This is personal.
I am not used to write or talk about this stuff, in part because I assume that’s not what you are interested in, in part because I am a very (very) shy person.
But sometimes, it happens; I need to put into intelligible words the confusing thoughts that crowd my mind. And today it’s a special day, a special anniversary. Today is my son’s birthday. Two years.
Two years since the revolution
For him, it’s a moment of celebration with friends and family, when he is even more spoiled than the usual tuesday!
For me, it’s two years since the revolution. It’s 730 days since the day my life changed. It took me two full years to realize the payload of that change. That’s why I can write these words only today.
They were two years that seemed like an eternity… I got pregnant, I obtained my PhD, we moved to a new apartment, my son arrived, I started my blog and began a new job..
Then we had some darker times, with loved ones that left us…
Then, again, I could go back to Japan for research, I opened my bookstore.
Two immense years.
And I’ve always been a little slow to figure out all the power of the changes I go through.
After these two years, I am ready to say that my son is the man of my life. The only one that I will ever let messing with my life. That I can’t stop laughing if he laughs, and I get worry as soon as he sneezes.
But it took me two years to get here.
The thing is, nobody tells you the truth about having a child. They only tell you the nice part (“they will make you a better person”, “motherhood is so enriching”, and I could go on and on…); but it’s like the rest of it, the hard stuff, is kept under rags.
And I am not talking about the physical effort and struggle. No, for that I’ve been prepared by other parents, friends and doctors. So, I was well aware of the lack of sleep I was about to face (among the other things).
I am talking about something different.
I am talking about the loneliness.
The feeling of constant failure, the fear of being left behind, the fear of loosing yourself, of being nothing else than a mother.
And the guilt for these very feelings.
I am thinking about the expectation that people around you (and I don’t mean the family) put on your performance as a mother: you should have natural birth, you should have C-section, you should breast-feed, you should NOT breast-feed, you should make him sleep with you, you should make him sleep without you, you should let him cry, you should console him if he cries…
When you enter motherhood, you enter the land of “SHOULD”. And with the “shoulds” also comes the sense of incompetence and inappropriateness; and often, when you speak with other mothers, that gets worse, because there’s a strange race to prove that motherhood is amazing and that every woman is a natural born mother.
Well, I am not, clearly. I don’t even think that such a woman exists. And the more I talk with real and honest women (because I know a few of them) the more I realize that some of us are left alone. When you don’t feel like fitting in the stereotype of the perfect mother, you are immediately a monster. You only think about your career, about yourself.
And you end up with endless doubts, and with the hurdle to connect perfectly with this new human being that disrupts your entire existence.
I spent the first three months of my child wondering if there was a way to put him back from where he came; I still remember those three months as a nightmare, a moment in which I firmly believed that I would have never worked again, or have a normal life again.
And I was lucky enough to have a husband that helped my in everything. But the funny thing is, people around us wasn’t expecting him to quit his job, or take a paternal leave. They complemented him, because he is a very attentive father.
He is. He is a wonderful father; but those compliments were a clear signal. Society still expects different behaviors from mothers and fathers; and mothers are still expected to be perfect angels that can take care of their baby without a hint of doubt or frustration.
Again, I am not such a mother.
Luckily, in time I realized that life moves on; that you grow together with you baby, and you begin to have fun with him, and you can again regain some freedom.
In time, you realized the power of your love for him.
But most important, you learn to shut people out.
You learn to think with your own mind, to set your own expectations, to move at your own pace.
You come to recognize the honest and truly helpful voices from those that only try to put you down, for many different reasons.
You learn to put your energy in the right direction; one step at the time, with patience, the biggest thing my son taught me in these two years.
And once you shut the noises, what’s left is love.