Becoming a mum influences our identity in every way – as a wife, daughter, and friend. This transformation can been painful, confusing, tiring, and yet ultimately filled with joy.
One mum reflects on how being a mum has changed her.
As A Wife
Becoming a mother has not necessarily made me a better wife, but it has made me a more grateful one.
Since having children, my marriage has undergone significant growing pains. In her book ‘All Joy and No Fun’, Jennifer Senior posits that parents are both happier and more miserable than non-parents. I’m all too familiar with this paradox.
While I may be a less attentive wife at times, often putting the kids’ needs before my husband’s, I’m a more thankful one, because as exhausting as it is to raise these little tyrants, I’m relieved to have my husband with me on this journey.
I used to show my love through gifts and cards for my husband. I still do, but now I have more ways to show my love: by getting up in the middle of the night to console our crying toddler so that my husband can sleep on; or by always feeding and entertaining the kids when we dine out so that he can eat first.
Nowadays what moves my heart is when my husband bathes the kids and brushes their teeth in the gentlest way, cupping his hand underneath their chins to catch any dripping toothpaste. Him taking the kids for a morning swim so that I can sleep in on the weekend is more indicative of his love for me than any sweet words he could say. Every day as a parent is filled with selfless acts, and that’s why I am a more appreciative wife than before.
As A Daughter
Now that I am a mum myself, I can finally recognise and understand all the sacrifices that my own mum made for me. She has four kids, my dad travelled half the time, and we had no help. One grievance I had growing up was that she seldom showed up for my school plays or sports games; I couldn’t understand why all my classmates’ parents cheered on the sidelines while no one was there to watch me.
With only two kids of my own, I’m already struggling to meet both of their needs. My eldest daughter’s Primary 1 orientation fell on the same day as my younger daughter’s kindergarten orientation. Imagine if I had two more kids like my mom did – and had to juggle their needs and appointments too.
With four children, how often did my mother feel she had to split herself in four? And what about my dad, who was so busy supporting his family that he had less time to spend with us?
Becoming a parent has enabled me to let go of old hurts and grudges toward my parents, and to try my best to make up for past arguments, which now seem so trivial. Because there’s nothing like having your own kids to really know what your parents had gone through, I’m a more caring and considerate daughter than before. As I confided in my mum about my parenting struggles, I have found that for the first time, our mother-daughter relationship feels like a friendship.
As A Friend
Most of the time, my friends have to deal with a “buy 1 get 2 free” situation where any hangout with me involves my two children. These days, I seek more low-key interactions (no fancy restaurants with loud music please; it’s a no-go if the place doesn’t have baby chairs).
I’m all for parks, department stores with pristine changing rooms, and family-friendly anything.
As a friend, I now have a shorter attention span and trouble finishing sentences; adult conversations are often punctured by my admonishments to my children (“Please don’t pull your sister’s hair” or “Sit properly please” are heavy in rotation).
But what’s exciting is witnessing my old friends go through this transition too once they have their own kids. How much deeper it makes our friendship, how much more respect we have for one another, and how much more we can talk about – swapping not only career and relationship advice, but also baby menu samples and preschool tips.
Becoming a mother has increased my compassion, capacity for love, and patience – and those are qualities that have made me a better wife, daughter and friend.
How has parenthood changed you?
Whether you feel that your journey as a mum (or dad) has changed you for the better or for the worse, I hope you will focus on the small wins along this ongoing process.
Even mothers who seem to have it all together – you know, mums who are always impeccably dressed with their eyebrows done – have their moments of hardship too. As parents, it is easy to feel like we are not measuring up; to experience moments of “identity crisis” when we wonder if we have lost our independent selves after getting married and having kids.
Or to feel guilt-ridden after reprimanding our toddlers too harshly. When that happens it’s worth remembering that we are not alone. Somewhere, some time, another parent has felt the same doubt, the same frustration.
Focus on the unique joy you feel as a parent to your child instead. Celebrate the triumphs – from the little ones like teaching your baby to blow her nose, to the big ones, like being able to go on holiday with your spouse sans kids – because they are all a part of your unique parenting journey.
By Jenny Tai
This was first published in The New Age Parents e-guide.
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