You’ll understand when you become a parent

First you’re a daughter. And your parents tell you “you’ll understand when you become a parent”. And you get use to hearing it and you think you know everything including what that sentence means. But the truth is you don’t. Until you become a parent.

When I became a mother, the realization that a new tiny and fragile human being depended solely on me (and my partner) hit me in the worst possible moment of my life: when I was at the hospital all sored and exhausted because I had just pushed a brand new human being out of my vagina.

Becoming a mother

My daughters are one and three, here’s a picture of the three of us after having brunch with my parents. My mom took the picture.

mar-mama-layla

It wasn’t until relatively recently that I realized that tiny humans depending on you and your partner wasn’t all. They also look up to you. You’re their role model, and I’m also their most important female role model. No pressure. They have curiosity and thoughts and opinions, and they are watching. All day. Every day.

If I work from home (which I do), will they think I just stay at home and do nothing all day? If they see me having a fight with my mom (which you know, it happens sometimes…:P), will they think it’s ok to yell at each other? If I’m feeling tired, will they think I’m not hard working? If I cry in front of them, will they think I’m weak?

The first time I cried in front of my three year old, it felt like the end of the world. I obviously wasn’t in my finest moment (I’ll blame the pregnancy hormones), but seeing that look in her eyes and how she asked me if I was ok, just broke my heart. I wished I could go back in time, just a few seconds, and hold those tears. But I could not. Then I thought, being vulnerable in front of her is not the end of the world, there’s nothing wrong with my daughter knowing I have feelings, is there?

So that moment taught me it’s ok to show my feelings in front of my children, I want them to be able to see and get to know my real me. And I believe this is part of the deal if I want to really connect with them and develop a strong, meaningful relationship. It also taught me how they can learn to handle difficult situations by themselves even at an early age. And I felt so proud of her.

But you know what, they’re also watching when you’re happy, and pumped about something that you achieved at work, and singing while driving them to school, and getting excited about their legos, or about that new book which you both loved reading together. 

Becoming a different daughter

So all this made me realize… I never thought of my own mother as my most important role model, but looking back, she certainly is. It’s a little bit scary to see how everyday I am more like her. I guess it’s not a bad thing 🙂

Only in my adulthood have I been able to see through her eyes and understand how vulnerable and fragile she was. She has always been that strong pillar to me, that rock that no matter what would hold everything and everyone together. It’s like all these years I’ve known the facts but I really haven’t been paying attention to her feelings (and she’s never blamed me for it).

I didn’t realize it’s not she didn’t want to hang out with her friends (did she have friends?), it’s that she did not have the support or resources needed in order to be able to balance family life with “me time” and friendships. It’s not that she didn’t want to buy me another book, it’s that they really couldn’t afford it and it break her heart every time I asked.

My mom doesn’t have a college degree, but she’s very smart. She has always worked really hard, and until she retired last year, I have never known her without a job. I’ve seen her juggling between two different jobs, but not unemployed. So for me the ‘normal’ was that both parents worked, and I never thought it wasn’t supposed to be like that. 

To be honest, I’ve always been very proud of how my parents raised me, but now that I am a parent myself, I realize how hard it must have been to always let me make my own decisions and support me no matter what. As a daughter, the good thing is I had lots of freedom; and the hard thing was being accountable for things when none of my friends were. As a mother, the hard thing is trusting your children and letting them make their own mistakes.

As a daughter, the good thing is I had lots of freedom; and the hard thing was being accountable for things when none of my friends were. As a mother, the hard thing is trusting your children and letting them make their own mistakes.

My biggest fear these days is being able to raise two kind and smart human beings. I hope my partner and I manage to do so and I’m sure we’ll learn a lot along the way 🙂

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