Since being a mother, every day I question if I am doing the right things to bring up my son in this world. Am I doing enough to stimulate his development? Am I feeding him enough nutritious food? Am I too strict with certain foods and treats? Should I be doing more to help him get further in life?
Some days I panic and start ploughing Pinterest for healthy meal ideas, activities for toddlers, how to manage tantrums, how to potty train. All that bullshit that I end up staying up late looking at all these wonderful ideas, only to abandon them the very next day. ( I feel you, mamas)
The pressure and stress that I feel is mostly self-made of course and I am aware of that. Yet strangely, a day does not go by where I think that I am not doing enough for my son. I guess in this information age, we are expected to search for answers and solutions for everything- parenting included.
Somehow, we got it in our heads that we should be doing a better job at raising our own children than our parents given the readily available options and information. Instead what we are failing to experience is the day-to-day joys and challenges of being a parent, that means messing up sometimes.
Parenthood is definitely not a walk in the park. Some days you feel like you are winning at it, "Yeah! I can do this". Other days you question yourself, "Why did I decide to have a kid/ children???"
I have been thinking a lot about my parenting decisions lately. In the last few months, I find myself getting more relaxed about certain things that before I used to be so naive about. I thought I was the type of mother who would make all meals from scratch everyday, read books and play with her son all f***king day. The mother who would never stick her child in front of a screen. Be the 100% engaged, all-star parent.
Then reality hits me. I am as sick as a dog. All I want to do is to curl up in bed and sleep my sickness away. That day happens to be the day my son is not in daycare. My husband is at work. I have no family around to help me with my son. So what do I do?
I make sure my son is fed. I make sure he has his water bottle. I then stick the laptop in front of my son and put on some carefully selected children's show on YouTube without ads if I am lucky. (I have started buying seasons of children's programs to prevent my son from watching ads.) I quickly duck back into bed with a hot cup of tea, sipping it slowly while getting all drowsy from the warm steam rising from the cup and SLEEP.
It was on one of those days where I was so tired and sick in bed that I had an epiphany. I come to realise that I was simply doing my best as a mother. I remember telling myself, "Look, you need rest! It's ok that he watches Thomas and friends. Don't be so hard on yourself." In those circumstances, I allowed my son to have screen time while I rested. I suddenly understood my parents a little more. I started to empathise with them.
For good or bad, they brought me and my brothers up the best way they understood how. Given the circumstances. The kind of information they had at their disposal. The values they grew up with. A wave of relief and loving-kindness for my parents came flooding inside me. I felt closer to my parents. There was a common understanding forged at that moment that connected me to my parents in the most human way- the fact that we are parents.
One of the most surprising aspect of being a parent has been the healing of wounds I carried or suffered from my childhood. At times I feel like I am reliving my childhood again but with a greater understanding of where my parents stood. I now understand what it means to do your best.
I am very grateful to my parents. They taught me values and what it means, in their view, to be a "good" human being in this world. But it does not mean that I need to share the same kind of values or life philosophy as my parents. I have seen first hand how much they sacrificed, put their own dreams aside to raise us. They worked long hours and were tired all the time. They did not have the energy or mental space to do fun things like travelling as a family.
I want to take the good stuff I have experienced as a child and mix it with knowledge and information that I have read to bring my son up. Most importantly, I am learning to trust my instincts of what it means to be a parent. Not a good or bad parent but a parent that is simply doing their best.
I have heard some mama friends of mine say things like, "I feel like a bad mother for letting my kids watch TV when I'm sick" or "I'm so tired that I'm making pasta again for dinner".
I feel like we, mothers, need to change the way we talk to ourselves. We need to show less judgement and love ourselves. We only have one body and sometimes it is okay not to be the 100% supermom.
So the next time you think that you are screwing up on parenting or being a bad "parent", take a step back. Be kind. Forgive yourself and perhaps, also your parents.
3 generation looking at the mobile phone ;)