Ever since I decided to become a mother, I have seen umpteen messages, graphics and videos that recount experiences and overwhelming journeys of mothers across the globe. Now that I am a mother of two, I identify with most of these experiences yet I feel that these narratives are highly skewed towards creating a rosy picture of motherhood. Especially in India, where becoming a mother is still considered to as be-all and end-all of the life for a woman, I often wonder why many mothers don’t embark on the dark side of motherhood.
Yes, the dark side! For starters, there’s this lost sense of individual space along with this continual trigger that keeps them thinking about their kid even when they are away from their little one. Also, for most mothers, coming of kids has taken a toll on their relationship with their husband. The carefree and romantic couple has been replaced by responsible and protective parents. All their time is spent either with the kids or discussing the kids. This brings me to a realization that these days whenever I and my husband happen to be alone we have nothing to talk about, indicating that the romance has slowly crawled out of my life.
In my short span of motherhood years, I have also observed that a mothers’ mental space is largely occupied with what parenting choices she makes. Every mother has her own research behind them and more often than not she faces a lot of judgment by people around her. These people could be friends or family, neighbours or colleagues – when it comes to bringing up little lives, everyone seems to have an opinion. A few common topics where everyone will seem to judge you are depicted in the illustration below
- She is over a year now, you are still co-sleeping?
- Haven’t you potty trained him yet?
- You should stop breastfeeding the child now!
- You haven’t disciplined your child well!
- She needs to be taught some rhymes now!
- He should start eating by himself; do not spoon feed him
- Use cloth nappies instead of disposable diapers
- Why aren’t you giving him cow’s milk yet?
- You use distractions when feeding him?
- Use this oil, not that one for massaging the child
Fear of Judgement
Parenting is an extremely exhaustive job which needs 24×7 commitment. Aside from that, every mother has a little monster inside her head – called ‘GUILT’ that makes her question her parenting choices. Above all this, when you have dozens of people rendering their advice about what’ll be best for YOUR baby, life gets difficult. Yes, of course, the most logical thing to say to yourself in such situations is that you have the best of your kid’s interest in your mind and that you are giving your best. At the end of the day, if you are satisfied with your efforts, you can retire for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Nevertheless, there are some areas of your child’s upbringing where you will face contrasting views from different people. These different people will all be stakeholders in your kid’s life and will have a strong view of what is right for your kid. I faced one such situation last year when my son started going to school. Nik is a picky eater; more than picky he is a lazy eater. He would more often than not bring back his lunch box untouched. After three months of school, I received a notice to meet Nik’s course in-charge. The meeting was to notify me of the fact that Nik does not eat his lunch. I smiled with a sigh and told the coordinator that I am aware of this habit of his and the reason behind it.
Tackling Difference of Opinion
We are a joint family with three generations staying together, and having come from a nuclear family I sometimes feel very jealous of my kids when they get this overload of love and attention from their grandparents. Grandparents often indulge themselves by taking up the responsibility to feed the kid. So since the time Nik has been off breastfeeding, I have been handing over Nik’s meals to my mother-in-law and let her take care from there on. The coordinator told me that I should be the one in-charge of the situation and make him eat his meals by himself.
After the meeting, I got all charged up and went back home with a resolution to do as I was told. I can never forget the horror of the days that followed. I gave out a clear instruction to my in-laws that Nik will eat only if he eats by himself. And obviously, Nik would refuse to do so. He would keep looking at his grandparents, urging them to save him from my wrath and put an end to his misery.
After a two day long struggle my mum-in-law came up to me and asked me if she could have a word. She tried to convince me that such strictness may not yield desired results. But I was adamant enough to tell her that he needs to learn. She didn’t say much after that and just before she rose to leave me, she said something that left me thinking about what I was trying to achieve. Her words are still ringing in my head,
Even before you realize your son will grow up. He will become all independent and self-reliant. At that point of time even if you will want to do things for him, he may not allow you to do so. Do not be in a hurry for your kids to grow up.
Do Not Fret
Yes! We all want our kids to grow up bold and wise sooner than soon and make endeavours to make them self-reliant and independent even as toddlers. Not undermining the significance and benefits of doing so, I realized that they are going to be small and little only once. No normal child has ever continued to pee without notice lifelong or not eaten anything on his own when hungry and away from his parents/grandparents. They will eventually learn to differentiate acceptable social behaviour from non-acceptable. So why fret so much? Even if you wish to change some things that you think need to be changed do not forget to stick to ‘calm’. Every time you are about to lash out at your little one remember to think about how you would feel if someone came down upon you in the same manner.
Most of us mothers go on a guilt trip, every time we get angry at our kids. So why not put an end to the misery? Every time your toddler does something that gets on your nerves, tell yourself that he is not going to stay insane forever. As long as he is not hurting anyone, just let him be. Remember, he will never be so little and naughty ever again in your lifetime. Savor his childhood and along with him yours too.
P.S. – I have arrived at a truce with Nik these days. He eats half his meal portion on his own and half the portion is his chance to get pampered by whoever is available.
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