Eat, play, sleep, repeat.

Its Monday morning, her partner is getting ready for work. The toddler is having breakfast and the infant suckles hungrily in her arms. She sips on her coffee, willing it it to work magic and take the tiredness away. She lost count of how many times she had to wake up in the middle of the night to resettle the infant. The toddler drops his spoon and starts having a melt down. Her partner continues to sip his coffee as he stares at the computer, oblivious to his surroundings. She waits for him to attend to the toddler, his phone rings, he answers and walks out to the balcony to avoid the screams from the toddler. She gets up from the feeding chair, infant still suckling. She picks up the spoon from the floor and gives it a quick rinse before giving it back to the toddler. The infant loses her latch on the breast and starts crying. She helps her reattach and gets back on the feeding chair. She picks up her coffee cup and tries to take another sip, but not before the toilet training toddler announces that he has to answer the call of nature. The cup is placed back on the table, she unlatches the infant and puts her down, takes the toddler to the bathroom but before they can make it, his trousers get wet. He is visibly upset and starts crying. In the next room, the infant is laying on the floor, arms flaring, screaming her head off. She consoles the toddler and reassures him that accidents are part of toilet training. She completes changing him and as they step out of the children’s room, her partner meets her in the hallway and hands her the screaming infant. His meeting has been changed and he needs to leave. She takes the infant and wishes him a good day.

She looks at the time. Seven thirty  in the morning. She has been up for an hour and a half. Time to get ready for the day. After a quick freshening up, she packs healthy snacks for the toddler and pureed food for the infant. By eight o’clock, the kids are too restless. The toddler is climbing on furniture and trying to wrestle the sister. She is exhausted just from telling him what he cannot do. Time to leave the house. She heads to the local park. The infant will have her morning nap in the pram while the brother runs around the park. She will then get back home in time for lunch and afternoon naps. Or so she hopes.

At the park, she rocks the pram with one hand, trying to get the infant to sleep. She pushes the toddler on the swing with the other.  She scans the park and  studies other care givers. She makes eye contact with a mother rocking her baby in a carrier. They exchange a knowing look. No words are needed. They can both recognise sleep deprivation when they see  it. Next to her, a grandmother is negotiating with a boy who is about five. Grandmother is ready to leave the park, but the boy is not. She knows how it will end. She moves on to a group of new mothers with their babies in their arms. She cannot hear what they are talking about but she guesses its about sore nipples and where to find the best lactation consultant. “Mommy, I want snacks”. Her toddler has had enough of the swing. She walks over to a picnic table and lays out the spread she prepared before leaving the house. Her son takes the bowl and flips it then starts crying. The watermelon and blueberries are so yesterdays snacks. Today, he wants grapes, cheese and crackers. She handles it just like any mother who has been in the business of serving toddlers would. It takes about fifteen minutes before he settles down. By this time, the infant is awake and rendering an ear piercing scream. She rocks the pram with one hand as she rinses the few blueberries and watermelon that she rescued of the ground. She looks at her watch. Eleven O’clock. One more hour at the park. The infant stops crying. The toddler takes off to chase some birds. She sits on the bench and lets out a big sigh.

Its been seven months since she started her maternity leave. Some days are great and she feels like a good mother, like she is on top of things. The kids are thriving, the toddler is saying please and thank you and having less tantrums, the baby is sleeping longer and seems happier. Other days, her trending hashtag is #mumfail.  The books “Raising boys’ and ‘Save our sleep’ take up all the space on her night stand. Waiting for her to peruse the pages and learn how to be a super mum. They come highly recommended by friends who have preceded her in this motherhood journey. Friends who swear by these books and proclaim how their lives were transformed by them. She hopes to find time to read past the first page.

The screams of her toddler bring her thoughts back to the park. She has been mechanically rocking the pram. The toddler seems to have engaged in an unpleasant encounter with another park visitor. She can hear a carer repeating the all too familiar phrase. “Share your toys please”. She walks over and convinces her toddler to walk away. A bribe is involved. She used to frown at the thought of having to bribe children to get them to do things. Oh how she judged those who did, and how she wishes she could say to them “I get it”.  Bribery is what gets the toddler back in the pram for the walk home.

