Saturday, November 30, 2013

The rising benchmark of motherhood

The intricate task of parenting becomes more challenging in this day and age.
Different Spin - The Star Metro pg 12
29th November, 2013

“The job of a mother is the hardest but the most rewarding.”

I used to think that way but today, as I sit here typing whilst making sure my two-year old doesn’t leave anymore bite marks on her six-year old sister, I feel that although motherhood is hard work, it is not a ‘job’ because you don’t get paid monetarily and if it is so rewarding, why do I (guiltily) feel annoyed most of the times?

So yes, allow me to rephrase it.

The role of a mother is tough and complicated.

I juggle many roles – TV presenter, broadcast journalist, TV producer and I flirt occasionally with writing, acting and deejaying. However, I find the most challenging role is that of a mother. I feel like being a mother is an all-consuming task and although it can be exhilarating, it can be concurrently lonesome and heartbreaking too.

Raising my first born, Isobel Daniella as a single mother for the first two years was a strain – financially, emotionally and physically. I thank my lucky stars that she’s independent and is an easy-going child, so we managed to pull through despite the little hiccups. Fast forward a few years later, I met my husband and I gave my Isobel a younger sister to play with.

Now while my eldest girl is as girly as girly can be, my Iman Daniella is quite the opposite.

“She’s the son you’ve always wanted,” my husband coyly says.

“Please stop saying that. You make me sound like a narrow-minded person living in a one-child policy country.”

Being someone who embraces diversity, I accept how different my daughters are, but as I watch the little one attempt another biting and shouting frenzy when her sister puts a clean shirt on her, fleeting thoughts of doubts interrupt my positive bubble and I start blaming myself.

What did I do/eat/think while carrying this baby of mine for her to be such a temperamental child?

Laa…she is going through her terrible twos Daph,” laments a friend of mine.

Second child syndrome dear, my kid was like that too!” assures another friend.

I didn’t recall Isobel going through a ‘terrible two’ phase, so I started reading about that and about ‘Birth Order and Personality’ symptons. After surfing for answers, I became more perplexed about the whole matter.

Most of the articles say that a second child syndrome child does not receive the same attention received by the first born. Basically it suggests this: having your second child would not bring the same excitement (and fear) as it did when you found out you were pregnant the first time around. What to expect, is now expected and the thrill of having another baby is no longer new.

I admit that my second child is receiving a completely different sort of parenting than my first, but I beg to differ that she is receiving less attention from us. In fact, it is quite the opposite. For starters, she has both her parents with her plus a sibling. I’ve been amazed at the interaction between my oldest and my youngest, Isobel has been very patient with her sister and is always so kind  in spite of her younger sister’s bullying and impatience.

So despite the younger girl being the more difficult and stubborn one of the two, my husband feels I favor her more than my six-year old ie: I pay more attention to her than her older sister.

Why is that?

Cause she’s the baby of the family girl. Don’t worry. You’re not playing favouritism,” says my mother.

Iman hits her sister again. I give her a 20 minute time-out. She goes to her corner and wails.

Time-outs don’t work for me. You should sit down with her and explain why hitting is not good Daph.”

Another friend smses me, “20 minutes is too long for a child of her age.”

My eyes roll.

Isobel comes in. “Mama…I’m so bored.”

I quickly prepare some craft materials for her to build a castle with.

My sister observes from the other side of the room.

I read somewhere that boredom is actually good for the child. You should allow Isobel to be bored.”

I feel responsible when I hear the “mama I’m bored” from my children and I want to solve this “problem” right away. Usually I respond to my kids’ boredom by providing technological entertainment (please don’t judge) or structured activities. But apparently, according to Aha, this is actually counter-productive. Children need to encounter and engage with the raw stuff that life is made of : unstructured time. Children need to be physically  active, or they can’t focus to learn. That’s why it’s essential to limit screen time.

This advice was something I knew deep inside. How timely that her iPad decides to go wonky now.

“Mama, can I use your phone to instagram?”

I then remembered what a child advocate was sharing with me the other day. Sex predators are everywhere – maybe Isobel is too young to have her own social media page?

Advice: solicited and unsolicited, when does it stop?

Writer Meagan Francis summarizes, the most difficult part of motherhood isn’t the actual parenting part, but managing expectations; our own and everyone else’s. Has the bar on motherhood or parenting gone higher? I think it has evolved compared to our years of growing up. It’s definitely scarier. I was 4 years old when my mother made us buy potatoes from the store nearby. No way am I allowing my child to go out alone without adult supervision in this day and age!

Parenting is an ongoing transformation and as I watch my girls grow, I will continue to have this ongoing effort to assure that I’m doing the best that I can with or without the guilt.

Daphne Iking is trying to give two 30 minutes of uninterrupted  time everyday with her two girls to truly bond with the children. This means no TV, no cellphones, no tablet. For ALL of them. Instavideo-ing their antics is accepted however.

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