So I wasn’t really the nurturing, maternal type ever. I could never see myself as a mother when I was a teen or even in my early (ok fine! even mid) 20s. I don’t think it is a default setting as a woman and I definitely didn’t find anything amiss.
So ever since I have become a mother, I have been plagued with self-doubt. Am I cut out for this? What if I am a terrible mom? What if my child realizes he could have gotten better? I am someone who revisits conversations from 10 years ago on what I could have said differently so I am no stranger to anxiety or self-doubt. But this felt different.
The difference was while I believed I was totally not cut out for this, it seemed like everybody else around me also had little confidence in my ability to keep my child alive, safe and raise him well. Take him out for a walk and someone would tell me to cover his head and ears. Next time someone else would tell me to not cover him up so much for he could get overheated. “Don’t carry him in wrap, it’s awful for his spine”, they said. “That carrier is not ergonomic maybe you should try a wrap?” someone else said. “How could you carry him in your arms to cross the road? It is ridiculously unsafe” said the nth person.
There was an entire phase when strangers would walk up to me asking if I am not feeding my child enough because he is reed thin. Eventually when I had to start formula, I cannot keep track of the number of people who thought it was their moral responsibility to tell me about the virtues of breastfeeding as though I wouldn’t have gotten the memo. I worked in Nestle for crying out loud. I once got breastfeeding advice from a man on a plane! I will do a separate post on breastfeeding itself but long story short, I really wish people who breastfeed chill out a little. There is no need to behave like vegans on this one. Ha! So many offences in one stroke.
Every time this happened, I would come back home and wonder how is it possible that everyone knows more than me. I asked my mom and she laughed it off saying as many mouths that many opinions. She asked me to trust my instinct and said I would know what is best for my child. I figured then would not be a good time to confess about how I don’t seem to possess any such instinct. I google every movement of my child only to end up worrying that he might be in grave danger at all times if I believe parenting websites. I mean why shatter the good faith one person seems to have in me.
But the gnawing feeling does not really vanish ever. On good days, the voice in my head says, “this child is too good. He deserves better than you.” On the more trying ones, it doesn’t have to say anything. The “I told you so” hangs in the air.
When I step back and think about where any or all of this is coming from, I am also struck by how this happens only to me and not my husband. No one ever walks up to my husband to tell him how he can do better. The mere fact that he is choosing to spend time with his child is more than good enough. So many people mention to me how lucky I am that he is such a good parent. I am truly grateful and yes he is exceptionally good with our child. But the bar feels low. It is like you can be a great dad but whatever you do as a mom, you do because you are a mom.
I was not expecting a medal or recognition on a regular basis for what I do. This is not like how I say I don’t want gifts but expect them on my anniversary and birthday. I am being honest here. I am not ranting about how underappreciated mothers are because I know how much I have taken my own for granted. Yes universe I hear you. You can stop laughing now. I am just pondering out loud on how while I didn’t want constant praise, I never really signed up for the best mom award either. And yet, here I am in a race that I didn’t know I was running.
I am not looking for praise, but I am looking forward to a time when someone doesn’t think I am fucking up my child.
Till then, “come on anxiety naanum neevum kai kothundu nadakalam” (Translation: Come on anxiety, let us hold hands and walk together)
Don’t go and creepily appreciate some mom extra just because of this. It is incredibly fake and there is a month of May to do just that. So save it. Unless someone is harming their child (literally harming. Not in the ‘in 20 years from now he will need therapy because he fell asleep while nursing’ kind of way) don’t say anything. Trust me your silence will be so valued that you might even be offered a pedestal in the temple they are building for my husband.