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Authentic Reflection of My Motherhood Journey

Published on March 6, 2023 10:44:16 PM PST March 6, 2023 10:44:16 PM PSTth, March 6, 2023 10:44:16 PM PST

Authentic Reflection of My Motherhood Journey: Key Parenting Lessons Learned

“Parenting is a rollercoaster ride but it is also the most rewarding journey of a lifetime. If there was one thing I wish I knew as a new mum, it'd be how sleep deprived I would be for the first 6 months!” Denise Keller.

Read about the authentic reflections of the ups and downs of motherhood and parenting lessons a mum learned along the way.

You have probably seen it in movies: the mum who has it all together.

She wakes up enlivened and ready to face the day, and everything falls into place with a snap of her fingers. She prepares breakfast with a smile and sends the kids to school with a kiss on the forehead as they reply, "Thanks, mum".

Later, she joins a work discussion with equal enthusiasm or attends a yoga class followed by a healthy lunch with her girlfriends at the new food joint. She’s doing a great job at motherhood and seems to have it all.

Luckily for us, this mum is also a fictional character.

Any experienced mother will confess that motherhood is not like that movie plot; it's far from a walk in the park.

Of course, there are plenty of precious moments that bring us "joie de vivre" - like when our little one first calls us "mama".

There are also plenty of moments that will test your patience and push you to the edge. And the dreaded mum’s guilt that will haunt every decision you make, "is returning to work the right choice?" or "am I over-disciplining them?"

The beauty and joy of parenting lie in its imperfections.

Acknowledging that I am not perfect and that my parenting will never be perfect is the key to keeping my sanity and right perspective when things aren’t going the way I thought.

Asian mothers often feel pressure to live up to the “ideal” mother persona. It seems like there is an invisible report card of expectations that society uses to determine your motherhood score and perhaps your value. A mum must dedicate herself to feeding, educating, nurturing and caring for her family and do it well. Oh yes, and keeping her house organised and clean too.

Many Asian mothers suffer the “duck syndrome”, paddling furiously underwater to meet the expectations of others while appearing seemingly fine above the water. This is typical of a culture that emphasises achievements, where falling short of expectations is often viewed as a character flaw.

This invisible unrealistic pressure of motherhood will eventually erode your identity.

After some unexpected life events and much self-work, I concluded that life is too short to spend my time hustling to meet someone else's expectations. I would hate to get to the end of my life with no one truly knowing me for who I am.

The motherhood journey is unique for every woman. Being true to myself has yielded some realisations, and I’m sharing them here.

Authentic parenting is about making mistakes and having the courage to admit them.

“Prioritising family and time with my children, at the same time working around the clock - literally because who says being a mom isn’t a job? It is! One that you dont get paid for in dollars but yet get lots, in form of love.” Zoe Raymond Tan.

You will make mistakes in your parenting journey and mess up much more than you imagine. No matter how hard you try to prepare yourself - seeking advice from other parents, reading books by parenting experts or watching videos for tips from mumfluencer.

“Did we choose the wrong bath lotion, which caused our baby's eczema?” “My toddler refuses to eat vegetables.I should have started introducing them to him earlier.”

We make mistakes, small and big ones.

When my son was four, I reacted with a spank to enforce what I thought was the correct behaviour for him. That was his first. It was meant to be a swift, stern action - and then over

I'll never forget his look of absolute shock and fear when he looked up at me. He was trying to digest what had just happened and searching for why I had taken that action

It left me feeling like I had played foul in a way I could never mend. Soon, regret sets in.

Especially when I realised my behaviour was a way to work out my frustration rather than his correcting his misbehaviour. I did not think that he had learned anything from that experience.

Instead of dwelling on my guilt, I took action to repair the relationship. The first step is to admit my mistake and apologise. That episode ended with me saying, “I am sorry, mummy has hurt you. This is wrong. I will try not to do it again.” My son wiped away his tears and hugged me to express his forgiveness.

Children seem to forgive easily; they do not hold grudges. We should take a leaf from their book and not beat ourselves for making mistakes. Admitting our mistakes to our children can be difficult, especially when parents are expected to serve as authoritative figures in Asian society.

However, I want my son to know that I am not perfect and that being responsible for one's mistakes is a value I hope to impart through modelling the correct behavior.

Being a mum helped me find the courage to accept my mistakes, my imperfections and be closer to my authentic self.

Parenting is exhausting, but we still show up every day.

“Parenting is exhausting, but it is also the best time of my life, a time I will never get back.” Melissa Celestine Koh.

It can be easy to be disillusioned when you scroll through other mum's Instagram accounts, seeing their picture-perfect family photographs, clean, sparkling houses or displays of their children’s academic achievements.

“Why is parenting so hard and exhausting for me?” you might wonder.

In reality, motherhood is a demanding, tiring, and overwhelming journey that most of us were not prepared for. The physical toll of nighttime breastfeeding. Chasing after a two-year-old who has just learned to walk while being sleep-deprived.

Dealing with the emotional outburst of your toddler who refuses to put on his shoes for a walk in the park. The mental toll of leaving your crying child with the childcare teacher and quietly sobbing to yourself as you drive to work.

Being a mum is probably one of the hardest things in the world. We have been vomited on, talked rudely to, wrongly judged and exhausted. Yet, as mothers, we still show up every time. Why?

