By Nandita Malik
If you thought changing nappies 15 times a day and putting your baby to bed would be the toughest things you would have to do as a mother—surprise, surprise! They probably hit the bottom of your mommyhood pyramid. My pregnancy announcement wasn’t as theatrical as I had always imagined (or wanted it to be).
Instead, it was confirmed right when COVID-19 was at its peak and the whole city was in complete lockdown. My doctor visits were restricted to call-only-incase-of-alarming-situations, my gym workouts were replaced with a walk on my terrace and the girl who never cooked was cooking two meals a day with a growing baby bump. As surreal as the whole process was, the best experience of my life was also very daunting and overwhelming—struggles they don’t tell you behind those social media filters.
THE MANY EMOTIONS OF MOTHERHOOD
Right from the start of my pregnancy to childbirth to now, caring for my little bubs, I was one emotional rollercoaster. I wasn’t able to tell my moods, my anxiety levels were at an all-time high and with very little time for myself, I was even getting depressed. I would find myself constantly at war with myself—whether what I was doing was right for my baby or not, was I being a good mother? or was I failing?
But, you gotta do you, mama! Something I learned much later in my journey. Firstly, you will always know what is right for your baby and there will be lessons to learn along the way too but don’t let that bog you down. Take all the help you get, you don’t have to do everything alone. And you have to take time out for yourself—even if it is just reading a book or meditating or watching reruns of your favourite show—after all, you are the whole world to that little one in your arms.
ALL WORK AND NO PLAY
If there was little work-life balance earlier, thanks to the pandemic, there is none now. I was working from home but the struggle was real—from pumping milk every few hours to managing tight deadlines and meaningless zoom calls (that would go on till midnight sometimes), to ‘working-mom guilt’ that would take over me and send some waterworks my way—it was definitely one bumpy ride. There were days when work exhaustion would spill into my playtime with my little one, days when I would run on little to no sleep and made me want to give up on all my dreams and aspirations, and then some days I would be a supermom and juggle work and baby with utmost finesse (though it was rare).
I was one strong mama but I too had a breaking point. I decided to quit work but I wasn’t allowed because we were short-staffed. I would request for leaves and they wouldn’t get approved because I had just come back from my maternity leave. I was made to feel guilty and my maternity leave was treated as some vacation. Both my mental and physical health had gone downhill and I couldn’t do anything about it because I needed a job.
One lesson that I learned through all this—you need to do what works for you and your baby. You are allowed to choose what you want and not feel guilty about it. It is absolutely okay to resort to work for some sanity and it is also okay to not deep dive into work and take it easy if you have that choice. Either way, you are and will always be doing the most important job in the world—being a mother.
THE IDEA OF A PERFECT MOTHER
As soon as your kid walks into your life, so does the societal pressure of how you can be this perfect mother to your child. I didn’t qualify as an ideal mother because I wasn’t able to pacify my child in minutes. I was told I am not ready because I wasn’t able to connect with my newborn baby instantly. My first breastfeeding experience was a nightmare because I was told if your baby doesn’t latch on, you have compromised your kid’s health. I was made to feel bad about things that weren’t really in my control. There was a lot of advice coming my way, especially because I was a first-time mom. Don’t even be surprised if an aunty at the supermarket just casually manages to slip in another life lesson.
So what if you are a first-time mom and overwhelmed? You will figure it out! There is always a first time for everything. Don’t succumb to the pressure. Let go of the idea of wanting to be this ideal mother, you will make mistakes and you are allowed to. Also, no matter what you are always going to be the most special person for your little child.