones at each age of development. I am sure most parents when asked “what do you want your child to be when he/she grows up?” will answer “anything, if he/she is happy doing it.” It is also human to know from the day your child is born, which college he/she will attend, or have specific ambitions for your child – Doctor, Lawyer, Scientist and so on. Having said this, how do we make sure that we do not pressure our children very early on to meet certain expectations that we have set for them?
It is not an uncommon sight to see a childhood be taken over by homework, hours of practice workbooks, tuition and tests. For many, this is the best way for their child to learn and become successful in life. Often the discussion here is whether we are limiting the child’s overall growth by doing this. Children thrive when imagination and creativity is nurtured. They are built to learn by experiencing various touches, smells, sounds, sights and tastes. But sitting for hours in a classroom learning only from a text book does not achieve this. Evaluating children based on how long they can sit still in a chair without standing up, how long they can keep quiet and how they perform on tests, paints only half a picture of the child’s potential. The strengths are over-looked and sometimes take a back seat. We end up imposing a glass ceiling, which is an invisible barrier on their growth, not realising the long-term impact that this ceiling will create. We end up limiting their capabilities.
Learning was a rocky journey for me growing up. I was never a good test-taker and reading and studying from text books was something I never related to. Even at the pre-school level, I would find myself looking for someone to come up with creative ways to teach me a concept so that I could understand it better. Later however, the level of understanding was judged on material that was taught only one way and on test scores. There were never-ending parent-teacher conferences where my mother was told that I needed to get better grades and that I needed extra help with certain things. In my head, there was a voice screaming “I know my stuff!” but unfortunately it was a silent voice which would never be heard.
After having children of my own, I knew immediately that I wanted the world for them. I wanted to give them the opportunity to feel the sand slip through their fingers every day at the same time learning about different textures, watch centipedes inching along in the grass at the same time learning about how many legs it has, splash with all their might in a splash pool at the same time learning what floats and sinks in water. I was clear that as a parent, my energy, time and resources needed to be placed in the right places. Even though my elder son is only 3 years old right now, I have quickly come to realise that the best gift I have probably given him is free time, enabling him to discover himself and his passions.
We need to take a step back and put into perspective what it is that we really want for our children. Parents often have similar hopes and dreams for their children. As I always say, there is no right and wrong parenting style; it’s each to their own. Whatever pattern of learning each of us follow, I hope we can help our children unleash their utmost potential. I hope that we can help them rise above the expectations we have set for them, thereby breaking the glass ceiling.
When I was pregnant with my elder son, I used to often sit and wonder what values I would want to teach my children and ponder over the kind of human beings I would want them to grow up to be. Of course, every mother wants her child to be gentle, kind, caring, compassionate, strong and so on. But if I had to dig deep down and really think about not only the values they need to integrate into their character, but also the values they display in their everyday behavior, I know I want my children to be honest, forgiving, respectful, charitable, believe in themselves, committed and courageous. Frankly, I could go on and on! Not only do I hope they imbibe all these values but that they also use these values to make a difference in the world. But above all, I want them to exhibit equality in every aspect of their lives.
Whether you have boys or girls, the world we live in today demands that they are treated the same and taught the same things. Let me explain. Living in India, the question of equality is always a question mark. When I talk about equality here, I am referring to the equality between men and women or should I say the inequality. This issue of gender equality is long-standing and one where the progress is extremely slow, bordering on non-existent. The almost ‘inferior’ status of women even today is one of the many reasons for the rise in crimes against women. But is that the only reason why there is an upward trend in crimes against women, especially rapes, dowry deaths and honor killings? My answer is no. The safety of women in India has been at stake for a long time now and no law put down by the people running the country will ever make a difference. One of the main reasons that men even in the year 2017 feel like they have the power and the right to hold women back and mistreat them, is because growing up, they have not been taught otherwise. Now is the time to teach our sons to act respectfully instead of telling our daughters to be careful.
Let’s talk about what we as mothers as part of our parenting philosophy should be teaching our sons. Lessons in gender equality should begin early and be repeated often. It is never too early to start. But there is something else we as mothers need to focus on even before addressing equality with our sons. Boys are always taught to be assertive and aggressive. Rarely do you hear anyone telling their sons to be gentle, kind and sensitive. There is a popular ad by VogueEmpower with Madhuri Dixit which deals with domestic violence and how boys don’t cry. This ad rubbed many people the wrong way, but I think it clearly portrayed a big part of what is wrong with the world today and the changes that we as parents need to make to our parenting philosophy.
