LESSONS FROM MOTHERHOOD
I’m sitting in bed eating my second chapati of the evening, chased down with lemon and ginger tea sweetened with honey, because wine and chapo might not go too well together. My mind is reminding me, very loudly, that I am my own worst enemy. But my taste buds are singing hallelujah. They’re much more pleasant to listen to, which explains why I’m eating in bed at this time, and it’s not because I’m hungry.
In about an hour, it’ll be Mother’s Day. My social media feeds will be flooded with messages that’ll all begin to look alike at some point, mostly from women reaffirming themselves, cheering themselves on, praising their moms, reliving favourite memories and congratulating themselves on doing this thing called motherhood really well. The men will be few (as they usually are when they cannot find a way to make themselves the centre of attention).
A few brands will try to connect with us through cleverly (and I use this term loosely) crafted messaging meant to make us think they’re celebrating moms. Many of them will bore us to death – but we won’t die because our kids will probably start crying for our attention at that very moment, and we will need to be alive to their needs.
Being a mom, in my experience, is not bliss. It’s backbreaking, unpaid labour. It’s terrifying, and will test you to limits you never even thought you had. I say this after spending a day with a very cranky toddler who has for the last three nights refused to sleep through the night. So I’m tired, and I’m allowed to feel this way.
But you know what, I still wouldn’t change a thing. Scratch that, that’s a lie. There are a few things I would change (FUPA, weight and saggy boobs be gone), but I, on most days, am obsessed with my child, and feel very blessed to be her mother.
Anyway, here are a few things I’ve learned about motherhood since getting knocked up.
One: Kids are parasites. They may be cute and everything, but they suck everything out of you. They will start by eating your food while inside you, then if you’re lucky enough to breastfeed, they will suck all the firmness and perkiness out of your boobs in the name of feeding. They will suck your money, your time, your patience. But you’ll keep allowing them to.
Two: Kids are expensive. If you’ve never had to buy formula, or diapers, or any other gazillion other things we’re told children need, you don’t know expensive. And they only stop costing you money once they’re done with uni and are securely settled into their jobs. I’m pretty sure if abstinence and contraceptive ads came with the math showing you how much these little humans cost to keep alive and comfortable, more people would take them more seriously.
Three: Kids will make you more responsible, but they’ll also make you a little more reckless. What else do you call staying out until 5.30am, knocking back shots, knowing full well you’ll have to deal with your child in the morning? Mine found me awake in the kitchen the other day at 6.30am, tearing into chicken wings, still a little drunk and dressed in the previous day’s clothes. But I refuse to be judged. She’s drunk with toddler power; I was drunk from taking gin and jaegers. We’re even.
Four: Kids are cockblockers. You spend so much time being pregnant, healing from childbirth, not wanting to be touched, and it can take a while to find your groove again. Then just when you’re in the mood to have some nice adult fun, your child will wake up wailing, and will only shut up once safely between the two of you, in your bed. It’s like they sense it. Maybe it’s their way of ensuring you don’t get pregnant again; maybe it’s just them being selfish. Little sadists.
Five: Kids are disgusting. I know some of you will hit me with the “no, they’re just exploring the world around them” spiel, but I have seen enough to say this with confidence. They are gross. It’s not just the nose picking and eating of snot or the attempts to lick the toilet brush, it’s also the tasting of butt cream: after it’s been applied to said butt.
Six: Kids can’t let you have nice things. Why must they touch every damn thing? Why must they force you to rearrange your carefully thought out home to accommodate them? I’m beginning to believe that the reason 94 per cent of Kenyans have sofas, curtains and carpets in varying shades of brown is because of children. See how they limit your chances of featuring in Architectural Digest?
Seven: Kids will strain your heart. Our little Gong had to have a little surgery on her foot recently and man, nothing prepared me for the wave of emotions I felt that day. Doctor’s visits are all fun and games until what you thought was a routine check-up ends with you dressing your kid in a little hospital gown and watching helplessly while the nurse takes her away from you and into theatre. Then all you want is for her to get through the procedure safely and get back to annoying the crap out of you.
Eight: Kids will have you out here determined to look like you DON’T have kids. Let’s be honest, being told I look like a mom is not exactly the highest compliment. I want people to meet me and be surprised to learn that I have a kid. Because being told you look like a mom is closer to being told you look permanently tired. Not sexy.
It wasn’t always this way though. Ever since I went shopping in Toi last year and had all these mtush sellers asking me whether I was looking for kids’ clothes (which I was, but that’s beside the point), while totally ignoring my sister (who by the way also has a kid and was only being asked whether she was looking for skinny jeans), I’ve put a lot of effort into looking less like a mom, and more like a M.I.L.F. I am not denying my child. I am simply redirecting attention and blessing those who look my way with something good to look at.
Nine: Kids will show you what unconditional love means. They might occasionally behave like the nanny birthed them by asking for her in the middle of the night – like you’re not there – but then they’ll turn around and call you mama, or babe (like Gong calls us now); hug you and put their chubby little sticky hands on your freshly made up face, and you’ll feel a love so deliciously warm you won’t even get mad about having to fix your face. Let’s just hope mine stays away from my eyebrows though. You don’t mess those up and still want to be loved.
Ten: Kids will turn you into their slave. I don’t like to work for free, and kids are a lot of work, but this job, which only pays in hugs, kisses, thank you’s, the occasional cuddle and little victories like your kid agreeing to poop in the toilet, is my finest work.
So to all the mothers out there, and that includes anyone who has ever carried a baby inside of them, and those who have taken on the role of mother to those they never birthed, happy Mother’s Day. I see you, I feel you, I am you, and you are magic.