There was nothing quite as earth-shattering as when my doctor handed a 3 kg, tightly-swaddled bundle of pink-bellied flesh. Suddenly, I was in charge of a life. Suddenly, my own life went completely out of whack. There was always a baby permanently attached to my breast. I was sleep-deprived to the point where my eyelids were stuck at half-mast. There was an endless round of nappies to be changed along with interfering, nosy relatives to fend off. My hair hadn’t been brushed in what felt like a century. But that had to wait; I had bottles to sterilise. My back hurt. My head was heavy with a brain fog that could cover half of Antarctica. And I couldn’t remember if I had eaten breakfast or not.
Motherhood is hard, but it’s worth it. It’s the tougher job ever, but you get the hang of it as you go along. What seemed impossible and difficult in the first month, becomes child’s play by the sixth. It’s a huge learning curve, but we’re all richer in experience by the end of it.
If I could go back in time, on the day of becoming a mother, I’d carry a list and slip it into my younger self’s hand. On it would be instructions of what I wish I could’ve done differently. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve loved being a mother, and truly cherished every moment (unkempt hair and all). Yet, there are a few things I would gladly change, if given a chance. Here they are.
#1 I’d avoid using disposable diapers
When I was first given a tiny creature with zero control over his bowel movements, my immediate reaction was to wrap him up in non-biodegradable wrapping. It was several months later that I discovered reusable, eco-friendly diapers. And even then the temptation to use the disposable ones was often too much to resist. There is a landfill somewhere where my child’s diapers are intact to this day. And that thought hurts. Besides, I could’ve saved a fortune too. Diapers aren’t cheap. And they add up every month. Cloth diapers were softer and better for my son’s skin. And by the time my daughter arrived, I knew better. But still, the regret persists.
#2 I would make more time to exercise
Many women drop their baby weight before leaving the hospital. Sadly, I am not one of them. While that was mostly my own fault for procrastinating, I still regret that I could have been fitter a lot sooner.
When you have a new baby, there is always a new calamity that crops up every 10 minutes. Between my own exhaustion and inability to plan my day efficiently, my workouts would suffer. Looking back, I feel I would’ve had so much more energy as a mother, had I taken the time to exercise and look after myself.
#3 I would’ve chosen the baby-led weaning method
I went through traditional weaning with my kids, and while it had its merits, I do feel my kids would have responded better to have little more control over their food. I would’ve loved to watch them stuff their faces with softly cooked carrots or broccoli. Would’ve been more fun than shoving mashed meals into their mouths.
#4 Keep a baby journal
As my kids grow older, some of my earlier memories of motherhood have begun to fade. While I can recall the major milestones with amazing clarity, I wish I had recorded some of the quieter moments. Like, the first smile, the first cuddle and other such emotional firsts. I would’ve loved reading and reminiscing, especially now when my kids get on my last nerve with their constant demands. A journey down memory lane can be a good reminder at times a why I love my little brats so much.
#5 Buy fewer toys (especially in the first year)
During my son’s first year, my credit card nearly groaned out loud from overuse. I couldn’t resist toy shops. If they were selling, I was buying. However, when I proudly brought the toys home, my baby would play with them for a few minutes but then decided he preferred the steel spoons in the kitchen. I should’ve saved my money for later on when he really got interested in toys and games.
#6 Make more time for me
“You cannot pour from an empty cup”
When you’re a new mother, it’s easy to forget you’re also a human being. My life was focused around my little boy, to the point where I seem to stop existing. It took me a while to realise that it’s fine for me to go watch a movie and leave my son in capable hands (that weren’t mine). What if I wanted to go get a pedicure or a massage or just take a walk around the block, it was okay, the world would still be standing. It’s hard for mothers to let go. But it’s essential for our well being. We need to recharge. I feel I would’ve been much more content, and little less frazzled, had I devoted some quality time for myself.
#7 Stress a whole lot less
Is he breathing okay? Why is yawning so much? Is his mouth supposed to do that? Does he have a fever, or was it just the warm bath? Did he sleep alright? Does this rash look normal? Did he always have that birthmark?
If I was awake, I was thinking these thoughts. If I was asleep, I was dreaming about them. The first six months of my son’s life, I was reduced to one big worrywart. All that fretting and stressing added quite a few grey hairs on my head, but my kid was fine. And even when he wasn’t, when he did have a fever, he got better in no time. I wish someone had told me just how resilient and tough babies really are.
#8 Avoid comparing my child’s milestones with others
Around the time my niece turned 2 years old, she began to talk in rapid sentences. My son was 3 months away from turning 2, and so I waited. And waited. And two years later, he still didn’t speak. He was fluent by 4.5 and hasn’t shut up since. But when kids his age spoke when he didn’t, it bothered me immensely. Looking back, I found myself constantly checking his milestones with that of his peers… mostly because books and websites did that too. I wish someone had told me that kids develop as and when they are ready. Rushing them doesn’t do anyone any favours.
It’s okay to pay attention when a milestone is delayed, maybe check in with your doctor to rule out anything more serious. But to fret about it constantly in comparison to other kids is detrimental. If my kid was lacking in one department, he was acing in another. I should have focused more on the positives.
#9 Trust my instincts
I would’ve listened to my gut more. And ignored all the family members, neighbours, even strangers in elevators who thought they knew my kid better than I did.
“Oh look his stomach is bloated! He must have worms!” Said one overly concerned citizen. I didn’t agree, but I wasn’t confident enough to follow through on my instinct. So off to the doctor’s we went. Where I was told, of course, his belly is protruding, where is he supposed to store all his organs till his height increases? This was just one in a long line of interfering advice I received on a daily basis. If I could, I’d tell my younger self that a mother knows best, and to trust myself a little more.
#10 Be kinder to my husband
Ah, my better half. The light of my life. The brunt of all my frustration. All the stress I felt, the anxiety, the worry… it all collected into one perfect bomb, which I routinely dropped on his poor, unsuspecting self. We were a team. We partnered our way through parenthood, and yet, somehow I was the one doing all the yelling. So thank you to my husband for being there, even when I was going bat crazy bonkers. You’re 24-carat gold. (Doesn’t mean the stress bombs stop, but apology delivered).
To all the new mothers out there, I hope this advice helps you as you embark on this magical journey. Just remember, to take a deep breath, take it one day at a time, trust yourself, and the power of motherhood.
Do you wish you did differently as a mother? Tell us in the comments section below.