When our first child was born almost 12 years ago, my husband’s boss at that time told him, “Remember, you are now a DAD, you are not DEAD.” Sage advice from a father of 2 grown-up sons.
The advice I received, on the other hand, focused more on my physical recovery after childbirth and breastfeeding dos and don’ts, rather than my new role as a mother. While it was not specifically addressed to me, those words of wisdom that my husband had received spoke to me deeply.
I believed then that this new season of motherhood should not stop me from my self-development and individual growth. I was adamant that I would not allow my life to revolve around my children, but that I would teach them to adapt to our household needs and schedules instead. However, the intensity of caring for young children, along with the demands of managing a household and work kept these ideals at arm’s length.
The intensity of caring for young children, along with the demands of managing a household and work kept any ideals of self-enrichment at arm’s length.
Over the years, I found myself struggling just to keep my head afloat; caught up in general day-to-day busyness while trying to meet my own standards of what I defined as a “good” mother.
The sense of mum-guilt weighed me down constantly and I was exhausted in my fruitless pursuit of being the perfect mother, wife, daughter, cleaner, cook, teacher (to my children), co-worker and friend. I felt like I was trying so hard to do everything and yet not excelling at anything at all.
I felt like I was trying so hard to do everything and yet not excelling at anything at all.
It wasn’t until an older and wiser fellow mum sat me down and told me that it was ok not to be able to do everything that the light came on. She challenged me to reflect on my priorities: Did I want to spend my time making sure that I had a spotless home or does that need for a perfectly clean house rob me of my time with my children?
Did I want to slave over preparing 3 home-cooked meals a day or did that standard hinder my ability to really be present with my family? I realised that I had been trying to portray a certain image of myself as a mum for fear that I would be seen as “just a mum”.
I realised that I had been trying to portray a certain image of myself as a mum for fear that I would be seen as “just a mum”.
I took a long and hard look at myself and realised that in my pursuit for perfection, I’d forgotten to enjoy being “just a mum”. I knew that I desperately needed a mindset change. I forced myself to accept that a household with children would naturally be messy, and found myself less irritable and bothered by little things strewn about the house.
As soon as I was less irritable, I found myself making time to spend with my children. And then I started to enjoy being with them more – it was like an upward spiral!
I could be present with them, play with them, enjoy them being children instead of ignoring them while I did the housework, checked emails or busied myself in the kitchen. This change also helped my children learn to be responsible with their own things and encouraged them to practise doing their part for the household.
I understand now that my journey in motherhood is not something that is separate from my identity and that being a mother was my opportunity for self-enrichment. It has made me less controlling, less judgmental, more patient, more humble, and more appreciative of life. It has taught me about time-management, human resource allocation, conflict resolution, group dynamics and how to motivate a team (even if it’s a team of little individuals).
Being a mother was my opportunity for self-enrichment. It has made me less controlling, less judgmental, more patient, more humble, and more appreciative of life.
Today, I am proud to declare that I am “just a mum”. It is a role that I am learning to undertake with honour. I am thankful for the counsel of the many wise mothers who have gone ahead of me and given me their time and guidance in this wonderful once-in a lifetime journey of motherhood.
This Mother's Day, we invite you to celebrate small victories and rediscover the joys of motherhood. Join us at www.family.org.sg/mothersjoy today!
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