There are some women, who you can tell, just by their looks that they have it altogether. We see these women every day. They move with true purpose. We admire them as they seem to have found the secret to striking the balance between family and career. In my eyes, they are nothing short of rock stars!
Admittedly, I am fearful of becoming a mother because I am petrified at the thought of being responsible for a whole other human being. The fear of taking on that responsibility while striving to discover and fulfill my own purpose is daunting… one for which I may never be ready.
And then you have these ladies... women who make the task of balancing a husband, a child and a career seem effortless. So, I thought why not chat with some of these women whom I so admire, why not pick their brains in hopes that they’ll not only help me on my journey, but they’ll also help other women who are striving to strike the balance.
I met Roxanne through a mutual friend, and being the inquisitive (read: fast) person I am, I sent her a Facebook friend request which she graciously accepted. Ever since then, I have been a fan, an admirer of her family. Over the years, I have had a front row seat (on Facebook of course) to her engagement, her beau-ti-ful wedding, her pregnancy and I celebrated the birth of her baby girl Kaelah as if I were a virtual godmother!
I was so excited when she agreed to share with me her experience of being a wife, mother and a professional She'll be the last to call herself a "supermom" but that's exactly what she is. I have no doubt you'll enjoy her open and candid responses as much as I have!
So, here goes the first of a series of interviews with some of the women I admire. Let’s start the conversation!
On becoming a mother...
Did you always know you wanted to be a mother? Yes, I always knew I wanted to be a mother, but I wasn't the mushiest with children, so hubby wasn't so sure about my love for kids. The truth is only two of my close friends had children and I adored them and was quite mushy, but it never made me want to have one any time soon. When I was ready though there was no stopping me!
How ready were you for this new role? When I decided I was ready, I was VERY ready. My clock did a sudden tick. I surprised hubby out of his seat. There was no turning back; I would have "raped" him if I had to. I am a much, much more amazing mother than hubby ever imagined I could be, LOL. I surprised him. Probably, I’ve surprised myself too. But let’s face it; your offspring will do that to you.
How has having a child changed your life? Well, I can't just get up and go as before, but that's OK because I knew all that would happen before making the decision to have a child. I also knew it would get better with age and I am seeing that happening right now. Mind you, it will never be the same as before. Now, we always have to consider our daughter when making plans. For example, if we are taking her to a restaurant, we have to be careful of our selection as it needs to be a comfortable place for a toddler. We also cannot go on our usual frequent hotel getaways without considering the financial impact with expenses like her school fee now in the equation.
What was the most difficult adjustment you had to make? Being a new mother and being married… it was VERY hard striking the balance. It is NOT easy but the relationship with my spouse made all the difference in world! I don’t know where some women get this idea of getting pregnant to "hold man" Ha! Having a baby can in fact tear you apart if you do not understand each other, especially if your partner does not understand what a woman goes through after childbirth. It takes a lot of patience and communication.
Before I had a child, I always vowed that I would not fall into the trap of being totally into the baby and neglect my husband. I was hell-bent on mastering that balance, but what a disappointment it was when I realized I was struggling. I think one of the biggest reasons for this was I insisted on doing everything by myself and being "perfect". I had my mom at home, but I insisted that my daughter was my child and that I was raising her, not my mom. She never slept a night with my mom despite the number of times she assured me that we could take a break and let her keep her (I just wanted to nurse her through the night and not give her the bottle).
In retrospect, I made it harder on myself by not utilizing the help I had as much as I could. That would certainly change if I have another child. Luckily, my hubby was well read and very understanding, patient and open to communication and so we worked on achieving balance together. He prayed a lot for our family and our relationship. God bless him!
It was better while I was on maternity leave as we would put her to bed and she would sleep right there on the sofa beside us many nights while we watched TV together. However, when I returned to work, it got harder and I would fall asleep putting her to bed many nights leaving hubby by his lonesome. Thankfully, our relationship improved with effort and age. With time, communication and acceptance, I became more conscious and I tried much harder, even if it meant lying in the living room beside hubby fast asleep while he watched TV, LOL!
Experiences of motherhood
What has been your biggest surprise as a new mom? Discovering how quickly children grow and mature! We have to take time to enjoy each and every moment and stage of our daughter's development. I am big on that. Also, I didn't expect to see a six-month tummy the day after having the baby, LOL!
What did you panic about as a new parent? Driving out of the hospital, I started to get a bit nervous and I wondered if I really could do this parenting thing, but that settled by the second day at home. I was also scared to bathe a newborn but hubby and my mom had that covered. For the first month, they both bathe her 95% of the time. A SUPER, supportive husband and mother are incredibly helpful! I know without that kind of support, my experience would not have been the same.
What’s the question you hate being asked as a new mom? What are you waiting on to give her some company?
It’s annoying. I am a BIG planner. Yes, maybe I plan a bit too much, but for me things need to be comfortable and in order at all times as long as it's in my control. So, a next child will be introduced when we think the time is best for our family. Hubby and I see eye to eye here.
So, I have been told that breastfeeding can be notoriously difficult… and painful. Is it really that bad?That has not been my experience one bit. I LOVED breastfeeding. My first two weeks were a challenge, not because it was painful, but because my milk wasn't flowing heavily and I kind of freaked out thinking I wouldn't be able to satisfy her or continue to breastfeed for as long as I wanted. I drank lots of water and consumed oatmeal everyday and before I knew it I was a proper “cow” and I had a proper “titty monster”. I keep telling mommies, it’s easy to give up in those first two weeks but DON'T!
I also had a small challenge with her latching onto the right breast, but I got help in the form of home visits from the famous Nurse Ebanks from Andrews Memorial Hospital and soon we were good to go. Additionally, I was a little sore the first week, but I just took the nurse’s advice to put the milk on the sore and let it dry, and it really did heal quickly. So, I really never had a bad experience.
