I hate children. Hate is probably too strong a word. But I have never liked children. I tolerate my nephews from a distance. One of the most excruciating days of my life was when I taught a playgroup for an hour. I am not a misanthrope. I like people a lot. I like talking to people and connecting to people. But I don’t know what to do with little babies and children. I like having conversations with some semblance of intelligence and reciprocity.
I know people who are the exact opposite. Like my husband. He adores babies and children. He befriends random babies in queues and they swoon at him in return. All our friends’ children know him and love him. Another friend begs to hold new babies. I am not like that. I never baby sat or taught or ran day camps voluntarily. I was never the maternal type. I don’t think I ever played “mommy, mommy”.
I even find my own new-borns foreign. New-borns freak me out. They are so incomprehensible and demanding and needy. They don’t even smile. My daughter is now two years old, and every day I am enjoying her more. Feeling authentic connection to my three-month old baby still challenging. There are moments of pleasure but it’s hard. Being a mother is very, very hard for me.
So, I was understandably baffled when; last night after a particularly horrid bed time with a screeching baby and a tyrannical toddler; an undeniable truth filled my being. I was overwhelmed by the fact that “I love being a mother”. Now I am not the happy-clappy mother-nature type of person. I am very vocal and honest about the challenges of motherhood. Sure, there are wonderful things. Like huge smiles when my baby wakes up and him melting into my arms at bedtime. My daughter sprinting into my arms when I fetch her from school. And watching her learn sophisticated negotiations techniques and dancing with her. But there are equally, if not more, horrid things. Like never waking up naturally and all kinds of bodily fluids in my bed and never being independent and having no remaining vocabulary and never going to the bathroom alone.
So I did not know where this very enlightened thought came from. Looking back, I was not always how I am now. I consider myself reasonably kind and nice and decent. I am no modern-day Mother Theresa, but I mostly try to be nice to my circle of family and friends. But this wasn’t always so. I was a hideous teenager & young adult. I was extremely aggressive, angry, hostile and exceptionally cliquey. I struggled to connect to people. I was very outgoing but I was gruff and hard and prickly. I was pretty selfish and self-absorbed. As I got older, I slowly mellowed. I began to shed the hard exterior and became less afraid of my vulnerabilities and others’ feelings. I learned how to access a part of myself which is compassionate and kind. But I still harbour a deep belief that essentially I am a horrible person. I fear that essentially I am selfish and unkind.
And that is why I love being a mother. The cute perks of raising small children do not yet outweigh the challenges. I love who I am when I am a mother. Because even though I am no longer prickly and hostile and selfish, I still fear that I am. But when I am with my kids, I am undeniably generous. I am mostly (even if I am faking it) considerate and compassionate and caring to my children. I am finding patience I never knew possible when making the bottle just right. Although I would give a lot to have a decent night sleep, or curl into bed on a rainy Sunday with a book; being a mother does not allow for that. Being a mother demands that I develop a way to transcend my moods, and put aside my desire for chunk of solitary time. And by doing so, I am gaining trust that perhaps I am not essentially unkind.
So while I love my children so much that I want to squash them into pieces; being their mother means I am finally learning to love myself.