Friday, February 22, 2008

Believe me, I tried.

[This post is written by mummyjaan of Apya and Bubbu]

I tried to write a letter to myself patting me on the back, but this is how it turned out. In all honesty, Sandeepa and Poppins, I did try!


Dear mummyjaan,

To be honest, I don't have a very high opinion of you as a mother. You're somewhat carefree, your "schedule" is chaotic, your housekeeping skills stink, you forget important deadlines, but worst of all is how you alway focus on the negative.

You constantly compare yourself to your mother (her good points), your aunts, your cousins; how well they seem to manage their house, cook fabulous meals, and are generally on top of things. While you spend your time fretting about how you're falling behind on so many jobs. You think way too much about how well you could have done this or how badly you handled that?

And yet, you try so hard.

That is perhaps the root of the problem. You're trying to be perfect, and every time you stop to look back at yourself, you realize how far from perfect you really are.

At least once a day, you catch yourself thinking: "I just wasn't cut out to be a mother. I shoulda stayed in the hospital and looked after other people's children and never bothered to have my own."

You didn't know a thing about children. Real children, that is. Sure, you knew how to treat the sick ones in the clinic and ICU. You loved all your patients, didn't you? But you knew zilch when it came to normal, healthy children.

Your in-laws and parents, naively, thought that because Paediatrics was your very own specialty, you knew everything there was to know about children and would happily breeze through motherhood! And you, in your stupidity, thought likewise. Haha! what a joke!

The first few weeks with Apya saw you tossing those expectations into the bin. Screaming, fussing, high-need Apya. Feisty and spirited, attention-seeking Apya, a refluxing, grumbling and colicking Apya - a baby who settled to sleep only after completely exhausting her parents - she kept you on your toes from day 1.

When you heard her first lusty cry in the operation theatre, you thought to yourself, "Wow! That is the most enchanting, most musical sound I have ever heard! I am a mother!" That one sound is permanently etched onto your memory. Now, whenever that track replays in your head, you mutter to yourself, "Drama queen right from the start! Wants the whole world to run to her."

You hadn't grown up seeing babies and children around you - you were an only child and had no siblings. You lived abroad in a nuclear family and had never even seen a baby at close quarters, except for now and then during social visits.

No wonder then, it was so difficult for you to look after her all by your lonely self - no mother or MIL to guide you, no neighbour, no friend, no husband (he was often away long hours). Amazingly, you pulled through - even though you had an encounter that dreaded monster ("depression") along the way. If it hadn't been for the kind midwife who visited you regularly in your home - your only contact with humanity - you would have gone insane.

Your first-born had severe tongue-tie. That, in itself was not an issue; however, neither you, nor your midwives ever correlated that with the excruciatingly sore nipples you had for all of 5 weeks. Only when her mouth got bigger and she could curl her tongue around the areola properly, did the soreness and bleeding stop. Until then, you bit your lips and cried with agony every time she fed. You yourself, in your sorry state, didn't realize the sore nipples could be related to her tongue-tie until much later, when you read about it at La Leche League. So much for being a doctor. If there was anything you learned in the first year of motherhood, it was how little you actually knew.

I am proud of you for a few things: how you pulled through that difficult first year, mostly on your own. You more or less learned "mothering" on your first-born. It was tough, for you and your baby, but you survived.

I'm also glad about another thing: you wanted to breastfeed her (and you prefer the term "nurse" to "breastfeed", incidentally) for 2 years and you did. Even though your colleagues said it would be impossible once you began working. That she was weaned onto solids at 11 months made it easier, but I'm glad you continued to nurse her. She would wait for you all day at her minders', and the first thing she did when she saw you was to jump onto your lap and demand, "Peeti peeti hona!". After nursing her on the sofa of your child-minder's living room, the two of you would go home. Once home, she nursed half the night. I think, by cuddling up to you while nursing, she tried to bridge the distance between you and her in the day-time.

I also like the fact that you consider yourself your daughter's friend - someone she can play with and talk to. It will be a challenge to continue this, as you try to strike a balance between "authority figure" and "chum". I know the reason why you are not strict with her - it is because you are still haunted by painful memories of your own highly authoritarian, inflexible, perfectionist mother. The fact that you could not talk to her openly without getting into trouble is still a very sore point for you. It keeps intruding into your own relationship with your daughters. You're terrified of becoming strict like your mom. You know all you ever wanted was for your mother to give you a hug and forgive you for all your perceived "short-comings". But she was very averse to displays of affection and associated that with "mollycoddling". So you do hug and kiss your little girls at every opportunity. And you tell them that you love them very very much.

You will have to work on your temper and patience a bit more - you have improved tremendously over the last 4 years - but I think there is room for improvement still. I know you were the most impatient human being in the whole world. It is impressive how, for the sake of your children, you have actually tried to change your nature - simply because you do not want your daughter to pick up your impulsiveness and fiery temper. If she has inherited your explosive temper, then there is little chance of her turning out a calm and cool person :), but if modifying your own behaviour can help, then I am glad to see that you have tried. Keep it up!

In closing, I can't say you're the greatest mom on earth, but I'll give you credit for this much: you do really, really try. If your girls learn that much from you - trying your best, being honest and true to yourself, having kindness in their heart towards one and all, I would suggest you stop worrying about the burnt dinner and the unsorted laundry.

That is all.



Asha said...

Nobody is perfect mj, we all try hard and most of the time it just works!:))

Kodi's Mom said...

thats a beautiful letter, MummyJaan and I can relate to your mommy complex in many, many ways. I still say you're the greatest to your kids - for else would try so hard?

Dee said...

nice one :)

Tharini said...

Brilliant MJ. Just brilliant. You really touched my heart through this honest tete-a-tete. I really relate to the trouble you had to sit and write this letter and search within yourself to find a way to be kind to yourself. I am unable to do that still and writing that letter seems elusive.

You have a lovely sense of humour that makes me smile all through the parts that touched my heart.

You are wonderful!

indosungod said...

mj that was beautifully evocative. you deserve a lot more credit than you let on, don't be so hard on yourself. you are wonderful mom.

karmickids said...

OH Mummyjaan, that was so beautiful and so true. We're all struggling to try our best, and all battling demons of how we were raised...

Poppins said...

Mummyjaan, that was beautiful. It couldn't be clearer to me that you're a really fantastic mother. Because of all that you've been through and haven't given up !

Compared to what you've been through I for one have had it super easy. Upbringing that I am comfortable with, a tremendous support system, a low maintenance baby.. When I whine the next time about how hard my life is, I will remember what you and Kiran wrote.

You breastfed for two years despite a rough start. You are not ashamed to admit that you don't know everything about parenting despite being a paediatrician! What's not to be proud of over here?

Frankly my dear I don't give a damn about your so called lack of housekeeping skills. Housekeeping does not equal mothering. I'm sure Apya would much rather have a fun mother even if the house isn't in the greatest shape (if she even notices that is !)

Thank you for writing that letter. Keep at it, next time you'll write a nice happy one. I'm positive ! :)

bird's eye view said...

mummyjaan - that was perfect. The wonder of it all is that just by trying, each one of us is the perfect mom...

Trishna said...

That was the sweetest,most perfect letter I ever read! And I can relate to you in so many ways,after reading this-perfect mommy complex,taking care of the baby alone,swollen nipples..I can go on and on!It was really nice reading this letter-a very heart warming letter it is!

Mona said...

Wow, that was a lovely letter, a down to earth one, Really loved it. You are a very humble mother dear, a very good one. Your kids will be proud of you.