When you become a mom life changes, love changes, you change. And it is from that perspective, as a mom and woman, that I write about trav'lin (not so) light through life. Literally and figuratively.
I can feel him crawling over me and carefully sliding from the bed. "Plof" two little feed landing on the floor. "Plof plof plof plof plof" fast little steps on the carpet. I love the sound of those little rushed steps. I open one eye and can see his cute curls bouncing up and down at our bed end while he's making his way to the door. A moment like this makes me smile and curse (silently of course) at the same time. In a few seconds he will be standing at the door pointing at the handle and making a "mmm mmm" sound, which in his language means "mama get up and open that door for me please". A few times I tried to pretend I didn't hear him. See if I could steal another few minutes of sleep. But more often than not that ends up in him crying and waking up everybody in the house or him coming back and literally pulling me out of the bed. It all ends up in the same thing anyway. So I get up and sit on the edge of the bed for a minute. Still trying to fully open my eyes. The moment he sees me getting up a smile brightens up his serious little face and I almost forget that I still wanted to sleep (almost). Again an early and long day has started.
Since I've become a parent the question "how are you?" has suddenly become a quite complex one to answer. Usually "tired" will be part of the answer. As with many parents, being tired has become a constant in my life. After more than a year of waking up multiple times a night, getting up early and still cleaning bottles or doing laundry at 11pm there must be some permanent damage done. I think I spotted quite a few extra wrinkles in that tired face of mine. Don't think they were there before. It's better than the first few months though. Those were mentally and physically exhausting. If you would have asked me back then if I liked being a mom, or if I would 'recommend' becoming a parent, my answer in the first 3 months would have been a definite "no, it ruins your life, don't do it". The lack of sleep made me a very pessimistic human being back then. But when our little guy turned 6 months and I was no longer just a feeding machine I was seeing life through different eyes. I was promoting having children to literally everyone. I was so impressed by how having a child made me look differently at the world and people around me that I thought 'everyone' should have a child. Even if it was just for a few months. Just so they could see what I saw. I was convinced it would make the world a better place. Of course after a little more than a year now my answer would be a little more refined. I could easily give you a 3 hour long talk about parenting, kids and relationships. I still recommend having kids, but it's not for everyone. It's all consuming, and you have to be willing to accept that. It is definitely an eye opener. The world suddenly looks a whole lot different when there's your child growing up in it. The bad looks way worse, and the good looks a lot more colourful. A world of extremes I would say. The cartoonist Brian Gordon described parenting as "mostly drudgery and frustration, but it's still like the best thing ever" and I couldn't agree more.
I can not say that I am happier, but being a mom has definitely enriched my life.
Last week I read an article about the "growing movement of parents that regret having their children" and a few years ago I saw this TED talk about how people without children are supposedly happier than people with. I can absolutely relate to that ... but I don't feel the same. Or at least not anymore. It took me a while though to start enjoying being a mom. Over a year I would say. I still remember those first months. I hated every bit of it. I regretted it. It ruined my life, my body, my relationship, my self worth, my career, my freedom. I felt like parenthood was not meant for me. I was unhappy. Not that I didn't love my child, but back then I wished I had never met him. 1.5 years later, whole different ballgame. I love being a mom. I still feel like it ruined my old life, but it gave me a new one. I can not say that I am happier, but being a mom has definitely enriched my life. There is just so much more to live for. I have a stronger feeling of belonging. I feel more in love with the world, my partner, my son and myself. Don’t get me wrong. It still isn’t easy. I am still tired and the lack of freedom sometimes, on a bad day, still makes me half depressed. But on most days I am happy to be a mom. Which in my case isn’t straight forward. I was never really sure I wanted children and because of that the choice to become a mom or not was not an easy one when I suddenly got pregnant. But knowing what I know now … I would make the same choice again.
F*ck perfect, if you’re doing the best you can, you're doing a great job!
Being a mom also made me more aware of other moms around me. I love other moms. I feel like being a mom creates a bond of ‘understanding'. Sometimes I share a smile with a total stranger in the street while their toddler is having a ’toddler tantrum'. Every child has their moments. Sadly enough there are also those who think they know it all better and do it all better. Other parents, friends, your partner, family, total stranger, ... They go around judging others instead of supporting them in the choices they make. I used to be one of them. Before my son was born and up until he was about 6 months old I used to say "no way my kid is going to lie on the floor kicking and screaming, that only happens if you're a bad parent". Well, I can tell you for sure that I am not a 'bad' parent, but my son does that every now and then when he doesn't get what he wants, it's his way of sharing his frustration with the world. I also used to say that my child wouldn't watch tv before the age of two, because putting your child in front of the tv was just lazy parenting in my eyes. But as it is with many things, reality is a bit different. My son is very mommy dependent. No I didn't do anything 'wrong', it's just the beautiful way he is. But it also means that a tv or an ipad sometimes serves as a good distraction when I have to make him a home cooked dinner and he thinks I can cut vegetables with one hand while holding him with the other. Knife in one hand, toddler in the other ... don't think so! And sometimes when I have to finish a work project I give him a snack and put his favorite cartoon on. I can not afford for him to go to nursery full time, so I have to come up with ways to run my own business, be a mom and cook and clean. Not to forget be a girlfriend, a friend, do sports, sleep and go to the toilet every now and then. So yes, sometimes I let technology help me a bit. As I said, not the perfect mom, but I'm happy with the mom I am. More moms should think that way. F*ck perfect, if you’re doing the best you can, you're doing a great job!
Of course I want what's best for my child, but I don't get stuck in a depression when I'm unable to fit in that 'perfect mom' ideal.
We all know there is no such thing as the perfect mom or perfect dad. "Seriously, they don't exist!!" I'm not, and I am absolutely fine with that. It definitely makes me a happier one accepting that. Of course I want what's best for my child, but I don't get stuck in a depression when I'm unable to fit in that 'perfect mom' ideal. I'm probably a bit too soft on my son every now and then. Or at least 'according to others'. I give my son lots of hugs and kisses and often pick him up when he wants me to. Maybe it comes and bites me in the ass one day, maybe it won't. I'm willing to give it a try. One day he will be too old for all that mommy love, so I will enjoy it to the fullest while it lasts.
If you’re willing to accept that having a child puts limits to your life, being a parent will give you a very rich life in return
All in all being a parent is not necessarily going to make you a happier person. It is also not going to save your relationship. It's the hardest relationship test ever. I have been very close to packing my bags a few times in the past year. If you can't assemble IKEA furniture together, forget about having children together. But if you're able to accept (and I mean really really accept) that having a child puts limits to your life (and sleep), being a parent will give you a very rich life in return. Not financially though. I'm very much broke after giving up the office careerlife for the independent entrepreneur momlife. But I am a better person, a more complete person. My heart has grown double in size. I am so much more in love. Not just with my son, but with life and all the people in it as well. It's not all rainbows and butterflies. But in the end it's all worth it for me.
A good friend (aka superhero dad and wonderful life partner) once told me that being happy starts not with focusing on what you don't have, but with being thankful for what you do have and accepting that you can not have it all. You'll see that what you do have is already pretty damn awesome. And often better than what some others have. Up until recently I wanted 'more' and ‘better’ (one of the many luxury diseases of our society I believe). It was making me unhappy and unable to enjoy the life that I have. Unable to enjoy the little things and beautiful moments I share with my little family. Always thinking too big. Always thinking about "what's next". I was so focused on the limitations of parenthood that I forgot to be thankful for what I got in return.
So be thankful for what you have (parent or not) and be supportive to others instead of judging them based on an ideal that doesn't exist. It will make you and the people around you happier for sure.