“The realities of motherhood are often obscured by a halo of illusions. The future mother tends to fantasize about love and happiness and overlooks the other aspects of child-rearing: the exhaustion, frustration, loneliness, and even depression, with its attendant state of guilt.”
– Élisabeth Badinter
In 2018, I received the highest rating attainable, won a local award for excellence and got nominated for an international award for a project I had been a part of that year. I was on a serious high, and in the words of a popular Nigerian blogger, I fell pregnant. I had a healthy pregnancy, a 20-minute labour in week 38 and a harrowing delivery experience – episiotomy and a re-stitch with no painkillers and barely any numbing. There is video proof of this, and maybe that is why I remember it so clearly. People say you forget the pain, but sis… my eyes watered and my vagina clenched just recounting this. It has been 9 months. We will give it time.
I went back to work 3 months after loAF (little one AF) was born, and I had the benefit of closing from work at 4pm. However, I barely saw him in the morning, and our bonding time in the evening? I was always so tired, and I did not think I was adding any value to his life. At some point, I felt jealous of my husband because he had the luxury of taking our son out on early morning walks, feeding him, cleaning him and just being an active parent. Me? At work? I felt horrible. Compared to the previous year, 2019 was not up to par at all. Coupled with the fact that I still had to do life the same way?! Hello mom-guilt!
What is mom-guilt anyway? Mom-guilt is the feeling of guilt, doubt, anxiety or uncertainty experienced by mothers when they worry they’re failing or falling short of expectations in some way. I was falling short at home. I was falling short at work. Expectations were not met.
Fast forward to 2020, and I have let his nanny go. That morning, we packed up his things and drove out of state to my parents. It was supposed to be short-term. We were supposed to get another nanny. It has been 7 weeks, and I have only seen him 4 times since.
I thought I knew mom-guilt before. Ha! Ha! ha! Meet mom-guilt-amplified.
Here are some questions that I have answered that have helped me deal with these feelings:
- Am I doing the best I can with the resources I have available to me? Be honest with yourself. How are you maximising access to your partner, your time, your money and others, to give your child the best parenting experience that you can?
- Am I treating myself with love and respect? This is very big for me. Every day, we are exposed to stories of other mothers talking about how present they are for their children. It may not be meant to attack you or point out your failures, but the comparison will make you feel terrible. Stop it. You are the best parent for your child. Focus on that. Focus on your child now. Focus on yourself now. Treat yourself with love and respect.
- Can I do better? Can I be better? Do an honest self-review. Ask your girls. How do they think you can improve? Take feedback patiently and work out a plan for improvement. There is always a next level. Do not put yourself under unnecessary pressure.
My loAF is a boisterous, curious, energetic child. He loves listening to Libérée, Délivrée – the French version of that popular song from Disney’s 2013 animated feature film, Frozen. He enjoys playing by himself with things that do not remotely resemble his toys and shout-mumbling Hallelujah with his hands lifted up. Yes, he is definitely my son.
At this moment, I am unable to be a physically present and hands-on mother. Still, I can video call my parents and talk to him on the phone. I get to see him, and he gets to see me. He babbles, and I deliver a proper monologue interspersed with appropriate cooing sounds. I also have to struggle to get his attention sometimes (and that hurts a lot), but I love the fact that even when I have not seen him in a week, he smiles at me with his two teeth and I know all is right in the world.
And when the feelings come, I remember that all of us in my community are doing the best we can, and I instantly feel better.
You’ve got this, mama!
Viv is a Change Management specialist in a financial services organisation, who enjoys reading, listening to music and talking about her son to anyone who will listen.
All of Naomi’s Parlour posts are edited by Ife Agboola.