We don’t do it entirely because of responsibility and not because we absolutely have to (thanks to outsourced help). We show up, time and time again because we love our children. We show up because it is our conscious choice to be a mother.

As mums, we ought to give ourselves credit – getting ourselves to the end of a tough day and choosing to show up again tomorrow for our children is a motherhood win.

Showing up at your child’s school concert late because you worked through the night is a motherhood win.

Showing up to pour cereal and milk for your child’s breakfast despite feeling tired is a motherhood win.

We hold ourselves to the unrealistic yardstick of Instagram mums who sewed their child’s performance costumes or those who prepared home-cooked organic pancakes and eggs breakfast for their children. Often, we see their triumphs but not their struggles.

So don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for simply being present for your kids.

Authentic parenting is not about being the perfect mother but just good enough for my children.

"Parenting is a mental illness, but it's also a beautiful and rewarding journey. If there was one thing I wish I knew as a new mum, it'd be that I would be grieving the old me as I go through new chapters." Aisiqa Sinclair.

It's easy to get hooked in the "better than your mum" trap, where we over extend ourselves to present our best to the outside world.

As we get through the hectic daily routine of cooking meals, housekeeping, and tending to the needs of our children, we might wonder whether our “performance” is up to the standard of a perfect mum.

Other times, we might experience guilt for the tasks we did not do for our children, e.g., forgetting to practice flashcards or being unable to take leave for a parent-child excursion.

We must catch ourselves at these moments and reflect.

Are we too caught up in perfecting the finer details of our life that we miss out on the joy our children bring us? Is it more worth it to spend time planning and cooking the perfect scrumptious 4-course meal to please your in-laws, or should you take your little ones out on an adventure at the carnival?

Does the perfect mum even exist?

“My home is messy, but the way I am spending my time is the right way for me at this time at this stage of my life,” said Marie Kondo. Even Marie Kondo knows when to step back from her wildly successful career to prioritise her kids.

Consider embracing the concept of “good enough parenting”. Being a "good enough" mum involves understanding your limitations and needs without guilt or shame. It means accepting that mums are not superhuman, and that's okay.

As parents, we know our children. Have faith that you are in the best position to decide what is “good enough parenting” for your kids.

We know that our child will cry furiously for the first five minutes and then settle into sleep without us having to fuss over them. We know that if we do not hover over our kids when they fall, they will soon dry up their tears and get up on their own.

We know that in a relationship with secure attachment, we can afford to disappoint our child at times (especially when their requests are unreasonable) but still have them return to say, “I love you”.

Parents who do not try hard to meet every need of their children raise them to be resilient, independent and problem-solving adults.

Parenting is not my life purpose but about love and relationship building.

“Perhaps we need to find comfort in knowing even the strongest among us struggle. Our motherhood challenges/ guilt/ fears/ doubts/ insecurities/ messes are real, and normal.” Tjin Lee.

Raised in a traditional Asian home, my mum was a full-time homemaker and worked from home as a seamstress whose life revolved around her children. Raising children were her life mission, purpose and perhaps a vocation.

Growing up, I thought a good mother cooks and cleans for her family, keeps the house in order and puts the children’s needs above her own. My mother never failed to remind me of this.

When I first stepped into motherhood, this belief system profoundly affected me.

When my son was born, I took a year’s leave from work. I stopped socialising with my friends. I paused my gym membership. A newborn's feeding and napping schedule was too erratic to be away.

I had to stay dedicated to nurturing my son and giving him the best start possible.

Time passed, and soon my son turned two. Although I was happy to watch him grow, I knew deep inside that a huge chunk of me was missing.

The daily rinse-and-repeat caregiving routine was getting to me. I was often tired, short-fused and resentful. I was burned out.

It took me many years to realise that parenting is not my life mission, at least not as a defining factor.

The role is significant and precious, but it should stem from my love for my child more than anything else.

Motherhood is about developing love and building relationships, just like the other relationships in our life - marriage, siblinghood or friendship. In fact, relationship building is integral to a child's emotional, social and cognitive development.

When I began viewing motherhood as a relationship, I started to let go of the idea that it is my purpose in life, together with the expectations that come with the role.

I found the freedom to communicate openly with my son, letting him know my feelings and making sure we played together more often than worrying about whether I had prepared a healthy snack box for school.

I can pursue and grow other aspects of my life that make it rich and satisfying, such as my interest in dance and sports, spending quality time with friends and establishing a career.

Authentic motherhood is about cherishing yourself and not compromising your own needs.

Motherhood is a personal journey, but you are not alone.

“Parenting is tiring but it is also the most fulfilling and priceless job ever.” Erica K Lye.

Motherhood is a personal journey. Each of us faces different challenges, and our experiences are unique. This also means there is no standard formula for motherhood success, leaving us the freedom to forge our path. That's what makes it so precious and special.

At our parenting lows, we might feel overwhelmed, isolated, alone and depressed. Although you may think that no one has walked in your shoes, remember that many other mothers experience these exact same feelings.

Like you, perhaps they are waiting for someone to reach out.

Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Sharing your feelings with good friends and other mums is a good way to seek support during a tough time.

You will soon realise that you are not alone.


About the author
Joey Chen is a soloprenuer who is about to celebrate her tenth year of motherhood. She enjoys spending time in nature, reading and spending time with her family and friends.