1. Motherhood has a Way of Changing Your Priorities
When I was pregnant with Benjamin, I went to Antenatal classes with a brilliant IBCLC*. Rosemary Gauld stressed the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. So I asked my company for 6 months maternity leave (4 at half pay, and 2 with no pay) instead of the standard 4 months. They declined, and I resigned (after lots of number crunching with husband).
6 months quickly turned into a year, and there always seemed to be a better reason to stay home with Ben, than to return to work.
My hubby suggested I look into starting a part time job in February 2014. Ben would be 16 months by then. I found a great job that suited my skills through www.recruitmymom.co.za
The best part was that it was only 2 mornings a week. I lasted 2 months. Even 2 mornings a week away from my precious boy seemed like too much at the time. Turns out 16 months is not a good time to start a child at Daycare in terms of separation anxiety. I never got over the angst of leaving him at daycare in tears, even though his teachers sent me pictures of him happily playing minutes after I left. The daycare catered for small babies who started there at the age of 4 months through to 2 years, so invariably one or more of the children had snotty noses each day Ben was there. I landed up missing many days of work due to Ben getting sick, which meant I kept losing the thread of what I was trying to achieve in the position. My hubby and I decided together that this was just not working.
I realise more and more each day that I would actually be completely happy to never go back into the workforce again. It feels so much more special and meaningful to be here for Benjamin. We are also in a very fortunate position. As older parents (I’m 42, Daniel is 51), we have had more time than most parents to establish ourselves. I am extremely grateful that my husband is both willing and able to carry the expenses for all of us. Bless his cotton socks!
I’m also very excited to have found a way to start earning an income from home. I love that I can work around Benjamin’s schedule. I’ve been working on my book for a while, and the thing that’s been bothering me is the marketing of it. So I’m thrilled to have found a clever way to build my brand and earn while I learn. I’m honing my writing skills by writing articles on the net, while writing the book itself. It’s a win-win-win for me.
2. Motherhood has a Way of Changing Your Schedule
Another way my priorities have changed is how I allocate my time. My days are now filled with things Benjamin loves to do, allowing for nap and feeding times at reasonably predictable intervals. These intervals have changed as he grew, as they do.
At present, Ben is 2, and still enjoys a midday nap. So at lunchtime we settle in for quiet time together, as he feeds and naps. I have a blast with him in the morning and then look forward to our afternoon siesta. After nap time I’ve noticed Ben doesn’t like having much on the agenda. He’s happy to go for a walk, but he doesn’t want to drive anywhere.
If we do go out, we always make sure we are home by 6pm to give Ben time to settle, have dinner, bath and get to bed before 8pm. Evenings out are a thing of the past (for now). And to be perfectly honest, I don’t miss going out at night. I’m tired by then too. Have to admit I often fall asleep with him during his last feed of the day.
In a few months we’ll see a huge change in schedule, when Ben drops his daytime nap. This may even free up some evening time I’ve been told.
As with all ages and stages, nothing lasts forever. We just take it one day at a time, watching his cues and adapting as needed.
3. Motherhood Changes Your Relationship with Your Spouse
Does this one require any explanation? He he.
Shoo-ee… huge changes here… For one, as mentioned above, we don’t get to go out for dinner or dancing or drinks “after work” any more. If we do decide to go out for a meal, it’s to our child friendly restaurant, or one with a play area within view of the restaurant. Eating a meal “together” means tag-teaming, I eat, he plays, he eats, I play. Which means we really eat alone. I think there is an end in sight for this particular change though, as Ben is taking an increasing interest in eating food with us. Yay!
Our sleeping arrangements have changed hugely too. Young Benjamin is still sleeping with me in our bedroom, and Daniel sleeps in his daughter’s bedroom (my bonus daughter) during the week while Skyler’s at her Mom’s. That way he gets to sleep through the night instead of waking up with us for Benjamin’s feeds. Next year we will be building a new master bedroom onto our 2- bedroom house, and we will make a big thing of Ben moving into his very own room. And so this change is about to change too. (Daniel is going to miss watching whatever he wanted to on TV. He he.)
In our case, another huge change in our relationship is my growing understanding of parenthood. I questioned a lot of things Daniel did as a parent before I became one myself. What did I know? What a learning curve! He reminds me of these on a weekly basis. e.g. Remember how you said he wouldn’t watch TV before the age of 2? Remember how you said he wouldn’t eat any sweets. Ha ha ha ha. The jokes on me.
