I always knew I wanted to have children. Ever since I could remember, I often fantasized about being a mother. I thought about how I would raise my children; how I would dress them, teach them about gratitude and appreciation (I had visions of them writing thank you cards for birthday gifts), spending time together doing philanthropic work- I had all the fantasies. Even when I was single in my 20s for a full decade, the thing I feared most wasn’t the idea that I might not find my soulmate but more so fear around my single status hindering my ability to have a child. I was very close to exploring other avenues of having a child on my own before I fatefully met my husband.
So, you see, this lovely packaged fantasy was already existent in my psyche when I got married and eventually pregnant. I was a woman with motherhood dreams- much like many other women I knew. As with all things, the realistic part of my personality tries to prepare myself for the bad as much as the good. I understood being a mother wasn’t always going to be rainbows and unicorns, but I never envisioned it to be as hard as it actually is. When I became a mother myself, I realized a lot of my fantasies around motherhood were unrealistic (it was almost romanticized) and the tough parts of motherhood were never widely discussed. This post will explore all the fantasies one might have about motherhood and what my reality ended up being.
Fantasy: I want kids! I just want time to speed up so I can hurry and have children as soon as possible. I know it will be a lot of work, but it will be amazing!
Reality: The thing no one prepared me for (and thinking back, there really is no way to prepare someone for this) was the sheer magnitude of responsibility for another human life. From that very first second, you are wholly and completely responsible for the life and well-being of a fresh tiny human 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and forever more. The enormity of that lifelong responsibility is like a metaphorical elephant squatting on your chest, but the thing is, it never gets up- like, ever. It never relieves you of any weight; you just somehow learn to cope with it. You know when you apply for a job that you think you’re qualified for because you match all the job descriptions save for one or two things that you fibbed about and you fibbed thinking, “Well that’s fine, it’s not like I’m actually going to get that job anyway” and then you (OMG) actually get that job and turns out it is a lot harder than you thought and the hours are longer and the expectations are greater and the thought of failure would be near catastrophic (breathe). Yea, kind of like that, but multiplied by 100 when it comes to parenting. If I am totally honest, one of my very first thoughts after Charlotte’s birth was, “What did we just do!?” Make no mistake, it wasn’t regret at all, it was more along the lines of self-doubt and absolute terror, “Oh my God, what on earth do we know about raising a child?”
Fantasy: I can’t wait to be a mother- I want to be my child’s world, their everything!
Reality: In theory, this is a magical notion but in reality, this was not how I wanted to raise my child. I wanted that quintessential village around me to help shape her. Other than having a bevy of people in her life who loved her unconditionally and wanted to build a connection with her (her father, my sisters, my father-in-law, our extended family and friends), I also wanted a bit of freedom. The thing mothers don’t often recognize or talk about is how this dependency, this particular dependency on mothers, eats away at the freedom we once knew. At least, this is how I felt. That general adage, “Moms sleep with one eye open and an ear to the ground” is very true, but it also means there is no mental break. We are always on the clock: imaging the what-ifs, preventing falls, predicting future behaviour to circumvent the negative. Our intuition and reflexes are ninja-like, the palm of my hand has shielded many would-be accidents. We live the first few years of their lives being their shadows (physically and mentally), trying to soften the landing wherever they may teeter or fall. I am tethered to my child by an invisible thread. That thread we share, it bends and weaves corners and is unbreakable. While I am happier than I’ve ever been, I am also exhausted. I could be nowhere near my child but still have a maternal responsibility towards her well-being. I knew I was embarking on a whole new journey when I became a mother, but I also mourned the life I previously lived- a life where I appreciated a different type of freedom.
Fantasy: I know there will be sleep deprivation, but it will all be worth it! I’ll just drink coffee!
Reality: No amount of coffee could have shaken me out of that dark, restless funk. Sleep was the only cure, and lots of it but it was so unattainable at that early stage of life. You don’t need to be a parent to imagine the kind of havoc sleep deprivation can cause one’s soul. This was when I realized how important sleep was for all parties involved. I read a very interesting Harvard article about scientists studying the benefits of sleep and why sleep is so important to our species. I won’t summarize the article here, but not surprisingly it shows how “lack of adequate sleep affects mood, motivation, judgment and our perception of events.” And if ever you needed full concentration and military precautions, it’s when you’ve welcomed a newborn into your life. Anything from timing feedings, measuring formula, scheduling pumping intervals to holding baby requires complete undivided attention. No wonder I woke up in a sweaty panic the first time I fell asleep with her in my relaxed arms at 3AM. I was forever terrified of doing something wrong or forgetting an important step in keeping her alive that I told myself no matter what I would try to prioritize the balance of her needs with my overall sleep health because it would ultimately affect her well-being too. Also, I’m telling you right now, I’ve never been more homicidal than during the first few months of being up with my daughter in the butt cracks of the night and lying next to us is my snoring husband falling into a wistful slumber. This is what sleep deprivation does to you- you become jealous of those who are sleeping even though technically you know there’s nothing for them to do and one of you might as well get rest. Heck, it was probably your own idea! But man oh man, watching that man happily fall asleep the minute he hit the pillow after giving him the green light got my blood boiling.
One of my favourite Youtube videos is of British comedian, Michael McIntyre, illustrating with such powerful accuracy the realities of having children. It is gut-bursting hilarious but more than anything, it is so relatable! I forget if I previously shared it on my blog, but I thought it was very fitting for this post anyway. Parenting– you just have no idea until you’re there.
A final note, I write many things about my daughter and my motherhood journey. At all times I try to be as honest and real as I can be, but please know that there could never be enough words to express how thankful I am for her little spirit and what she brings to my soul. It is very true what they say: motherhood is exhausting, unending, terrifying but ultimately, it is worth it. I would do it all again in a little heartbeat.
This post was done in collaboration with Chloe Burford. She resides in England, and she is a lifestyle blogger and first-time mum. Her wonderful self-titled blog covers topics like fashion, motherhood, local travels, and mental health. Please go check out her post about the same topic to see the different challenges we faced as first-time moms. Don’t forget to give her some love on her socials when you have a minute! 😊 @chloeburfordx
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