Friday, February 20, 2015

When mothering can be either - an instinctive skill or a learnt art

I have never been one of those girls who can say that all I ever wanted to be was a mother. Or that motherhood defines me. Or that motherhood is my calling. I wish I could, but I’d be lying if I did.

Parenting/mothering has never come naturally or very easily to me.

During those early months and till much later, I fumbled and fretted when I had to snap on a diaper or tie on a nappy on my newborn son. I got grouchy every time I was woken up by a screaming/hungry/uncomfortable baby (which would be a 100 times) during the night. I yearned for the comfort of my blanket and the serenity of sleep, when I had to sit through the fuzzy hours nursing my son. I ached for my pre-pregnancy self…that responsibility-free self minus the mummy tummy, the dark circles, the sleep-deprived brain, the achy bones and the bag full of self-doubts.

I didn’t like cleaning my baby’s yellow poop (and still don’t)! I felt shaky every time my baby would want to be a kangaroo-kid-in-mamas-pouch (which was all the time), doubting my capability and ability to provide him comfort (I wasn’t sure who needed more comforting at that time, him or me). I trundled through the endless routines that define a baby’s life…the same monotonous cycle of feeding, diapering, rocking him to sleep. The ones that were on automatic rinse & repeat cycles all through the day, repeated meticulously every two hours till I felt that my brain was ready to drop off.

I plodded through each day, praying for more confidence and patience, wondering if I’d ever be totally comfortable in this new skin, in this new avatar as a mom. If I’d ever really get over the overwhelm that came with the responsibility and this role packed within the span of 6 short letters and 3 shorter ones i.e. m-o-t-h-e-r & m-o-m.

My husband on the other hand, has been an instinctive parent from Day 1. When it comes to parenting (and maybe even flying), he flies by the seat of his pants. He has always known just what to do when our son howled/complained/pooped/fidgeted. It’s he who taught me how to snap on a diaper, hold/talk/comfort/clean/bathe/play with our baby.

19 months later, he still plays and works with my son with a sureness that makes parenting seem like a cake walk (now that could partly be because he just has to spend 2 hours per day and not 24 braving the various moods of a charming but challenging toddler, eh?! ;-)). My husband makes parenting look like a Kodak moment, like one of those breezy TV jingles, like a photoshopped image.

But for me, all of this…this taking care of and looking after the million-and-one needs of a small human is a learnt art and a skill that I have to work at every day. Even now and I suspect for many more years. I have to read, research, fumble, fume and practice before I get some of the basics right. From fixing on a diaper to dealing with a toddler’s tantrums to dressing a 1 foot high human being who hates the unnecessary layers called clothes to playing with that little dynamo, I have to study my techniques, learn new ones, plan and take every little step with a prayer on my lips and a tight rein on my patience. That’s the kind of mom I am. A ‘student mom’.

How I’d love to be a cool, confident mom with an in-born talent for mothering and an endless supply of patience. But after a little over 1.5 years, I know mothering is not one of my God-gifted talents. It’s an acquired skill, one that comes to me with a lot of hard work and head banging, research and reading, prayer and perseverance. If there’s one thing I did instinctively and without fretting, then it was reading to my son ever since he was a month old (now he loves books, asks for stories through the day, looks at picture books by himself). But the rest of it…it’s all been a labor of love. And I’ve made peace with it.

I’ve learnt to be grateful for the other skills I have, the ones that I’m weaving into my life as a mother. I’ve accepted that I can’t be a super mom - one who paints/writes/cooks/launches businesses with the same élan as changing a diaper/dressing up a mini dictator/handling the millionth meltdown. I’ve learnt that not all skills and talents come easily or naturally and that many of them can be acquired on-the-job.

My light bulb moment says that a learnt art need not be inferior to in-born, God-gifted talents. It’s just how you view it, how much you’re ready to learn, how you shape your own journey…as a mother and as a person.

#motherhood #mothering #lifeasmom #parenting

photographs by chandana & sandeep banerjee 

1 comment:

  1. Shall I share a little secret with you…? The ‘cool, confident mom’ doesn’t quite exist…and while some of us may have a little more patience than others, none of us comes with ‘an in-born talent for mothering’! That’s just the way we project it outwardly :) … while inwardly we are chewing our nails …and worrying, and praying, and trying our very best not to let down our little one with a wrong decision or statement or advice. Mothering/parenting is probably one activity that has no certified training! We just go by instinct…and yes, we all make mistakes…(and hopefully learn from them!). After all, we are average human beings with our share of failings and weaknesses…not Goddesses on a pedestal!
    So just continue with the ‘head-banging’ etc etc…it’s part of the learning process :) ! …and welcome to the Club :) !
    …and yes…you’re doing fine :) !!!


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