Its lunch time. There is another tantrum from the toddler, screams from the infant and a lot of coffee for her. She manages to feed everyone lunch, clean the mess, read a story and put the toddler down for his afternoon nap. The infant seems to have other plans. No amount of rocking will make her go to sleep. Time goes too quickly. There is dinner to be made and laundry to be folded, all the while rocking the infant and trying to get her to take her second nap. Before long, the toddler is up again! He wants to go to the park and ride his bike. There is a please in the request, she obliges. In two hours, they will be back in the house having dinner. There will be another mess to clean, baths, story time and negotiating bedtime.

At the end of it, she will sit in the dark all alone, cup of tea in hand, tired but unwilling to go to bed. Aware of the fact that tomorrow will be a repeat of today. The parks may be different, the people may be different, tantrums less or more,naps longer or non existent, but the day will follow the same pattern. She picks up the remote control and turns on the TV. Its not time to hit repeat yet, she turns on Netflix.

 

 

What lies beyond the hill.

On paper,  she has the perfect life. She lives in a nice city, has a good job, is surrounded by family and friends. Her love life is one that is envied. Yet, with all these things going for her, deep down she feels like there is something missing. There is a world out there that is calling her name, waiting for her to explore it. She feels like she is standing at the bottom of a hill, looking at the peak, wondering what lies on the other side. So one day, she makes a big decision. To leave all that is comfortable and familiar, and find out what lies beyond what the eye can see. Its not an easy decision, but somehow deep down, she knows its the right one.

After a lot of internal anguish, she starts the process of letting go of what she has known her whole life. She turns in her resignation at work, gives her partner the ‘its not you its me’ speech as Fergie’s lyrics to “big girls don’t cry’ echo through her head. Her family is hesitant to let her go, but they are supportive. She does not have a specific plan. All she knows is she needs to leave and head somewhere. Maybe from this new place, she  can think more clearly, see the future with a different set of eyes. Maybe even find a greener patch of grass. From this new place, she can feel alive again; and who knows, maybe after she has seen what is on the other side of the hill, she will return home and fit right back in like a missing part of a puzzle.

Sitting at the airport, she stares down at what years of her life  have been reduced down to. Two large suitcases and a carry on bag. She looks at the ticket placed between the pages of the lonely plant that her brother gave her as a partying gift.  She knows where she will be spending the next couple of nights, but beyond that, the rest is uncertain. She smiles at the thought that she is both nervous and excited. Her flight starts boarding. She looks back and gives her family one last wave. She can tell her mother is besides herself, but she is hiding her pain. During their chat the night before, she showed her how to use Whattsapp and Facetime. She even opened an Instagram account for her so she can follow her daughter’s adventures. She gets the urge to run back past security to give her family one last hug. She can see them blowing kisses and her father mouths the words ‘we love you’.

She is next to board. She fights the tears stinging behind her eyes and puts on a brave face. The attendant hands her back her paper work and wishes her a good flight. She takes a deep breathe and steps forward, knowing there is no turning back. She knows that tomorrow she might feel scared, doubtful and lonely. She knows that she will have days when this may seem like a bad decision, but like her family said to her, she can always come back home. So, on this sunny day, clear and blue skies, her heart threatening to pound through her chest wall,  she takes one last breathe and lets it all go, and soars to great heights.

 

 

What I gained from joining a mothers group.

When I was pregnant with my first child, a lady I met at a party gave me one very valuable piece of advice. She told me to attend the mothers group meetings organised by my local early childhood centre. She also told me to go to more than one meeting.  She went on to explain that at the first meeting, I might feel that I have nothing in common with these women. That the meeting would feel like a waste of my time and there was nothing to be gained from listening to a group of mothers complaining about sleep deprivation and sore nipples. She advised me to stick it through, to go a second time and a third time, and in that group, I was likely to find a friend. As a new mother to be, in a foreign city, loneliness was definitely a concern of mine. None of the new friends I had made had children. Now, looking back, I am so glad I listened to the lovely lady who took time to talk to me at a party.

