Mother’s Day is a celebration of all the cherished forms of motherhood. This one is for the strong mothers, the nurturing ones, for the mothers who have lost children, for the children who have lost mothers, for those who are aching to be mothers, for those who choose not to be mothers. Read more here.
I hung up the phone and stared at it for a while. A friend had called to tell me that they were planning to hang out that weekend and she wanted to let me know even though she knew I wouldn’t be able to meet up. I kept my voice even as I thanked her and hung up cheerily. But inside, I could feel the tears welling up and threatening to overflow. But before they had their moment, I had a shriek of joy as my three-month-old daughter discovered her fingers for the 100th time. I put the phone down and went back to playing with her.
I knew I had to make a decision to leave her in the care of another person or take on the task myself.
Just a few months prior to my newfound role as a mom, I had been in advertising, flying from one city to another. Walking on the quaint streets of Beirut in March, in Cairo at a shoot till 4 am in August and sipping drinks on the Bosphorus in November. Hanging out with eclectic groups of people in Dubai, going out late into the night and lazing on beanbags on our 40th-floor office balcony.
I was doing what I loved most; writing, traveling and hanging out with people just like me. Then I got pregnant and I was ecstatic, but I knew life was about to change. The first months of my pregnancy definitely forced me to slow down. Then, as I got bigger, my responsibilities at work got harder and my social circle grew smaller. And as the time for her to arrive came closer, I knew I had to make a decision to leave her in the care of another person or take on the task myself. Hiring a nanny is an option but somehow I had always thought I would do it on my own, you know be that mom warrior you see on TV, doing it all.
As expats, those are the only two choices. Since my family is miles away, I took an extended sabbatical from work. But honestly, it felt more like I was exiting the only life I knew. As if I was leaving myself behind and taking on the role of someone completely different.
After she was born, the initial days were hectic and filled with visitors which left me feeling overwhelmed but surrounded by love. But as she turned a month or two, slowly the visits stopped, my husband went back to work full-time, and I assumed my role as primary caretaker.
I stopped changing my clothes every day because I mean, why change out of PJs if you’re going to go right back into them? I would stand on the counter, stuffing spoonfuls of food quickly into my mouth, watching my daughter in case she needed me. I would try to keep my phone away but then would inevitably start browsing to see what my friends were up to.
I began to lose myself.
I was supposed to be the dynamic, workaholic, social career-driven woman. And here I was, baby hair sprouting from my temples, clothes in disarray and the eating habits of a toddler.
The crushing weight of parenting is something people, especially women, rarely talk about.
But beyond all this, the worst bit was the crushing loneliness. The fact that I saw my friends stepping out as they usually did, while I waited at the door for my husband to come from work to alleviate me of childcare for a bit. I saw the calls from colleagues go from awkward, to rushed, to non-existent. I didn’t whine because what sort of person would say they miss a job over a child right? I met some new moms, but I didn’t see the struggle within them.
Who was I? Had I lost who I was?
The crushing weight of parenting is something people, especially women, rarely talk about. It’s hard to admit that one minute you’re a coveted member of society and the next you’re a forgotten ornament in a house.
I don’t blame the friends either. I’m sure it’s hard to talk to a friend who’s constantly trying to shush a newborn, breastfeed and vacuum at the same time.
But I wish that people would understand that this kind of an identity shift is impossibly hard. Especially for those of us that have worked for half of our lives. My identity was deeply tied to the accolades I received, the work I produced, the crises I managed. And I can safely say that for a few years I was lost.
One child became two and eventually, I found my balance and was able to make a shift back into doing the work I love. But it didn’t, and I don’t think ever will, erase the anxiety, the feelings of being lost in those few years.
I have now realized that I am not only one aspect of my life, but a culmination of everything that drives me.
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