Button turned 3 last Saturday... how much he has grown in the last 3 years, and how much I've grown! Many thoughts ran through my head, like a PPT presentation on fast-forward.... the stunned silence that filled our house when we discovered that we were going to be parents (Button was a happy accident!), the many sonographs and the doctor visits, the slightly-blurry hospital days, the first feed, the first tooth, the first step, the first fall, the first word.... the list is endless.
When I think back, I wasn't ready for motherhood when I discovered I was pregnant. I was upset and happy at the same time. I knew my life was going to change and perhaps I wasn't ready to let go my party-hopping, wine-guzzling, trigger-happy traveling days. My lovely new job that I 'really really' wanted was certainly going to end in a few months time (as it involved traveling, many con-calls etc.). At the same time, I knew my husband was truly happy and I drew strength from his happiness.
A few short months later Button was lying in my arms. Everybody crooned and laughed and 'wished' their lives could revolve around him... I felt petrified and constricted, I had no choice, my life WAS going to revolve around him. I could handle an irate customer well, but I went to pieces trying to understand my wailing baby.It rained all day for the first 3 months. My maids did not clean well enough. My mom 'did not know' how to handle my new-born well enough! I changed 4 cooks in 4 months. Even my driver did not drive properly (when I don't even know how to start my car!) The worst of my barbed comments were reserved for my husband... he tried hard, and is a lovely father... but just wasn't good enough for me. I was sleep-deprived and wasn't lactating enough...most importantly, my heart didn't seem to be 'overflowing with love' as the books prescribed and fellow bloggers gushed about. I felt inadequate and upset... I am a perfectionist and wanted to be the perfect mom! What's worse, I felt guilty feeling this way.
Months rolled by... the weather changed for the better. My son began smiling at me. The husband did his best to take me out, handle the kid in the evening so I could get some me-time. I began to get comfortable with Button, but would still fret a lot over the smallest of milestones. A strong comparative mentality ruled me... my son hadn't turned over many times today, oh-no,he is going to be behind in his academics..my son did not like potato, oh-no he is going to be laughed at for disliking french fries...my son did not sprout a tooth yet, oh-no he is going to be a slow poke.... my list of worries were pointless and endless. But hindsight is perfect. I would get so much into a frenzy worrying that my husband contracted sympathetic paranoia! Luckily my mom-in-law who visited me then realized I was getting too hemmed into motherhood and suggested getting some help, and luckily, I listened to her.
Initially the help could do nothing right, but Button adored her. She was a bright young girl, quick to learn and wonderful with Button, soft-spoken and incredibly patient... both with him and me!My doc assured me that I wasn't suffering from PPD. I began socializing a little bit more and switched on my phone after many months. Blogging was an incredibly empowering outlet... it was completely me-time on the blog with neither Button nor the husband peering over my shoulder. I returned to my first love - books. I read like a maniac. I healed physically as well and felt stronger.
Once Button turned 10 months old and showed me how much his world revolved around me, I think slowly I began to love him, rather I understood that I did love him. The feeling of happiness at every small gesture from him, the pride at his achievements, the pain when he fell off the bed, the terrible helplessness when he cut his lip, the utter annoyance when he exhibited his stubbornness... hurray! I began to really feel for him.
When he turned 2, my husband took me to Singapore for a holiday.. just him and me....'just like old days', I thought. I developed a fever right at the airport...which went away only after a day of resting in S'pore. And I realized that I was actually missing my baby...all the feelings of being a bad mother leaving him with grandparents and not doing 'my only job' surfaced. Again, the husband ensured that he sorted my feelings out. I returned and took up a part-time, work-from-home option. Juggling motherhood, my house, my job, my marital relationship, my social life(which thankfully was getting a lot better) and best-of-all, my holidays, made me feel more human.. more alive... I felt stronger and happier and a better mother.
We moved to Chennai in Jan this year. Coupled with Button's independence, super-support from my in-laws and my growing confidence, I went on a holiday to Israel with a friend, without my husband or child. I was sure I would miss Button....I was certain I would make myself miserable worrying about whether my household set-up would unravel in the 6 days I was away. But like Gautama Buddha, I found enlightenment in the Holy City. I did not miss Button. I did not miss my domestic set-up. If anything, I only missed my husband occasionally. I did not feel guilty. I came back super-charged up, with a clear sense of purpose. I came back with a crystal clear idea of how my life should be.
I did not need to be a perfect mother. It is okay to give my son chocolate. It is okay to let him be with grandparents who pamper him silly. It is okay to let him watch television for a few minutes every day. It is okay to let him play with his vehicles for more than 10 minutes a day. It is okay to toilet train him at his pace. It is okay to not force him into an imagined rat-race. It is okay to let him get dirty. It is okay to let him fall, mess up, express his anger in words. It is okay to let him be. It is okay to let him grow up at his pace!
I did not need to maintain a perfect house. It is okay to change curtains once a quarter or even after 4 months or 6 months. It is okay to let the house-help take a day or two off to handle their family affairs. It is okay to have dirty corners and cobwebs (even better if they have spiders I could show Button!). It is okay if I forget to salt the rasam or make chapattis. It is okay to eat curd rice or even pizza occasionally. Double okay to eat Maggi and Nutella sandwiches!
I did not need to 'become' a perfect wife. I am. For my husband. I truly am blessed to have him in my life.
I ought to work. Enjoy the stress of deadlines. Complain about my boss. Drink 10 cups of horrible machine coffee. Feel harried about leaving 10 minutes late from home. Worry about my ratings. Fuss about the formatting of my presentation deck. Yell at my laptop for not magically saving my data files.
And so, I listened to Button more. Kissed the husband more. Apologized to my mom for being a difficult daughter. Hugged my sister more. Thanked my in-laws more. Found a job. Smiled at the Universe's abundance.
Fast forward to June 2011. It was time to drop Button at school....I watched him square up his shoulders as he walked in bravely, a few tears finding their way down his cheeks... and I started crying softly... my heart finally overflowed with the love I had been reading about all these months. I AM a good mother I realized. Button loves me for who I am, not who I think I should be. Amen!