Of course, there’s also a deepening of your relationship when you have a child together. You are irrevocably yoked for life. Daniel was absolutely amazing in the delivery room. Ben was nearly a week late and I landed up being induced, so labour was no picnic. Daniel rose to the challenge, coaching me how to breath in the Entonox, encouraging me, cracking jokes to lighten the mood (well, the gynae found them funny). Jokes aside, his presence is what got me through it. In the final moments of labour I felt such an immense wave of love and gratitude for Daniel, and I knew our relationship would never be the same again. He is my ROCK.
4. Motherhood Changes Your Relationship with Your Parents
Becoming a parent taught me so much about my own parents, and their choices.
I realise every day how much respect I have for them, and how they brought us up. I ask my Mom’s advice about so many things, and am so grateful both my parents are still around to answer all the questions I have.
I know now why my Mom seems to need me more than I need her. I understand the depth of love she has for me. I understand the sacrifices she made for me. I appreciate her like never before.
I see how she relates to Benjamin, and it gives me a window into how she related to me as a child. It’s beautiful to watch their relationship growing.
My Dad unfortunately has a form of dementia (called Lewy Body Disease, similar to Parkinsons), and so he is not as involved with Benjamin as he would have been if I had him a few years ago. However, it is wonderful to see how he lights up when Ben is around.
Family time has become a massive priority for me, as I recognize the importance of giving Ben as much time with his Grandparents as possible while he is still blessed to have them in his life.
5. Motherhood Changes Your Friendship Circle
I’ve made heaps of new Mommy friends since I became a Mom. Some I even met at La Leche League while I was still pregnant. For the first year we all got together as often as possible and attempted to swop baby stories amidst constant interruptions while drinking cold coffees and wiping the sleep out of our eyes. We needed our time together, but it felt like we never completed a conversation, or even a sentence, so these friends were more like acquaintances.
In the second year, when we started having more “free” time to converse, some of these new friendships have deepened, and a smaller group of Moms, sharing common goals and similar parenting styles is emerging.
I’ve had very little time for my single friends or friends with older children, as my entire focus has become family, and of course is dictated by baby’s sleep patterns. Some of my older friends have kept in contact, but I’ve noticed that some have simply moved on, and showed no interest in my new life as a mother. I have day time available, that’s when they are working. They have evenings available, that’s when I’m sleeping. And never (or shall we seldom) the twain shall meet. Perhaps I can revisit these friendships when Ben gets a bit older. For now my life is full to the brim with Mommies and families.
6. Motherhood Changes Your Way of Being
No day is the same with Benjamin. Just as I think I’ve “mastered” his routine, it changes.
I have chosen to let go of my own way of being to allow for his.
I think I was more rigid, more opinionated before becoming Ben’s Mom. Now I’m more comfortable to take every day as it comes. I’m more flexible than I was before.
I willingly & happily put Ben’s needs before my own. It’s not all about me anymore, it’s about him. Is this what it means to love unconditionally?
7. Motherhood has a Way of Bringing Out Your Creative Side
As a little girl I loved making things. I loved painting pictures, and writing little poems. I even tried writing my first book when I was about 8 or 9 years old. It was about pots and pans that talked to each other. I think I still have it somewhere.
Somehow, somewhere along the way, I stopped being creative, I stopped using my imagination.
Motherhood is bringing that all back for me. In the early days, this baking thing happened to me… suddenly I was baking cakes and cupcakes, which has never been an interest of mine at all.
We’d put on music and dance together in the lounge.
When Ben was 9 months old, we started going to Top Tots, a mother and child workshop, and we still go once a week and play together. We sing and play musical instruments and do Arts and crafts. It’s fabulous. We added another mother and child workshop, Clamber Club, when Ben was 15 months. We get to play, sing, dance, do the actions to silly songs and conquer obstacle courses – wonderful stuff.
At home we paint and draw and make things together. We make cool shapes out of play dough. We read fantastic books like Oh the Places You’ll Go! and Did I ever tell You how Lucky You Are? by the incredible Dr. Seuss.
I had such fun planning Ben’s first and second birthday parties. My creativity went to the next level at Ben’s second party. We decided on a theme of one of his favourite books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I used all the food mentioned in the book as the snacks for the day. I acted out the book as if it was a play, showing the children exactly what the hungry caterpillar ate, and counting out each piece of fruit. I’m such a nerd. But the kids loved it and so did the Moms. After the story the children all painted and made their own caterpillars, made from egg boxes (with the help of their Moms of course).
One of the things I like most about being a Mom is being able to play like a child again. I hope I never lose this ability again. Looking at my Mom and Dad, I think I’m safe there.
I Just LOVE being a MOM!
* IBCLC – International Board Certified Lactation Consultant