Embracing Motherhood – Lessons Learned Along My Way
Published on: June 08, 2021
Parenting is the steepest learning curve we will face, so Sanam shares four essential lessons she’s learned as a mother.
By Sanam Raisa Rahman
In January 2016, I enrolled in the school of motherhood, and almost five and a half years later, I’m still in training. You see, this is a school where even when you think you have finally mastered something, your confidence can be shattered the very next minute. It is a place of constant learning, and as my fellow coursemates, I’m sure you can all relate to the late nights, anxiety, and hard work poured into passing the ONLY exam—turning a poppy seed-sized embryo into a well-rounded human being. I’m certainly not the best student (not that this school offers ranks!), but I like to think that in all this time, there are some lessons my brain has finally grasped. These I share below.
Trust your intuition and judgement
As a first-time mother, especially a young one, it’s common to be bombarded with advice from everyone from family members to a stranger on the bus. This can be overwhelming and stressful. With my firstborn, there were times when I was swayed by others’ opinions against my better judgement, simply because they pulled the “trust me, I’ve been there.” card. I remember wondering—do I really not know what’s best for my child?
At my daughter’s eight-week check-up, her pediatrician told me, “You know your child best. Always trust your intuition and judgement.” It took me some trial and error to finally own his words. I’m now more confident as a mother because I’ve seen that achieving my parenting goals is usually easier when I make decisions based on my read of the situation, my children’s personalities and preferences, as well as my own capabilities. While I appreciate the advice given by others—and some of it has certainly been helpful—I learned that I have to trust myself to make the call that works best for my family and me.
There’s no shame in getting help—mothers don’t have to do it all
Asking for help doesn’t come to me naturally, so I generally just smile and say, “Thank you, but I’m okay,” when people offer it. For me, it’s about not wanting to inconvenience anyone else, and admittedly, I like to think that I can manage everything myself. This is wishful thinking, and coupled with the ‘mom guilt’ I got wracked with soon after I became a mother, I was all set up to ‘crash and burn’ when I was expecting my second child.
As my husband travelled frequently for work back then and we had no close friends or family around to help, our mothers insisted that we hire a nanny. I was skeptical. It seemed silly to hire someone to do what I was naturally supposed to do like countless other women with children. I feared being judged as someone incapable of caring for her family despite being a stay-at-home mother.
However, as the due date neared, things became increasingly difficult for me physically. I started losing my peace of mind by putting undue pressure on myself. Finally, I realized that by thinking of ‘help’ as a sign of weakness and inability to deal with what women have been doing since the beginning of time, the only person being judgemental was me. Once I accepted otherwise, life became easier. I hired a nanny who’s been with us for two years now, and I’m so grateful for everything she does for us.
So, the lesson learned is this— asking for or accepting help, in any shape or form, is not a sign of weakness or incompetence. It just means that perhaps you can get something done more easily.
Get on the ‘Parent Buddy’ boat
When I became a mother, one of the hardest things for me was keeping up with friends who were not parents themselves. Overnight, my priorities had changed. It was difficult to make plans the way I did pre-baby because life with a newborn was unpredictable. I’m also fairly certain that postpartum hormones, sleep deprivation, and complaining about the struggles of being a parent did not make me the easiest person to be around. This is when I realised that while my friends and I loved each other, I needed parent friends as well who, besides ‘dancing to the tunes’ played by their children, wouldn’t mind holding my hand and empathizing as I whined about chapped nipples and diaper rash.
Sometimes we make such friends at antenatal classes, sometimes we meet them at parks or schools, and sometimes we find them in the people we weren’t close to before, but having a baby sealed the deal. Whatever the case, once you find them, get on the ‘Parent Buddy’ boat together. They will be your life jackets—supporters, confidants, advisers, or just fellow clueless parents who will make life with children a little more bearable. As for my non-parent friends, some of them have since joined us on the boat, and for those that haven’t, we do stop at different ports for a much-needed night out or brunch sans kids!
It’s important to put yourself first, too
Then there is the question of ‘me-time’. As mothers, we spend all day focusing on the needs of others. Even at night, it can be hard for us to fall asleep because our brains refuse to shut down—must remember to buy diapers! Where is the vaccination book? Did I sign the permission slip?
Yet when it comes to taking time for ourselves, we often feel guilty and push our own needs aside. Time is in such short supply that we reason that it’s better or easier to spend it on the family. However, ‘me-time’ is actually ‘must-time’. Whether it’s daily or just a couple of hours a month, we need to take a break from our families for our own mental, emotional, and physical health, and we need to do it for their sake, too.
Over time, I have learned that I’m a better mother and wife if I do things that bring me joy, things that fulfill me as a person and give me a sense of purpose and direction. It’s only when I’m happy and at peace that I can give my family the happiness and peace they deserve.
Photos from Canva.
About the Author
Sanam is from Bangladesh and has been living in Bangkok with her husband and two little girls since 2012. Previously a UN employee, she is currently on a career break to raise her kids who are 5 and 2 years old. Having always been passionate about writing, she joined the BAMBI magazine team to do something she enjoys from home at her own pace while also experiencing all the precious moments that motherhood has to offer.
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