In my pre-mommyhood days, what sometimes seems like a lifetime away now, I used to be a very different person. I was a driven career woman, climbing up the corporate ladder; laptop bag in my hand, stars in my eyes. I met deadlines, dealt with demanding bosses, thrived on coffee-fueled early morning meetings and late night presentations. On weekends, I enjoyed lazy lie-ins and luxuriated in bed with a book and the papers. I experimented with food and dined in exotic places. Long lazy brunches and quiet dinners during which I mulled over the little perplexities of life. I took pride in my appearance and indulged myself with lazy soaks in the tub and frequent trips to the salon. My clothes were impeccable, my hair shiny and blow dried. I went dancing and to the movies and the theatre when the whim struck me, curled up with a good book at home when I preferred a more mellow way to unwind. I travelled often, to far-flung exotic destinations, at times long trips, sometimes short ones, embarked on an impulse. They were rather nice, those pre-mommyhood days.
All that changed when my daughter first announced her appearance in my life with an ear splitting shriek. “Mother” that shriek seemed to say “I am here now. Get ready for your life to change. Big time.”
And change it did. I went from being the driven career woman to perpetually harried first time mother, grappling with the new found challenges of motherhood. The laptop bag was replaced with the diaper bag. The stars in the eyes remained, but they were borne more often than not of a sleep induced haze. Coffee continued to be my best friend. Except it wasn’t to handle deadlines and meetings anymore, it was to keep up with a sleepless infant. Lazy lie-ins became a thing of the past. The child arose each morning at 5.30am sharp. Except weekends of course, when it was 4.30am sharp. My appearance now was the last thing on my mind. I was usually just grateful on the days when I made it to the shower. I had cereal in my hair. The lazy soaks in the tub were quickly replaced with two minute dashes in and out of the shower, in the middle of many of which I often emerged dripping wet with my heart in my mouth because the child had let out a blood curdling yell (which as it turned out was because she was just imitating ‘Oliver the Monkey’ on television). I still danced, but only while entertaining the child at mealtimes. Mealtimes themselves were quick shove-the-food-down-the-gullet affairs for me, and more elaborate ones for the child, stretching on for hours while she mulled over the little perplexities of life and I mulled over what I would serve for the next meal that she might eat faster. I rarely went to the movies anymore and the few times that I did, it almost felt like a surreal, magical experience and I felt like a child at the candy store looking at all that Pepsi and popcorn. I still travelled but only to child friendly places and with luggage enough to make people wonder if I was considering a permanent move to a different planet. Naturally, ninety nine percent was the child’s luggage.
And yet, in spite of all these changes, I was the happiest I had ever been now than before my daughter was born. Motherhood is a transformative experience. It was for me. The most life changing, gut wrenching, overwhelming experience of my life. Yes it is tough and challenging and oftentimes frustrating. But it is also hugely rewarding and satisfying and capable of filling you with a fizzy, warm happiness that touches your soul. Those little arms wrapped around you, that little head trustingly resting on your shoulder and that little voice that says “I love you Mama”. The eager little eyes that search for you in a crowd and, when they find yours, the way that little face lights up with radiant joy. The discovery each day, of a new wonder, seen through those innocent, hopeful eyes, something you would never have caught with your own jaded and cynical ones. The experience of watching that tiny bundle you got home from the hospital grow up, the gradual shaping of that little personality, the understanding of what unconditional love means.
Yes I do think of my pre-mommyhood days sometimes. I even miss little bits of them. But I wouldn’t want to trade my mommy days for anything in the world; not even the ones where I have cereal in my hair. For I know that nothing can compare with being my daughter’s mother.
Join me then, dear reader, as I walk through first time motherhood with my daughter, sometime stumbling, sometimes waltzing along. For all the parents out there, especially the mothers - new mothers and old ones, mothers to be, those who’d like to be mums someday, those who value their own relationships with their mums, and those who like a good laugh. This column will take a tongue- in-cheek look at everything that has anything to do with mommyhood. And about being a mum in Pune. And also a little bit of life on the side as I see it. Until the next column, then.
Originally written for "The Punekar"
Manasi Vaidya, Author of "No Deadline For Love"
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