After the birth of my son, I clearly remember wishing I had my mother to tell me what to do with a new baby. I have to admit, I cried almost everyday for the first two weeks. I was tired from the birth and scared shitless of my new role of being a mother. I had very little experience with babies prior to my son being born. I never changed a diaper, never fed, bathed or dressed a baby before. All the newness of caring for a tiny human being was very overwhelming.
My husband and I had to learn quickly on the go. We searched the Internet, asked friends and family for nuggets of wisdom and their experiences. I was lucky to get some support from mama friends even if I was not as close to some of them. They sent me links, information and useful tips. Most of all, they showed me that I am not alone. They listened, answered my questions and concerns. As the days passed, the weeks passed, we slowly got the hang of this baby caring experience- the feeding, changing and sleeping routine.
I come to realized that I have been mothering myself since I was 15. At that time, my mother fell into depression and basically stopped caring for herself or anyone else. I came home from school one day and noticed the clothes have been piling up, my mother stopped cooking and I took it upon myself as a only girl in the family (I have 2 brothers) to start doing household chores so the house does not look like a complete mess.
When my parents finally separated when I was 16, my brothers and I stayed with my dad who took care of us and guided us as best as he could. Growing up, I had to navigate through my teenage and young adult life with the help of my Dad, the Internet, magazines and friends. It was tough going through physical and mental changes at that age. I had low self-esteem issues even though from the outside I looked confident.
Of course I wished I had an older woman to guide me through those crucial years of my life but instead I had to be my own guide. I had to mother myself sans mother. Whenever I had a bad life experience, I had to rely on myself to pick up the pieces and move on. Just like how a mother would give you a big hug. Whenever I had to be tough on myself to stop self pitying and loathing in my own misery, I had to pull myself up from the depths. Just like how a mother would tell you the truth to make you wake up.
Even if my own mother was hardly there for me for more than half of my life, I learned some good things from her. Her passion for cooking, making sure her children eats healthy and learning new skills. I also learned what not to do as a mother- not to shout at my kids, not to make my kids feel bad and most importantly to make sure I am mentally balanced in the head and not take my stresses out on my child and husband.
After the first year of having a baby, I learned the hard way that I needed to take care of myself first. If I am unbalance and unhappy, my family suffers. I will snap at my husband or I will break down and cry in front of my baby. I had to acknowledge those feelings and speak to my partner about it to get help and support.
Now back to mothering yourself, I think everyone can mother themselves. As mothers, we need to treat ourselves the same kind of love and empathy we show to our kids. We need to start putting ourselves first. This is not always easy and it will take some rewiring of your brain that you are not neglecting your child if you need some time off. I think the benefits are immeasurable to everyone in the family. Our kids will be happier, our partners will be happier and we will feel happier because we have taken care of our needs first not last.
I urge you to take time off to go for that yoga class, to the gym, book that massage, get your hair done, book a trip and hang out with your girlfriends because girl, you have to show some yourself some self-love before you can be that fully present and engaged mother. P/S: This is a note to myself too. :)
I salute you, mothers. You rock!