Breastfeeding was so calming for me. It was definitely a mutually beneficial experience. I breastfed for 26 months and would do it all over again!
Relationship with your spouse
Does having a child pulls you closer to your spouse? I think I touched on this issue earlier. Having a child didn’t push us apart, but as a new mother, my focus was more on making sure I was giving my child the best care. My relationship with my husband suffered as a result and the attention I showered on my daughter did detract from the attention I would have given to him.
The first year was especially difficult in trying to balance my marriage, being a new parent and still finding time for myself. Thankfully, we were able to quickly pull it together because of the strong foundation we had before the baby. You have to consciously decide not to neglect your spouse. You can’t just be parents. You have to remember that you are still lovers.
It is still a work in progress, but just like our Degrees and promotions, when we want these things, we work our butts off, right? Well, our marriage is no different. In fact, it is a commitment to God, and that is a big deal! With acceptance and understanding of our new life, year two has been even better as we've gotten closer, and if you ask me we, we've fallen in love all over again!
A couple NEEDS to be ready for a child before introducing one into their lives. People will readily tell you all the lovely things about children, but not the challenges that you will experience in your relationship. All the people who pressured you into hurrying up to have a baby will not be there when you need the help, so my advice is to block them out and go for it when you are ready as a couple!
How soon after giving birth can you comfortably have sex? This will depend on a mother's childbirth experience. Doctors usually say wait six weeks though. I had a C-section but I was comfortable within the six weeks.
So, how much of a dent does having a child really put in your sex life? A great deal but it's expected. The important thing is to not be complacent. Try to make it happen! It’s actually easier when they are not yet able to walk and can’t just independently find themselves in your space, LOL! Clearly, you can't just take off your clothes at any point and get busy like before… but kids do sleep (pause) LOL!
Keep them in the crib/playpen with the tablet, find something to distract them! But face it; it's not just the two of you anymore. With respect to sex drive, however, contraceptive pills have done way more damage than having a baby. I certainly haven't lost my sex drive as a result of having a child.
OK, I’m not an addict but as you can see I am more than a bit obsessed with the impact of having a child on sex with one's spouse *covers face* So, one last question.
Does having a child change your sexual experience, or the way you interact with your husband sexually? Apart from the discomfort of breast stimulation during the breastfeeding stage, I would say no.
OK, OK, this is really my last question, I promise.
They say children are the perfect cock blockers. How do you make time for your spouse? Yes, they are! LOL! Often times, it’s when you're ready to get to business they choose to wake up. We make an effort to plan getaways, go out-of-town to spend well needed time alone. We don’t get to enjoy as many trips as we’d like, but we keep trying as much as possible to make the time.
On receiving and giving advice
What’s the best advice you’ve received as a mother? Sleep while the baby sleeps. If only I always did that! Take as much help as you can get. If only I had listened.
What the most important advice you’d give to a new mother? Sleep while the baby sleeps and utilize whatever help you can get from friends and relatives. Don't try to do it all by yourself. Be patient with yourself, after all this is a whole new experience amongst changing hormones. Postpartum depression is real, so do whatever it takes to keep anxiety and stress at bay. Communicate with your spouse let them know what you are feeling and share reading materials with them. Knowledge is power.
And to those who have the desire to breastfeed, it is easy to give up, but if you really want it, go for it! However, also recognize that some people genuinely have a challenge and won't produce as much milk. Some is better than none, so in the end do the best you can and don't be disappointed as the child will be well nourished and healthy and happy nevertheless.
Your desire to do the best job you can and give the best of yourself makes you awesome in and of itself.
The realities after birth
Do you miss your pre-baby body? Not significantly at all. Plus, it is still achievable. I am way prouder and have much higher aspirations of being a good mother than I do to have a sexy body. Don't get me wrong, I intend to work on having a well toned and beach ready body for summer, after all, I have to keep hubby excited and focused.
Confidence in appearance is VERY important, but being a healthy and amazing mother and wife is way more important.
How do you find balance as a professional woman, wife and mother?
It is challenging but doable… to an extent I guess. It depends on how much you want to achieve professionally and the nature of your career. You just have to commit and stay focused. For my family, hubby has a demanding job and works a lot. I choose to not be in the same position in that we both cannot work that much. One of us has to be more available, if you know what I mean. I won't stress myself to balance all three. Being a mother now, I have realized that I am definitely a family woman and if I feel as if I am failing at the balance, my order of priority is definitely wife and mother then career.
How does the reality of being a mother stack up against what you imagined it to be?
Honestly, it is in reality what I imagined in terms of the challenges. Parenting takes a lot from you emotionally, physically and a whole lot financially!
But, while I always knew that a child would bring immense joy, I never imagined that one little person could bring so much joy! OH-MY-GOD! The way I imagined it is just tiny fraction of the reality, picture that! Let's just say she is truly my heart running around outside of my body, which makes me a very happy but super paranoid mother. She is worth all the changes, the sacrifices, the every striking thing and I would choose to have her all over again.
Finish these sentences:
Giving birth is like… Ahhh… I had a C-section. My experience was not a horror story as I recovered pretty quickly. The worst part for me was my struggle with allergies and the sneezing and coughing because I had to be careful not to rip the sutures.
The first time I laid eyes on my child, I thought… God really loves me.
Childbirth is… the most awesome miracle and experience.
Being a father means… being a tower of love and support.
Being a mother means… having the ability to love and give of yourself unconditionally.
Love is… an intangible connection between a mother and child. It's the ability to fight through the fatigue of parenting by sticking to the task at hand in ensuring that the child is nurtured in the best way possible.
Thank you for sharing Roxanne! How do you strike the balance? Let's continue the conversation...