Being a mother

Every mom has a unique experience, from the day you find out you are expecting a child to the day you die. Sometimes we forget that as women, our whole make-up, from our endocrine system to our physical appearance, all of it is part of the intricate honour of being able to bear and mother a child.

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The incredible and overwhelming emotional connection that starts, for some from the first sight of that positive line on the pregnancy test, for others somewhere in the second trimester, yet others when you hold your baby for the first time. It doesn’t really matter when, but that connection is undeniably the most important one of your life. And this happens with every child you bear. Not all women make good moms, but most women at some stage of their lives think of having a child, or consider what it may be like. Well, all I can say is quite simple and cliche, it changes you forever.

The month of May is all about Motherhood, it is also my Birthday month and that always reminds me of my mom’s experience as a mother to me. You see, its not just about being a mother, it is about being your mother’s child. So much of what shapes you as a person starts with your very first relationships and of course this starts with your family. We form our world views from what we experience in our family culture, and to me the culture in a two-parent home is often set by the mother. It was the case in my family.

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I can go on forever about what it means to me to be Mishka’s mom, but I can’t begin to think about my own motherhood without thinking about my mom and what motherhood meant to her. Yes, generational gaps sometimes cause us to misunderstand each other and our parenting methods, my mom certainly does not always approve of mine. But I learnt so much from my mother about sacrifice and about unconditional love. Raising five children is no easy task, and whenever I feel exhausted from a day driving around to get Mish to all her activities I remember my own mom taking an afternoon nap, after making sure all of us were properly fed, dressed in our sports attire and at our desks doing home work. I remember going into the off-limits grown up sitting room, where everything looked pristine and untouched, there on the couch, my mom with her eyes closed, at peace – I couldn’t get myself to wake her to let her know it’s almost time to get up and start taxiing us around. But never ever did she not wake up on time, it’s as if she had a built in alarm clock, it absolutely amazed me, to this day I am so grateful for every dress she fixed for me, every cake she baked for a school event, every beautiful word she said to make me feel better about disappointing life events.

Being a mother means you no longer think about yourself when you open or close your eyes, it means you never sit down without first thinking if your child has what she needs Being a mother means your heart breaks on a daily basis, and not the silly kind where a boy hurts you, no this heart break is for the little struggles your child faces everyday in the process of growing up, but you can only be there, you can’t change their experiences, because it is what they feel, not what you feel. Being a mom means constantly thinking about your child’s future and what you can do to make sure its a good one.

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I’ve also come to realise that all the things I wanted my mom to do differently, I now judge much less harshly, in fact, I now see how she must have felt or thought when she said and done the things that drove me so mad. Being a mother means you learn to see other’s point of views and be more empathetic, less judgmental. Being a mother means you have to say goodbye to all your preconceived ideas about what a good mother is supposed to be.

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All we can do as moms is our very best. We will be judged, by other mothers and worst of all by our children. But I take comfort in knowing that today all I have for my mother is respect, despite mistakes and fights and misunderstandings. Being a mother changed me.

Tips for raising an only child

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Life with an only child can get very interesting because all of our time and attention are focused on this one person. Mishka can come up with the funniest stories and interpret situations in ways that we never imagined. It got me thinking about what the impact of being an only child really is on her development now and in future.

So many couples have children later in life which makes it quite challenging and risky to have a big family. If I just go back to the time I was pregnant with our Mishka (I was 40 at the time) thinking how blessed I am to even be given a chance to fall pregnant. Worrying about a normal pregnancy, about a normal child to be honest. To go through all of that again in two years time just did not make sense to us, especially with chances of genetic disorders rapidly increasing from a age of 35.

Many other couples and even our families think we did Mishka an injustice to only have her, and that we were selfish in our decision. Perhaps it is true, but for us the other risks outweighed the risk of raising a “spoiled only child”. So we got creative and decided that we will make a concerted effort  to make Mishka’s life interesting, fun filled and integrated.

That’s why I want to share my experiences with other single-child parents and let you know that it is possible to raise a well rounded, socially integrated only child if you pay attention to a few little things from the beginning.

1. Plenty of activities

This is where Ian and I come in, we make sure we have plenty of play time together. I enjoy outdoor activities like getting on our bicycles and exploring our neighbourhood. We run down to the beach and catch and release rockpool fish. Ian spends time with Mishka indoors after work, they spend hours building lego towns and villages. Sometimes when he is busy in the garage Mishka’s curiosity get the better of her and she has to know what he’s up to, so much so that she now has her own basic toolbox!

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2. Pretend Play Kitchen, Doctor and Cleaning Sets

It also happens sometimes that we are just too tied up with work or other projects, but then Mishka knows how to keep herself busy. Only because we showed her how to pretend play and kitted her out with a backyard mud kitchen and gave her a mini cleaning set (no slavery I promise!).

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3. Crafty activities

Get a crate together with a few craft activities. For girls it can be anything from tying strings of beads to making masks with cardboard and glitter. Have it stocked and handy, when boredom kicks in it’s a matter of finding a comfortable space and opening up that box to transpose them to a beautiful world of creativity and discovery.

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4. Treasure Hunt

This takes a bit of effort from your side but the excitement and anticipation that go with this activity – Priceless! Get creative and have themes for the hunts. Make sure she learns something from it. Include her friends, maybe let her make an invitation for her closest two friends and make a play-date out of it.

5. Give only children the opportunity to interact with other kids

This can easily be done by enrolling your child for after school activities from an early age, this is a crucial time for your child to learn to socialise.

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6. Teach your child social skills

This is very important as only children are very easily perceived as being selfish and reluctant to share. You can prevent this by making a point of teaching your child how to share with you and then with other kids or adults. Reward children when they’re being considerate and administer consequences when they aren’t.

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7. Make a point of encouraging independence

It is very easy for you to make your child too reliant on you, it is just natural to protect and shelter your child, but unfortunately with an only child there is a very real danger of over protection. This can be avoided by being conscious of your actions and letting your child have fun on her own, give her some chores and responsibilities to emphasize her ability to function on her own (within reason of course).

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8. Be careful with your expectations

Now this is easier said than done because after all this is your only chance to shine through your child, there is only one. Haha, jokes aside. Having unrealistic expectations of an only child is a very common pitfall we sometimes just can’t avoid. I am guilty myself, I sometimes expect Mishka to participate in every possible activity, just to make sure I haven’t missed one or two hidden talents. But this can be very harmful to your child’s identity as she may feel that she has to be the best at everything.

My biggest piece of advice is to start the socialisation at home. It will take effort sometimes but setting time aside to get involved in her life, to share fun activities and to teach her how to be part of a team can make the difference between a stereotypical only child and a well integrated and liked human being.

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