As a mother to two boys, I try every day to refrain from saying ‘don’t cry’. Ever. Of course, it does come out at times, but it is a work in progress. As I mentioned earlier, it is never too late to start. If my son shuts the door on his hand by mistake and cries, I say “let it out”. If he falls in the playground, I don’t say “be a big boy, stop crying”. There is no rule against boys crying and there never has been. It is a social norm that has been put into place by us. My elder son loves walking around in other people’s shoes (men’s and women’s). He also loves parading around with my handbag slung over his shoulder. I take pictures when he does that. He loves Pink. So, if he likes a toy or a shirt in pink, I buy it for him. He is also obsessed with cars and repairing them. He loves Tennis and Golf. Who took charge and said Blue is for boys and Pink is for girls? Holding back our sons from exploring their more gentle and sensitive side is what gives them the idea that girls are supposed to be gentle and sensitive, while boys should be anything but. There starts the gender inequality. I have heard of mothers saying “’boys will be boys” when the topic of their sons bullying others in class comes up. When gender is often used to excuse a certain type of behavior, a dangerous message is sent. It is time to stop attributing behavior to gender and help our children understand that everyone is the same. If we can spend some time at home educating our sons on this, we can help the world be a safer and better place.
We need to step back and think about the messages we send our children every day. The bottom line is that we cannot control what our children see and learn in the world out there but we can control what they are taught at home. We can encourage them to be their own unique selves despite what society tells them is appropriate according to their gender. We can empower them to knock down barriers created by gender differences, leading to an overall safer world around them.
Every mother has her own struggle with motherhood. From an identity crisis and a fear of the unknown to balancing motherhood with work, a social life and so on, the challenges we face as mothers never end. The entire journey from the time we conceive is filled with endless moments of happiness, joy, panic and fear. However, the one common fear among most mothers is the ability of others to care for their child.
As humans, we are programmed to question and over-think everything. As mothers, we probably do this more than anyone else. It would be impossible not to. Every decision from the brand of diapers to schools is scrutinized ten times over. But those decisions do not hold a candle to the decision of leaving your child with family or other caretakers.
Trust is a funny thing and doesn’t come easily to people. Our experiences determine how easily we can trust another person; it simply requires faith in human nature. In this case, however you can have the utmost faith and trust in a family member or the nanny to care for your child for a few hours maybe, but it can be daunting to leave them in the care of others for an extended period. Not everyone shares the same childcare philosophies and that is perhaps the biggest cause of concern for most mothers.
There is a first time for everything and of course many people have starting problems. It requires a deep conditioning of the mind to be comfortable with leaving your child and going on a 2-day vacation for example. It goes without saying that the dynamics of a vacation with children and without children are significantly different. I am and always have been a ‘travel-without-your-child’ kind of mother. Being able to re-charge, helps me be a better mother. The first time my husband and I left our elder son and went on a 3-day beach vacation, I was bombarded with feelings of sadness and guilt. I felt like the worst mother to walk the earth and wondered what must be running through my son’s mind just then. Would he think that his parents have abandoned him and would never return? Would the nanny forget to give him his milk? How will everyone at home manage if he catches a cold or has a fever? Will they be able to give the correct dosage of medication? Suddenly in my mind, everyone seemed incompetent and inefficient when they were anything but. I had this mental picture of my son standing near the gate howling and waiting for us to come back. Exactly like a movie, right? Well, little did I know that he was doing anything but that! When we spoke on Face-time, I realised he had sort of forgotten that his parents weren’t even around and he was very happily playing with the people around him at home.
Travelling without children is the best therapy in the world. We don’t have to feel guilty about saying so or not say it all thinking others will judge. After I made peace with the fact that my son was happy and content even without us near him, the vacation started doing its’ job. It was a long-forgotten but refreshing feeling to know that there was no one else to take care of for a few days other than myself. I could feel my mind slowly begin to unclog itself. I recently went to Amsterdam with my three best friends, after I had my second son. Everyone had their own reasons for wanting to take a break from life and what a break it was. We did things we would never have had time to do back home. We spoke about things that we would never have gotten around to talking about amidst our chaotic lives. Was it an excruciatingly difficult task to make the decision to leave my 2 month for almost a whole week? Yes of course! But the outcome of making that decision outweighed the difficulty I had with making it in the first place. I came back with renewed energy and a much happier person, ready to resume my responsibilities as a mother.
I know many people who believe that with help at home, motherhood should be a cakewalk. No one with family at home and nannies to care for their child should ever complain about the struggles of motherhood. There is nothing I disagree with more. You don’t have to be changing every single diaper, giving every feed and spending every half hour putting your child to sleep without any time for yourself, to know how hard motherhood can be. A mother’s mind-space is clouded with child related details most of the time. Whether we are physically with our children or not, they are mentally always with us. Even if there is nothing to worry about, we worry. It takes a lot to be able to finally say “as long as my child is eating and sleeping properly while in the care if others, I have nothing to worry about”.
