Before having children I heard countless mothers lament the loss of their former lives – and as an observer, it certainly seemed like there was a lot to give up. I listened to them with equal parts sympathy and dread. The emphasis of their new lives seemed to be on loss.
I’ve been a full-time mother for four years now, and I confess I do contribute to the chorus of mothering complaints. Like most mothers, bladder control and sleep were the first causalities. I put my career “on hold” to raise my children at home; freedom, privacy and spontaneity are distant memories to me.
I have also forfeited my social self – the movie-goer and traveller. Before children, my last trip was to Bosnia, Slovenia and Montenegro. Since having kids I haven’t made it further than Queensland, and if I should ever be brave enough to tackle long haul travel, major destination attractions will include kiddies clubs and cheap nannies.
But I was prepared for a lot of the sacrifices, so I didn’t resist them too much once I set eyes on the most important person I would ever meet – my first daughter.
Amongst the myriad sacrifices of motherhood, my transition to motherhood was very positive. I now have three daughters and I have gained far more than I have lost – and it’s not just the few extra kilos on the bathroom scales.
A sense of vulnerability
The moment you became a mother is the moment you became intensely vulnerable. Every parent remembers leaving the hospital with their newborn; the slow and cautious drive home from the hospital, and the sudden realisation that you're in charge of protecting this child for life.
There’s a great fear that is borne out of creating life – the worry that it will be taken away from you. The pain of losing your child is impossible to imagine. Becoming a mother has softened me; it has shown me how to love more freely and how to express love. I have learnt to accepting the vulnerability that is part of parenting, and embrace it.
A child’s perspective
Inhabiting the world of a child for any length of time is a great privilege. You witness how they see the world: unfiltered, unbiased and without prejudice. By watching my children learn and grow, I have let go of past judgments. I see different shades and perspectives now. And teaching my kids to accept differences and embrace diversity is a great life lesson for me too.
Becoming a mother has also reconnected me with my childhood and the child within me. I'm less inhibited and more open to simple pleasures. There’s really nothing more liberating than being silly with your children. In these moments, when I shed my responsible veneer, I'm not a mum, I'm “me” a few decades ago, having the type of fun that too often seems reserved for young children.
Becoming a parent is life changing: literally overnight you become responsible for a life. Inversely, you become conscious of your own mortality. As a mother to three important lives I am more aware of the present, of living in the moment. I feel a great sense of responsibility to be around to see them develop and grow. I am acutely aware of how precarious and precious life is.
The 3 P’s are inextricably linked: the passion you feel for your children, the patience to walk slowly so they can pick up sticks, and the perseverance to keep on giving endlessly, selflessly and without condition.
A new me
While there are times when I mourn the loss of my old self, I have emerged as a new me, perhaps a better version. I feel more confident now than I ever have. I feel calmer. I feel grateful. I can easily distinguish between want and need, between worry and reflection. I also feel more observant and curious, a by-product of spending time with a toddler. Watching my children discover the world around them has awakened a curiosity within me. This self-awareness and examination is an exciting part of my motherhood experience.
No one is ever fully prepared for parenting but I was least prepared for these self-discoveries. Motherhood is the greatest expression of who I am.
And really, cultural exposure is over-rated with travel. Nowadays if the brochure lists “lying in a hammock” as an activity, I am sold.