As a modern educated woman, I’ve been brought up to be independent, strong (at least outwardly) and competitive. These traits extended themselves into motherhood. I wanted to raise my firstborn myself (with the husband chipping in after work of course), continue to earn a decent living by taking up freelance assignments (no way I’m taking an allowance from a man) and still look like a healthy functioning human being at the end of it all.
I failed. Miserably.
Motherhood is the steepest learning curve anyone has to manoeuvre. For starters, a new mum will not anticipate that spending more than a few hours with her very own flesh and blood will drive her borderline insane. If the baby naps on schedule, she’s lucky. And even then, she needs to complete a whole list of household to-dos or clear her emails during this time.
Sleep deprivation is also a royal pain in the ass. When you are perpetually tired, you have to dig deep into your reserves every day to play with the little ones, and you have to close an eye if your work isn’t as meticulously done the way you prefer.
By the end of the first 18 months of motherhood (I was then heavily pregnant with no. 2), I was looking like a shadow of my old self. Throw in anxiety, stress, hormonal mood swings, it wasn’t a pretty picture. I had to reassess my priorities when the second baby came along or I was going to lose my mind altogether.
Upon reflection, these were some sanity-maintenance principles I picked in these emotionally charged years. Hopefully they will be of help to you or a new mum you know who’s having a tough time.
- Don’t try to be perfect
I found myself really unhappy when I deemed that I wasn’t giving enough care to either my kids and husband on one hand and to work on the other. It felt like I was falling short everywhere and it hurt my self-worth for a time. Step back and breathe. It’s ok if your home is filthy for a few days or if you have to push back a deadline. Be kind to yourself.
- Be realistic about what you can achieve
If you wish to spend more time nurturing your young children, it means you have to forego potential income. If you want to make more money, then you will have to make peace with the options of childcare and fewer home cooked meals. Something’s gotta give, right?
- Learn to accept help
My first kid was a textbook napper, so I was still able to balance parenting and writing duties to a good extent. My mum came over some days when I had to head for meetings, and the husband took Oli to the in-laws’ on weekends when I needed time alone. Now both my boys are in childcare on weekdays. It really does take a village to raise a child but my pride had to be crushed before I admitted that.
- TV isn’t such a terrible thing
Sure, kids shouldn’t be glued to the television set all day but when you need to cook or clean or just have a moment of peace, it’s okay to just turn the box on for a while (in my opinion that is). My firstborn learned a ton of nursery rhymes off of YouTube videos and could name all the basic shapes (including pentagon and hexagon) by two years old. Honestly, would you have been a more effective teacher yourself?
- Talk about your problems
Not just to your spouse, but to fellow mothers. If your friends aren’t in this life phase yet, join a forum or chat with other mummies on social media. Trust me, whatever you are facing, we will definitely get it and we will not judge. Only mothers will truly understand what you are going through. The sisterhood is there, you just need to reach out.