Wednesday, 27 December 2017

There is No Such Thing as ‘Easy’ in Motherhood

Something that happens when you become a mother is that you get invited to a lot of children's birthday parties. It's lovely, but it also marks uncharted territory for me as I'm new to the scene; the new mum on the block, so to speak. We recently attended one for a delightful 2-year-old, where I knew nobody except the birthday boy's parents. It was a superhero themed party, and Baby Z wore an adorable Superman onesie (with cape attached), which served as a great ice-breaker amongst a sea of unfamiliar faces. 

One of the first questions new people ask when meeting Baby Z and me for the first time - often even before asking his name - is "How old?" 

I had made my way over to a gaggle of mothers who clearly knew each other well, as they were all having an involved chit-chat. They paused their conversation instantly at the sight of Baby Z and cooed over him in his little Superman outfit, and pretty much immediately one of the ladies asked "How old?" When I answered "5 months", my response was met by an outbreak of universal envy. "Oh you LUCKY thing, SUCH an easy age!" "What I wouldn't give to go back to the time when I just had one 5-month-old! So simple!" "Enjoy how easy it is for now because it will become a million times harder once he's a toddler!" "Oh no, that's a breeze...wait until you have a teenager to deal with!"

To be honest I was quite taken aback by their reactions; mildly offended, even. Whilst I'm sure they didn't mean it at all, I found their comments really rather insensitive. A group of mothers, greeting a new first-time mum whom they have never met, whose circumstances they have no idea about, and whose baby's temperament they are not at all familiar with, and telling her that she has it 'easy'. They didn't know what I may or may not have been going through, whether I have help or support, whether my birth was simple or complicated and how long my recovery time was, whether I had dealt with baby blues or postnatal depression (thank goodness I didn't, but many do), whether my baby might have colic and scream blue murder for hours every evening, whether my baby sleeps through the night or is still waking up every 2 hours... They didn't have a clue. They don't know me at all. Who are they to tell me what I'm dealing with is 'easy'?

As mothers to young children themselves, I would've hoped they would know better than to make such assumptions or generalisations. Mothers should be empathetic to one another more than anyone else.

Let me tell you this: there is NO SUCH THING as 'easy' in motherhood. I've held demanding, high-pressure professional positions in my career, but nothing has even come close to the challenges motherhood has presented over the past five months. I can now fully understand and appreciate the hadith from Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) stating: "Heaven is at the feet of mothers." It is the toughest job in the world, and largely a thankless, invisible task, too. Mothers deserve every reward for the pain, the exhaustion, the sacrifices... everything we go through in order to bring new life into this world.

A very important thing to remember - which again, I would've thought these mothers would've been well aware of - is that all babies, children, and people are DIFFERENT. One baby might be a peaceful dream for their first 6 months, but then suffer horribly with teething. Another might be a 'nightmare' high-intensity, demanding, non-sleeping newborn, but then suddenly start sleeping through and skip the sleep regressions. One child may miss out on the 'terrible twos', another might start throwing tantrums as a toddler. Some mothers may struggle with the baby stage but then really enjoy their offspring's childhood and teenage years, whilst another mother may love the baby stage more than all the others.

I'd say the only part of motherhood that definitely IS easy, is hypothetical motherhood: that wonderful time before having children of your own when you set out all your parenting plans and definitively decide that you will 'never use a pacifier' or 'sleep train when baby is 3 months old'. But in reality, when your first baby arrives and becomes the boss of your life, all those idealistic plans most likely go out the window.

Mothers; we are all facing our own challenges and struggles on this wonderful journey, and all at different times. Let's make a pact to support each other, to be sensitive to one another's circumstances, and to NEVER tell another mother she 'has it easy'.

You're doing great, Supermum!

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