Everyone needs a time-out from motherhood to try and reconnect with the pre-motherhood version of themselves; it is so easy to forget. So, go ahead and travel to your hearts content. Who came up with the rule that travelling is off the table when you have small children at home? Maybe the same people who came up with the rule that you can forget about sleep for the next 18 years once you have a baby. None of these rules are set in stone. Stepping out of your comfort zone is always hard and takes some getting used to but in the end, it is rewarding. Do whatever is good for your soul.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch
The word ‘Love’ has various definitions and forms. Some define it as ‘strong affection’, ‘warm attachment’, ‘affection based on admiration’ and even ‘infatuation’ or ‘lust’. It means different things to different people. Needless to say, finding just the right way to describe love is difficult. I like to call it LIFE’S ONLY VITAL EMOTION.
Experience has taught me that whatever the definition of Love may be, it may not always be permanent. There are very few relationships in life where we can say that the love never dies. This particular emotion is put to test in many relationships, more than any of us ever realise but when you come out of it with the ability to still feel that emotion, then you know that the relationship will stand the test of time.
According to me, the definition of Love changes for a person throughout the different stages of life. Growing up, this word is thrown around quite effortlessly and we tend to fall out of love as easily as we fall into it. It doesn’t take much at that stage in life to find fault with someone and immediately stop loving them. Those are connections that can easily be dissolved. Later on when we start forming intimate relationships, love takes on a more emotional role. Commitment comes into the picture and this is when we ask ourselves if this love is forever. No matter how much time passes by and obstacles faced, will this love endure all?
As a mother, I have learned that love knows no boundaries. I wonder in amazement sometimes how the meaning of love changes for a person before and after becoming a mother. The love I feel for my children is the truest and purest form of love I have ever felt and I did not know what it meant to love unconditionally until I gave birth to my elder son. Many people out there may not agree with this statement of maternal love always being unconditional. I remember someone asking me in the past if unconditional love is a pre-requisite for motherhood. Sometimes it does not have to be although I think most of us like the idea of it more than anything else.
The bond between a mother and child is formed from the time the baby is in the mother’s womb. Raising a child is not easy for any woman and there are times when I have wondered whether or not I will be able to do this for the rest of my life. In the midst of all the exhaustion and sleepless nights, there are still those magical moments where your child smiling at you even for a second makes your chest ache and makes the exhaustion slowly fade away. However, in those moments of exhaustion and frustration, I have questioned the emotion of love and wondered if that is enough to be able to care and protect my children. I am sure many mothers out there have thought this time and time again and maybe with extreme guilt too. How can we as mothers question this at all? Unlike when we were young, there is only one answer. The love we feel for our children is a basic part of our make-up. We are hooked for life. Despite all the tantrums and arguments, the love for our children goes beyond being addictive and sometimes bordering on obsessive.
The bond with our children will change over the years, but the strength never fades.
The statement ‘Friends like Family’ or #framily as I like to call it has always been a favourite of mine. When we are young, we learn that family consists of our own flesh and blood. However, over the years as we make friends in school and when we are 3000 miles away from our own family in college, friends start to become family. Bonds are formed which cannot be broken. Family, is not always blood.
Some of my best friends today are friends from school. We have seen each other through thick and thin and provide a strong support system for each other even now. It has been quite a ride throughout the various phases of our lives – from the then immature and care-free teenagers to the now responsible mothers. Every mother needs mom friends and non-mom friends.
Having friends who are like family when you become a mother is essential and therapeutic. There are all sorts of emotions a new mother feels; I think we are all extremely familiar and in-tune with our feelings as mothers. We are trying to deal with and get used to the unfamiliar territory of motherhood, at the same time trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. When a person is going through a significant change, it is always comforting to know that someone else is experiencing the same and can empathise. It is reassuring to know that a friend is also grappling with various degrees of uncertainty regarding being a mother and is waking up at all hours of the night to feed and change diapers. How much ever we wish things were easier for them, we feel a little better knowing that we are not alone. We feel a little better knowing that we have people to share our deepest fears with. Our non-mom friends are of course always there to lend a shoulder to cry on as well; they are also the ones we turn to when we want to shut down the mom brain.
I feel lucky that many of my friends whom I have known since I was a teenager are still my friends today, and now are my mom friends as well. But there may be many young mothers who are not so lucky, especially if they have moved to a new city and have to start all over. The whole process of making new friends, let alone mom friends is not an easy feat. However, we need to remember that all mothers are in the same situation and crave friendship at every stage. My friends who are also mothers were my reinforcement during the first few months of motherhood and still continue to be so today. I know they are available at any time during the day or night for me to call and vent to, and they know that I am there for them as well. From trying not to let our hearts break when our babies are unwell to managing frequent tantrums and stopping ourselves from wanting to run away, mom friends are the one-stop shop. They will never get sick of hearing you worry about the colour of your baby’s poop or the various methods to soothe your cracked nipples from feeding. They will never complain when you want to talk about the loss of your old identity, and the challenges in settling into your new one. Talking is therapeutic. Bottling up feelings is not.
