Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life’s sentiments.
Motherhood. An experience like no other.
If someone were to ask me to describe what it is like, I would tell them that it’s like a bed of roses….with thorns. Yeah, that’s what I’d tell them.
On one hand, you get to experience so much love from your children. And the pride of seeing them grow from helpless tiny tots to the independent, responsible person they are today? That’s just priceless.
On the other hand, there’s this voice inside your head that constantly asks: Are you doing the right thing for them? Are you pampering them too much? Are you being too strict or overprotective?
I didn’t always feel this way, though. I had a different vision of what motherhood was going to be like for me.
I told myself I’m going to be the Cool Mom
Back when I had just gotten married, my husband and I would go on dates at the park, hang out at shopping malls, chill out in the cinemas and eat at a leisurely pace at our favourite restaurants.
Often, we would see kids running around, screaming joyfully as they ran at breakneck speed from their parents ( it felt like they had just been set free from prison).
I’d see parents calling out warnings, “Don’t run! You’re going to fall!”; threats, “Come back here or I’ll spank you!”; and bribes,” If you stop running I’ll buy you ice-cream!”
At this, I’d tut tut and tell myself, “When I have kids, I’m just going to chill and let them run about. Let them fall, it’s okay, a cut and bruise won’t kill them.”
I particularly recall seeing a child throwing a tantrum one day. He plonked himself onto the floor right smack in the middle of an H&M outlet and cried his lungs out.
You’d have thought he was being tortured or something. And the mom was just standing there looking down at him wordlessly while the dad zoned out and starting playing with his phone.
I had told myself then that my kids would NEVER do that.
Famous last words.
Now, I second-guess my every decision as a parent.
My firstborn was the cutest baby. But then again, every mother says the same thing.
He was perfect in every way, except for one thing: He cried a lot. He cried even more when his sister was born.
I remember very clearly the day I brought his sister back from the hospital after giving birth to her.
My firstborn, then only 3, had been deprived of a mother’s attention for the past few days. He wanted me to play with him, but I had to feed my daughter, so I told him that he had to play by himself first.
His face fell and he quietly went to his room. Then, thinking no one could hear him, he said (rather loudly) to himself, “Since mummy doesn’t want me anymore, I won’t like her anymore too.”
Such innocent words. And yet, those very words broke my heart. At that moment, I felt like such a failure. Did I do the right thing by having another child? Would he grow up neglected?
To make up for this, we indulged in buying him toys.
And now, at 6 years old, his room is filled with so many toys he sometimes doesn’t even remember what they are.
There lies the crux of another problem. Are we spoiling him too much? What if he doesn’t learn to appreciate what he has?
To save money, we would give the toys that he’s outgrown to his sister. But then I would think, would she feel that we love her less with these hand-me-downs? I’d end up going to buy a more girly toy for the sister just to make up for the guilt.
On days when the weather is good, we let the kids out to play. There the siblings run and race with their friends.
And this time, I am the one who runs after them, shouting threats and bribes for fear they might fall and break their little bones.
Cliché, isn’t it? What happened to the chilled out mom that I was meant to be? The logical part of my brain screams, ‘They can withstand a little pain. Cuts and bruises are parts and parcel of growing up!’, but my heart counters, ‘But they’re still so small! They need to be protected!’
In the end, the heart always wins. I blame it on my maternal instinct.
I had sworn never to spank my children.
There are countless other methods to discipline your children.
There’s the time-out method where kids stare at the wall and reflect on their wrongdoings (mine think that it’s a game).
There’s the ‘talk it out with your kids’ method where you treat them as adults, (these work but only sometimes).
And finally, there’s the Asian parenting method, spanking. Of all these methods, I’ve resorted to spanking the most.
I’m not proud of this method. I hate that I am unable to discipline them without making them feel physical pain.
I would try reasoning with them first and when that fails, my blood would start to boil. It takes a lot of patience to talk sense into kids. Then I would warn them that if they did not obey, spanking would ensue. The threat of ‘the hand’ normally works. But once in a while, it doesn’t.
The spanking probably started when my son turned 5 years old. Up to that point, I had never spanked either of my kids.
One night, my son refused to clean up his toys before bed time. He still wanted to play. So I set a timer and told him that once the time was up, he had to start keeping his toys. He agreed and off I went to do something else.
Perhaps I should have stayed with him and encouraged him to keep his toys instead, because 10 minutes later, the timer didn’t stop. He had secretly reset the timer so the alarm wouldn’t go off.
I was not amused and asked him if he had tampered with the timer. He refused to tell the truth. Now that I think back, it’s funny how simple a child’s mind works.
He had thought that time was controlled wholly by the timer, and that by changing the settings, he would be able to gain more time to play. I spanked him in the end and he cried like there was no tomorrow. He’s not lied to me since. Or at least I think he hasn’t. Heh.
Don’t get me wrong. My kids can be sweet and caring.
On days when I am tired, my firstborn will massage my shoulders while my youngest will pour me a cup of drink.
They will come and whisper sweet nothings in my ear and go tidy up their rooms. Sometimes, the brother even tries to bathe his sister and read her stories.
On days like these, I feel the happiest and tell myself, we’re doing alright.
Over the years, I’ve learnt that being a parent is no walk in the park. Motherhood is a physically, mentally and emotionally draining journey.
You constantly give and give and yet, it never seems to be enough.
But when we see the joy on our children’s faces, their smiles and laughter, that’s when we know, deep down inside that this is all worth it. Deep down inside, we know that motherhood is truly a beautiful thing.
For more stories like this, read: A Mother’s Dilemma: Should I Stay Home and Care for The Baby or Go Back to Work? and Millennial Motherhood: Here’s What It’s like Being a Malaysian Mom Today.
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