Recently I got a chance to be at the movies with my husband after a long time. After more than four years. I was elated. Three years of parenting twins and almost a year of high-risk twin pregnancy had deprived me of many such little pleasures.
Motherhood did not come that easy to me. The pregnancy was strewn with scores of 3-hour long scans, multiple tests numerous hospital visits, and medicines. All that sometimes made me feel more like a patient than a pregnant woman.
The day I got to know I was carrying identical twins (MCDA in medical parlance), I knew the road ahead was not going to be easy, so I decided to take a break from my eight-year-long career. At the same time, the decision to quit the job came easily to me since I was pretty clear of the priorities at that time.
Once the twins came along the challenges mounted. There was barely any time for doing things for self-pleasure. By the time the girls went to bed, I would be dead tired. My days and my nights were devoted entirely to the twins. Another reason for sleepless nights was the guilt that I wasn’t doing enough for the kids. It was a challenging phase that drained me both emotionally and physically.
It was time when I couldn’t catch up with friends and other relatives. But it was more out of my self-imposed constraint than any external expectations. I was simply unwilling to relinquish the control over kids’ routine even for a day. This stubbornness on my side left many of my friends and extended family annoyed.
That phase was tough. It was very fulfilling too. Within my constraints I feel I did fairly well. Being homebound I tried my best to cash on every small opportunity to celebrate the time with twins.
These years have been the best years of my life. Touchwood. But I would be lying if I said there were no dull or panic moments. Those difficult moments often left me feeling lonely, disheartened, and sometimes useless. Irritated about the fact that I have not been able to keep pace with others. That I was not able to do things like a normal person, i.e., going out, having fun, and having that ME time. But those sad feelings were short-lived. Most of the times I would dust myself off and be back to my chores.
Finally, last year was a breather. I was able to make some room for myself and get back to what I call the ‘normal life.’ A life where you often go out, meet people, do things on your own and be independent. I was now getting time for mundane things such as taking out time for myself, working out a bit, meeting friends and old colleagues, and driving myself around the town. I got back into the professional mode by finding myself a small assignment matching my time and location constraints.
It was exciting to go for a movie after a long gap of four years. But something unexpected happened while I was coming out of the movie hall. A voice in my head asked me, “Is this what you were craving so much since the last four years?”
It was a good movie and I enjoyed it. But it didn’t feel all that different.
“Why the hell was I sad even for a second for missing this?” I told myself.
Similarly when I was able to tick mark the other so-called ”To Do’s,” it all felt normal. No extraordinary feeling of elation.
Maybe I had created a hype in my own mind. There was something else that I was missing. It was the self-confidence that I was missing during the moments of stress and panic. I was missing the independence that was taken away from me by my self-imposed constraints. I allowed those down moments to deprive myself of the self-love. I forgot to tell myself that normal life wasn’t denied to me. It was just delayed by other priorities. Now I understand that although that period of self-doubt was temporary but it were harmful.
So I took away following lessons from my last year’s experience —
1) Be confident about your decisions. Whether you have decided to be a stay at home Mom or you have decided to be a working professional juggling workplace and home, both will have their own challenges. Both will throw moments of guilt and self-doubt. All you have to do is pick yourself up and keep searching for those tiny moments to celebrate life and your kids.
2) ME time and self-love is important. A movie date, coffee date, or a get together are not the only proxies to it. If you can manage it, then it’s like a cherry on the cake but if you are struggling with the household stuff and are stuck, then please don’t make a big fuss about missing those activities. Do whatever is the best within your constraints. Get dressed nicely even if you’re at home. A celebration is a celebration. It doesn’t matter if it’s at home or an outdoor party. Your kids want a happy mother, not necessarily a perfect one.
3) It’s extremely important to make peace with your body and your mind. Never view your postpartum body with dread and resignation. Instead accept it with pride and confidence. Your body has done something miraculous. It has created a new life. Winners, they say, have scars too. The weight gain and the stretch marks aren’t physical flaws. They’re the badge of honour of motherhood. If you aren’t getting time to work on your body, do not let this affect your self-confidence. The day you decide to let go off all the excess weight, you’ll be able to do it or at least try doing it. It’s just a matter of priorities.
4) It is extremely important to focus on physical and mental health. What we women have not been taught is that taking care of oneself is the beginning of taking care of others. Mothering is hard work. It’s constant work. It is so easy to get overwhelmed and stop caring for yourself. But, when you stop caring for yourself, your ability to care for your child is compromised and your ability to enjoy motherhood is impacted.
With my greying hair, the dark circles, the scars and the stretch marks, I walk a little taller because I’ve discovered a new part of me. Parenthood is the single most important role any human will ever play in the life of another. During my four years of this experience I have definitely missed on many milestones I had set for myself but now I am in no hurry to tick them off my bucket list. Rather I am determined to do it at my choice of place and time along with my girls and also continue setting new milestones for myself to conquer.
So please do not look for excuses to feel pity for yourself, rather embrace your imperfect life and search for your dose of happiness in those imperfections. Be proud of the priorities you have chosen and be headstrong and determined that whatever you seek you’ll achieve it sooner or later. When you are capable of the miracle of creating a life, you are capable of everything else in the world. There is absolutely no disgrace in greying hair when they have overseen the growing kids.