22 December 2017, by Tan Li Lin
What’s life like? How’s Motherhood? Is it that wonderful? Do I regret having a kid? Would I stop here?
I’m in my 15th month of Motherhood and still getting the big “SO HOW’S MOTHERHOOD?” question, which is really another variation of the common “how’s life?”… how do I respond to the question given that friends want a gist and not a whole vomit story of the motherhood journey?
I usually end up replying it with “it’s challenging!” – but only so I don’t end up in the camp that sings “motherhood is such a joy!” songs throughout the whole campfire and risk getting eyes rolled back at me.
The truth is it’s a rather complex question to answer, because it is a truly profound journey.
I don’t necessarily mean that in a positive, or negative way – although I constantly experience intense feelings of both states!
But I’ll attempt to spell it out here, at least my experience of it, which I hope will benefit new parents or parents-to-be…or those sitting on the fence about whether/when to have kids or not (<< I came from this camp).
Let me start with the easiest.
#1 Bye bye personal freedom
Freedom isn’t a matter of logistics. Often people’s response is, “oh but, you’ve got people helping you look after Lia right? So… not so bad what. You can do what you want to.”
I CAN do what I want to, but when my list of ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ adds up to over a page long… the distinction of ‘priorities’ never felt so in-your-face.
Suddenly, every moment, every 1 hour slot I have NOT spent with Lia is a hard choice of decision+risk+consequence:
Do I spend the next hour I have… doing client A’s, B’s or client C’s work? Which one won’t get my head rolling if I didn’t act now?
Maybe I should clear that finance stuff first since… money stuff takes priority in a business…
Or should I go for Tui Na and resolve the horrid throbbing headache? Sigh, it might be worth the investment in this since it’s affecting my work state too.
Oh but Mom needs help… parents always come first…right?
Ugh I gotta let mom/helper/husband do their own stuff … maybe I should take over Lia.
+ numerous other scenarios that are all battling for importance, all in the same brain, at the same time.
Where once there was freedom of time and freedom to completely focus on my own accountabilities, there’s now someone else who determines my life.
Needless to say, everything drops the moment Lia needs me, or when no one else can babysit her, and the last thing you’d ever wanna tell a client is “I had to look after my kid, sorry for the delay!”
So yeah, things feel so out of control so often. And so suffocating. I can’t describe the feeling any better than that.
S u f f o c a t i n g.
Even after 15 months of adapting real quick and changing the way I work and live and think, there are countless moments my soul explodes with frustration and pressure from just having too many demands to manage and that much less time and freedom to resolve them.
I’ve had 3 meltdowns in the last 3 months… which of course ends up thrown in the direction of the hubby.
#2 Hello, functional marriage
You’re spending a romantic night with your spouse and dreaming up together your future. Bet you’d never imagine it would consist of barking orders at each other and snapping insults like “I’ve said that twice, are you deaf?“.
I used to feel happy playing the ‘good wifey’ role helping Ron tidy up his stuff. Now, I give him my ugly face (feeling pretty in front of him is not a priority anymore) and snap, “Tidy it up yourself lah do I look like your mum?” The partnership is reduced to logistical cooperation.
Where there was once deep soul to soul connection with each other, there’s now a deeper connection to… the baby.
My nights used to be spent snuggled in Ron’s arms, gazing into his eyes, kissing him tons on his face and stroking his hair. Now, I snuggle with Lia in my arms, spend long periods of time gazing her a sweet face, kissing her tons and stroking her hair until I fall asleep.
It’s been like that every night. Ron falls asleep with his iPad hahaha. And then when he smooches her and she stirs I glare at him and LOUDLY WHISPER “DON’T KISS HER. YOU’LL WAKE HER UP.”
Okay, it’s gotten better now that we’re 15 months into the game, although doesn’t help Lia sleeps horizontal between us both, on a queen sized bed.
#3 Survival boils down to energy
Where you once had 100 units of energy to see you through the busiest day, you now need x2 or x3 to get you through.
There won’t be enough sleep (once she’s up, you’re up), and enough quality sleep for that matter (esp. if you co-sleep because there’s lots of kicking and tornado-ing going on through the night)
When she’s up, it’s just constant engagement – singing songs, talking, chiding, guiding, teaching, looking after, feeding, story-telling.
When you’re doing ALL THAT, it’s x10 enthusiasm even though you’ve told that story thrice or sang ‘Wheels On the Bus’ 6 times in a row already.
It’s still gotta be “WOW LIA LOOK! WHERE’S THE DOG? PEEKAAAAAAAA…BOOO!!! WOOF WOOF! YES! DOGS GO WOOF!” And then it’s not enough to JUST say ‘Woof!’, you now have to actually bark like one.
And when you’re finally off to work, it’s an avalanche of things to clear in the fastest way you can do it without screwing up. And all those meetings and talking to do?
Social time is now cut down to once a month and then it’s back to point #1 about priorities – who, out of 638 friends who wanna meet you, to meet this time?
Where does the energy come from?
Nowhere. Somewhere. You just need to conjure it up somehow.
#4 Feeling the pressure to be the best
My best. Because these little humans really model after us. It’s quite scary. Even at 15 months, Lia picks things up and connects the dots out of the blue that’ll leave us wondering where she even learnt that from. They’re always watching and sensing.
That’s why I made a commitment to stop using my ‘annoyed’ tone with Ronald, because she’ll feel it. I’ve seen how parents issue commands and threats to their kids (like in eateries) but because they don’t walk the talk, the kid doesn’t listen.
I was on the plane that day and a toddler was uncomfortable and screaming his head off. For 20 minutes, the mum just continuously hushed him loudly and ordered him to stop crying.
Of course he didn’t stop, because she was asking of him to calm down when she herself was agitated.There’s a lot of double-standards going on in the way we parent unconsciously.
Children don’t get what we say – they get what we do, and feel, and act. That’s why I’ve to constantly monitor myself to stop issuing adult expectations (“Lia, SIT. DOWN.“) and start joining her in her world (“Oh look Lia, Elephant wants to sit on your lap! Let’s sit with him!“).
I’ve to be mindful that I’m acting in integrity (like to stop eating junk food if I want her to not pick that up).
Is it tough?
Is it important?
Is it rewarding?
There’s a sense of pride picking up her storybooks with her and watching her waddle to her book bin to “put back!” her books after reading.
#5 I’ve never laughed so much in a day, every day
I’m already a pretty laughy, smiley person as is, but at this age, they are SO CUTE and Lia’s antics just crack me up all the time. Everything she does is funny – the way she cries, the way she fights with her cousins, the way she imitates adults, the way she farts when she sleeps… the list goes on.
Just… so much joy felt within a day, it’s amazing.
#6 Indescribable connection
Probably the best of all – and the most significant difference Motherhood brings. The connection I feel with Lia is … blissful.
Ronald and I have that in our relationship, but now there’s a second (little) person to share that state with and it’s truly the essence of life.
The way she gazes at me and touches my face, the way she penguin hugs me when she sees me, the way she laughs with me, the way she rolls her eyes in ecstasy when she’s nursing… it’s hard to imagine how much my person means to her…but it’s easy for me to know how much she means to me.
This experience itself is the sole reason all other crappy aspects of Motherhood cease to matter, and why I’d eventually end up in the “Motherhood is a joy” camp and find myself a secret advocate for #Motherhood.
Lin Tan is an Entrepreneur and an Executive Coach who dedicated herself to others and her career, until family changed all that. Follow her blog on www.ilovechildren.sg and journey with her as ‘life after 30′ opened up a completely new chapter.