My son will be three in a few months and I have to say, nothing prepares you for motherhood. Not the endless advice, not the literature and not even those lovely think pieces (like this one) that show up on your facebook feed. It’s a whole new ball game, and for that reason, I am thankful for the ladies from my mothers group who have now become friends and confidants.

Together, we have laughed, cried and shared our stories of motherhood many a times. It’s because of them that I survived those first nine months of sleep deprivation. It’s because of them that as I experience the joys of having a newborn again, I have managed not to lose my mind. They have taken my son away for a few hours when I needed to concentrate on my baby girl, brought meals to my house and sent me messages to remind me that when it comes to parenting, none of us really know what we are doing and that is okay.

So here is my hope to anyone reading this. If you are a new parent to be, or know of a new parent to be, encourage them to go to that mothers group or meet up. Tell them to go a second and a third time, and hopefully, somewhere in that large group of other mothers, a new friendship will blossom, and just like me, they will be glad they showed up.

I am not my hair.

In the last 2 weeks, I have been mistaken for a man four times. Four times! Okay so the first time was by a young boy so I will let that one pass. The second and third, by people on my Instagram account. They thought that a picture of me and my husband riding bicycles was a picture of a same sex couple. You can take a look at the Instagram picture here. 

The fourth time,  a vendor in my new neighbourhood.  I walked in to his shop pushing my infant in  a stroller, he looked up briefly and addressed me as ‘sir’. I Did a quick scan behind me just to be sure. Yap! He was addressing me. I responded and waited for him to realise his mistake and address me correctly but nothing. Sure my voice was raspy from a case of laryngitis but I did not think I sounded like a man. So with a little annoyance in my voice, I said something else, and then he looked up for more than two seconds and laughed. ‘I am sorry’ he said.  ‘I thought you were a man. The short hair threw me off.’ After a slight scoff  I asked him, ‘you based my gender just on my short hair?’. ‘Well, you don’t see that many women with short hair’, He said. ‘You need to get out more sir’ was my answer.  After a short laugh, we engaged in more conversation.  He wanted to know if my short hair was because of some tradition or custom. I explained that it was purely a matter of choice.  I wear my hair short because it suits my lifestyle.  I went on to explain that where I come from, women wear their hair many different ways, long, short, curly, straight, braided and the options are endless.  I explained that our hair does not define us and its merely an accessory.  As he handed me my change, he told me that I wear my short hair well but he still prefers his women with long hair. I smiled, aware that my infant was getting restless in her stroller and I had limited time to finish my errands.

As I walked away, I could not help but find India Aries song ‘I am not my hair’ on my playlist and rock to it all the way home. However you wear your hair, here is a  video of India Arie reminding us that we are more than meets the eye. Have you been mistaken for a different gender because of the way you wear your hair? how do you deal with it? I would love to hear your comments and stories.

Why we need naysayers in our lives.

Tackling a new venture can cause a lot of anxiety.  Its easy to be filled with self doubt and worry about what people will think of you. This is made worse by people who tell us that our idea or plan will not work. They question our abilities, explaining that whatever it is we are about to embark on, someone else is already doing it. Its easy to let these people get in our heads.  They make that self doubt even that much more louder, and in the end, our idea never takes off. We let it die before it even began. What is even more discouraging is when the naysayers are our loved ones.  People who we thought would throw all their support behind us. They know as well enough.  Our drive, our unrelenting spirit, and yet, they question our ability to carry the new idea through.  Frustrated and defeated, we give up.
What if we handled naysayers differently? What if we looked at them as friends instead of foes?  How you ask? Listen to their reasons why they think you cannot do it. Do not take it personal, but use their lack of confidence in your abilities to leave no stone unturned. Take their reasons why they think you cannot do it and work even harder. Show them that any good thing takes hard work, time and perseverance.  Do not let them get into your head and kill your dream. Keep that fire burning. And when you finally accomplish what you were aiming for, look at them and smile. Thank them for asking the difficult questions, the questions that allowed you to look at things from a different angle, the ones that allowed you to better your product or methods,  the questions that helped you turn a why into a why not!