Most of my readers are aware of the reason I started this blog. There are mothers all over the world who feel that they need to keep their experiences and thoughts to themselves, letting them fester deep inside. Many are hesitant or ashamed to voice their feelings as they think many of the thoughts may come off as negative, gloomy or unwelcoming by other mothers. But no one has ever said that motherhood is filled with all hallmark moments. There is also no 'right' or 'wrong' when it comes to how a mother decides to raise her children. More often than not, the reluctance to confide in another person stems from increased levels of self-doubt. My aim as always is to encourage moms-to-be, new moms and veteran moms to speak out and share their experiences, at the same time providing support to all those out there who need it. I cannot stress enough about how good it feels to confide in people.
So to all the new moms out there, if you do not have any mom friends yet, put yourself out there and make some. They will not only keep you sane, but they will also hold your hand through the ups and downs of motherhood for the rest of your life.
To all the fabulous non-mom friends out there, don't think that you don't have an equally important role to play as the mom friends! I think your mom friends would have an extremely hard time taking motherhood in their stride if it weren't for time-outs now and then provided by you. So keep planning those girls nights because at the end of the day, you are your friend's light at the end of the motherhood tunnel.
HUSBAND – Helpful Understanding Simple Brave Amazing Nice Decent
FATHER – Faithful Available Teacher Helps Encourages Reliable
If I had to describe my better half in his role as a husband and father, the above description would be the perfect one.
The way I saw my husband the day before I became a mother and the days following the birth of our elder son were strikingly different. What a difference a single day makes sometimes. Before our baby was born, my husband was my better half, my confidante and the person I chose to sleep next to at night for the rest of my life. After the arrival of our first bundle of joy, my husband was still all those things but he was now more importantly my partner in probably the most important job we will ever have; the job of being a parent.
The days that followed the birth of our baby were filled with sleep-deprivation, panic and fear. The joy and contentment I had felt were suddenly overshadowed by a fear of the unknown; a fear of not being able to take care of a tiny human being who was depending on me 100% to survive. But the minute I thought the word ‘me’ inside my head, I realised that I was being selfish. Just because I physically gave birth to the baby did not mean that there was no one else as involved or as important; a small but significant detail that many new moms tend to overlook. I realised that my husband and the father of my baby was as much a part of the baby’s life as I was.
I saw motherhood at its finest the first few weeks – dark circles under my eyes resulting from sporadic sleep at night, one bath a day, hair being washed on average once a week, non-existent make-up and accessories, and so on. The word normal was erased from my vocabulary for a few weeks and it took a lot out of me to get myself together. But I did it. I had an incredible support system and I could not have survived my first few weeks as a new mom without my own mother. She was up every night with me changing diapers and making sure I didn’t fall asleep while nursing. However my rock and the reason for my sanity being remotely intact during the first month was my husband and baby daddy.
A father’s role in the parenting process is often overlooked and sometimes devalued. The mother has always been known as the primary caretaker but in today’s ‘new age’ parenting, the father is as pivotal as the mother. I don’t mean a father’s influence because in the infant and newborn stage, that does not play as big a part in the baby’s development as it does later on. However I am referring to the added responsibilities a father takes on. Gone are the days when only the mother is expected to change diapers and feed the baby. We see more stay-at-home fathers now compared to even a decade ago. They are not only there to shoulder more responsibilities, but also to provide emotional support. I remember a distinct sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach every time by husband had to go to work in the morning leaving me to my duties as a mother. For me, it was not so much the added responsibilities that he took on which made me want to hang on to him, but more the emotional support and mental stability he provided me with. He forced me to paste a smile on my face which at the time seemed to prove most challenging. He proved to be a rock then and even more when our younger son was born in March this year. Now with our younger son having just completed the first 3 months which are more often than not the hardest, I realised that I felt more human this time around due to my husband having taken over most of the responsibilities with our elder son.
Post birth, the process of reconciling your old self with the new is an endless one and sometimes never complete. But it becomes easier with each passing day if you can include the people around you in your journey and not feel the pressure to do everything on your own. That is where my husband played the biggest role – in letting me know that I did not need to have sole custody of the parenting responsibilities. The bravest of mothers who think they can do it all still need help sometimes.
Sometimes you have to just let someone hold your hand.
“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” – Billy Graham
Hi! I'm Antara and I was once a 'let's get the party started, consume a bottle of Rose Champagne on the weekend' kind of girl. Now at 33 and a mom of a teddy bear looking 2 year old boy (with another little bundle on the way), I am still that 'let's get the party started, consume a bottle of Rose Champagne on the weekend kind of girl.'