Motherhood Musings a Decade In
On labour day on the 22nd of October, 2012 I become a mother. My oldest son, Arjun, was born at 9.32am. I went into labour at midnight and he arrived in a rush and a roar not long after I arrived at hospital. I recall my midwife telling me not to push yet and I replied this baby is coming and I have to.
It is hard to believe that I have been a mother for an entire decade. It feels like just yesterday I was walking back down the hospital corridor after saying good bye to my husband and while cradling him in my arms thinking how am I going to do this? How am I allowed to do this? What on earth am I meant to do?
You know, I still get these same thoughts. Sometimes multiple times a day. Except now I rarely cradle him in my arms – he is nearly the same height as me, has the same sized shoes and the topics we talk about now so often make my heart ache for the path that he is yet to walk down into adulthood.
My youngest son also turns three next weekend. There is something special about the age of three. They are still your baby. Young enough to snuggle in, cuddle and be carried; yet are their own little person. Their unique character traits that will carry through are clearly visible.
I always wanted to be a mother. I know it is not the same for everyone and that is ok. I have done a lot things in my lifetime. A lot of things I am proud of. A lot of things I am not so proud of – steep learning curves that have shaped who I am. Nothing however, absolutely nothing compares to my motherhood journey. It has been the hardest, most soul searching, strength building, limit pushing, beautiful, incredible, awe inspiring and rewarding journey.
I also feel I am only just beginning still.
One of the first blogs I ever wrote was on being a mother 18 months in (you can read here). Oh the the innocence. The roller coaster (and work) I talk about is still like that just...on steroids' and triple the amount. I wonder if in another decade (should I be so lucky to see that) will I think the same?
To mark this time, this milestone here are my ten motherhood musings ten years in.
1). Thinking ahead is crucial.
This starts before you conceive, while you are pregnant and it keeps going. The choices you make early on do make a difference. This is in all aspects of parenting (food, sleep, values, parenting style) to aspects of how you set your family up.
Especially for women, are the choices you make around working. We get told that the younger years matter. I would say be careful with how you apply this. These years also matter to you. You also will not get these years back. My children need ME more now than they did as babies. While their needs might have been higher then, they could be meet by someone else. You may be in a position to never need to work again in your life time but many will not be.
Having work that allows for flexibility for your family can take time to put yourself in a position to do so. The stage that I am at, it is not easy (or at times even possible) for women to slot back into the work force, let alone having work which is meaningful and enjoyable. Discussing and exploring these big topics, which are often related (how you deal with sleep can impact work for example), I would encourage thinking about before conceiving or at least as soon as possible.
2). I do not believe a mother needs to be the primary caregiver.
Please show me that rule book clause? You can have a team of parents. They need loving caregivers – this is not the same thing. My boys have been in daycare since 12 weeks, six weeks and nine weeks respectively. Ray (last baby) has always had another pair of hands help alongside daycare (literally I call my nanny his second mother). My boys are used to having a team of people mother them. It is good for them and crucial for me especially as I have no family help at all but this is not a justification for this point at all.
3) It is ok to pay for your village.
I was thrust into this early on but it has taken me years to feel ok about this. I still remember to this day being told to my face at a children’s birthday when due with Sahan (#2) “why even have children if you are not going to look after them”. Sometimes paying for a village does not make sense on paper. Sometimes you need to invest in some help in order to get through a hard season or a season of change. Again this is irrespective of if you are working or not working.
4) Grief and motherhood are so often two sides of the same coin.
I could write an entire blog on this alone. It was certainly not something I was prepared for. Allowing yourself time and space to process the grief that can come – in many forms – can really help.
5) Endless worries and feeling like I am doing it all wrong has not stopped.
I wonder if we ever stop worrying? I am a classic over thinker at the best of times. The things I do worry about have changed from nap times, burbs and toilet training to topics such as cell phones, sex education (yes already), who their friends are. It has been one of the parts of having a third child I have enjoyed more - having a lot more trust in myself and my own parenting.
6) Prioritising sleep and food.
This is of course the business I am in, however adding in my decade of parenting experience I feel I can truly say that this has been put to quite a test. This is also for the entire family unit, not just the children. As I talk about in The Nourished Bump parenting is an ultra-endurance event. Good sleep (or as good as we can get) and food makes a fundamental difference to this lifelong event is run. It also takes time and practice. I mentioned this in Feed the Tribe in terms of managing the family food (not just the cooking). I was asked recently how I learnt how to cook? I said simply by doing it over and over and over - starting early on helps.
7) The fighting.
OMG where oh where to start with this! It is next level. This is especially between my two older boys but all three get into the mix. The noise and relentlessness of it at times is enough to send me batshit crazy (who feels me here!). I know it is all part of their development but honestly the amount of times I am like "outside, outside, outside" or "will you JUST stop" is.....not able to be counted! Boys if you are reading this - I love you but please leave your brother (s) alone for like five minutes.
8) No perfect number or age gap.
I have detailed all the thought processes I went through in deciding to have each of my boys in The Nourished Bump. I know I worried so much about the bigger gap between my second and third child. Like so many aspects of parenting it was because it did not fit the so called 'perfect' gap. Families come in so many shapes and sizes - and for many of us this is out of our control to start with. I honestly do not know if I could have even coped with three under five years of age and I know we certainly could not afford to.
9) Third baby was everything I wanted and more.
I spent a long time trying to talk myself out of wanting a third baby. However I could not because I really wanted a third child for our family structure. I hoped they would balance out the older boys a bit. I hoped it would encourage the development of certain skills and traits that come with the need to share, step up or down to a siblings level, and just round their corners a little. It was all of this and so much more. To watch Arjun step up and into a leadership position and take on tasks and responsibilities all on his own accord well above his level has been absolutely incredible. He will get Ray up, change his nappy, get him changed and make him breakfast. He has rocked him, given a bottle and taught him how to ride a bike. Sahan it seems was born to be a 'middle child'. He has the more go-with-the-flow nature of the three and will often just take a back seat. Though do not worry he holds his own in a fight without question. Ray has so often provide a different perspective for us - a lightness and innocent view of the world that just comes right when we need it the most. His determination to keep up with his two older siblings in every way is also something that is mind blowing for me. As for having three biological boys - I simply would not change this for the world.
10) Be true to you.
This is the most important. Above all else, above everything you might read or be told, being true to you, the whole you is everything. This is you that whispers in the dark of the night. The you that is the under tow of your heart. The you that says "could I?"...before all the other thoughts come in. I feel one of our greatest journey's is this and therefore it will also be our child's greatest journey - I know my children have helped me unpack this for myself at a force and rate I never could have on my own. I have so many hopes for them but this one is my greatest hope - that no matter what happens in life - they are true to them and their hearts.
P.S Parents of teenagers please give me ALL THE ADVICE. I will soak it all up. I am terrified and am quite happy to learn from others.
xx Dr Julie