Popular literature, films and even other parents tend to create a lot of myths about the nature of motherhood. Here are some myths that I want to bust based on my experience:
The Instant Maternal Bond
When I was pregnant, I met other prospective parents who gushed about the baby they were going to have and how they already loved it more than anything or anyone else in the world even before it was born. I didn’t get this at all. In fact, the baby was just a concept to me till he actually arrived. Sure, I felt somewhat mushy at my first ultrasound but that was really more awe at the fact that there was another human life being created inside me rather than the first stirrings of motherly affection.
Even when Ayaan was born, the initial feelings I had were fear and worry about my ability to care for this tiny, helpless thing. I have friends who cried when they saw their babies for the first time. I really felt no such great gush of emotion. For me, it is something that built over time. The fear became protectiveness followed by possessiveness (he’s mine!) and then affection. And soon, before I knew it, I was in love. But this whole process took almost five months and was definitely not instantaneous.
It’s a Wonderful Experience
Sure there countless moments and events that can be classified as wonderful. But there are just as many not so wonderful moments as well. What’s so wonderful about changing 20 nappies a day? Or about not knowing what on earth is making him cry so much and not knowing how to calm him down? Or how about the sleepless nights that you never quite make up for?
I think women who say stuff like this do a great disservice to the rest of us. It would be so much better if they were honest and let us know that we should expect both good and bad times ahead. And it would also make us feel normal (and not bad mothers) if occasionally we felt irritated, impatient or even resentful towards the baby.
There’s one of the most deceptive descriptions I have come across. It led me to have these lovely plans of surfing the net, playing online scrabble and reading a whole host of books during this time. Let me just say that not a whole lot of books got read (and even those that did were of the low-intelligence, low-involvement variety) and we gave away our PC after 2 months as it was just gathering dust in one corner of the room.
Maternity leave?? More like maternity boot camp!! I remember my brother called me after my son was born and asked me if I was relaxing and enjoying my maternity leave. Huh? I can say with complete conviction that these six months of maternity ‘leave’ were the most exhausting and draining six months of my entire life. Working 10-hour days seems like a vacation compared to this!!
It Gets Easier As You Go Along
Okay this myth is not all myth. It does get relatively easier as you go on. For starters, the baby cries a lot less and you get to sleep a lot more. But while it gets easier, it never really goes all the way to easy. It’s a tough job and will continue to be – it just that the worries and challenges keep changing as the baby grows
First of all, I don’t think there is anything called mother’s instinct. I think the people who believe in this are also the ones who believe in women’s intuition and love at first sight, which as far as I am concerned are as imaginary concepts as UFOs and ESP. I think you can develop a deep understanding of your child, his personality and his needs and that can help you make decisions on how to best care for him. But this something you have to work at rather than something that is born inside you just as miraculously as the baby is.
Parenthood Makes Your Marriage Stronger
I have heard of people whose marriages were not doing so well deciding to have a baby to make their marriage stronger. I have this to say to them – “What were you thinking???!!”
I would say that your marriage has to be strong to survive having a baby rather than the other way around. Before the baby comes, you have all the time and energy in the world to devote to each other. But once you become a mother (or a father), that becomes your primary job and everything else (wife/ daughter/ brand manager) comes a distant second. This creates a baby-sized wedge between you and your partner and that sure takes some getting used to. Add to this the sleepless nights, the frustrating days and the endless arguments about sharing responsibility. Does this sound like a formula that would strengthen anything, let alone a marriage?