By Aisha Musa Auyo
Parenting is one of the most challenging jobs globally, a job that starts with pregnancy but never ends. It’s a lifetime commitment with many challenges, rewards, and experiences that change us, teach us and humble us. In fact, one doesn’t fully know himself till he starts bearing and raising kids. This commitment tests our patience, compassion, selflessness, strength, weakness, etc.
When I was in my teens, I didn’t have that natural love for kids, as I saw them as nuisance and disturbance, but ironically, kids love me and often extend their hands to pick them up. Usually, I didn’t bother to respond to their advances. I would look at them with a pretentious smile and move on. Later, a friend who loves babies explained that kids are attracted to me due to the constant eyeglasses in my face. That was relieving. My coursemates could not believe their eyes when they saw me on a TV program dishing out tips on parenting, child psychology, and upbringing.
A few years later, I became a mom, a fierce one for that matter, and this new responsibility has changed my entire outlook on life. It made me appreciate Allah more; the fact that a whole human being is produced in a womb from a drop of sperm, and the entire foetus transformation within nine months never cease to amaze me. The fact that milk begins to pop out from the breast after childbirth is still super.
Perhaps the most baffling is how tuwo, shawarma, rice, veggies, and whatever breastfeeding mother eats get transformed into breastmilk within minutes is brain blasting. Sometimes, I wish I could see how my body organs function to deliver this seamless production. Allah is indeed the Greatest. Tabarakallah Ahsanul khaaliqeen!
There’s a popular cliché that says if you want to change the world, change it while you are single, without a spouse, or a kid, as that is when you have freedom and might to do whatever you want because these two groups of people take your freedom and will power away. This is true in some ways. But if we look at it in another way, one can change the world when he becomes a parent by being a better version of oneself and upbringing pious, honest and loving generation.
Please permit me to list a few ways in which motherhood changes me. Perhaps others can learn, relate, realign, and prepare themselves for the unending task:
Motherhood made me more grateful to my Creator, more thankful to my parents, appreciate other parents, and made me understand to some certain extent the pain of not having kids, delayed fertility and parenting kids with special needs.
Motherhood humbled me, as all the things I never imagined myself doing are now my daily routine. From changing diapers to feeding kids, toilet training, wiping phlegm and saliva, and many activities I considered gross. I’m now cool with all of these. There was a day my husband took me to greet his friend’s family, as one of his kids had broken his ankle from the compound. I could hear the mom screaming at the kids. I was like, aww, this woman was loud, ta cika masifa.
At the time, she had five boys, and they were seriously misbehaving. Even the one who broke his ankle tried to touch a moving fan with his other hand. The others were all doing bad stuff, some using chairs as a ladder to touch the ceiling. Even so, I thought she unnecessarily shouted. As God will have it, I have only three boys. Trust me, I find myself shouting all day. It took a lot of practice, willpower and patience to REDUCE the shouting. This experience humbled me a lot. I stop judging.
There are times when you will feel relaxed, thinking that you are doing this parenting right. Then, suddenly, one of the kids will do something unpredictable, unimaginable that you will doubt yourself and all the efforts you’ve put in making and building them. That’s a reset and a humbling one, for that matter.
My selflessness and sacrifices increase: Although I intentionally always put others before me, I put my kids first without thinking, without weighing. It comes so naturally without an effort. As a mother, one finds herself the last option, the last one to be taken care of. At a point, I had to drop some of my dreams and aspirations to take good care of my kids.
Constant worry and wild imagination: I don’t know if it’s just me or all mothers do this. I don’t know if it’s the insecurity situation or the unhealthy vices of our time. I know I’m constantly worried about my kids, how they are faring in my absence, how they’ll turn out, their health, well-being, demeanour, interests, aspirations, etc. I cry a lot when they’re sick and in pain. I don’t even blink when they have a fever. I check them at least three times before daybreak. I’m always overwhelmed and have panic attacks here and there.
I start loving kids altogether, whether mine or not. If they are kids, they become my favourite persons. I love them. Nowadays, I prefer staying with kids than with adults. I enjoy their presence. This may be due to a course I studied (i.e. developmental psychology), which explains the entire human nature from pregnancy to old age. It made me understand a lot about kids and why they exhibit certain behaviours. It makes whatever kids do make sense to me. As a result, I became more empathetic and patient.
Kids make us become better versions of ourselves. Parenthood comes with the challenge that kids always look up to their parents on whatever they do. Kids look at us more than they listen to us. So, we parents know that we have to model the behaviour we want them to have. We have to show more than we tell. We have to always be conscious of our words and actions and be intentional about what we do. For example, there was a time I was reciting the Quran, not my usual tilawa time, as I’ve missed my schedule. Then my first son asked, “Mama, dama kina tilawa?” (Mama, do you recite Qur’an?) I was so baffled by the question. I answered yes, every day. He replied that he had never seen me do that, only me helping and commanding him to do his. In my little mind, I’ve chosen a time when the kids are asleep or at school so that I will not be disturbed. It never occurred to me that the kids thought I don’t do tilawa. So, we need to be intentional and specific on what we want them to see and model.
Steadfastness and patience. These creatures test your energy, patience, commitment and endurance. There’s no room for laziness or minor sickness. Your sleeping hours reduce to the minimum. They must be attended to every second of the day. Even in their absence, preparations are made for things they will need when they return. They consume your budget, plans, relationship with your Creator and creations, health, looks, well-being, and even wardrobe. If care is not taken, one loses himself in this parenting and only notice when it’s almost late. One has to be tough to survive this.
And mind you, this is coming from a mother who does not pay the bills. All expenses are taken care of. This is coming from a mother whose kids are all healthy, and none of them needs special care. The mother’s combining their motherly responsibilities with financial support, special nursing abilities, or both, I doff my hat for you. May Allah reciprocate your efforts in reward and fulfilment.
Finally, this parenting stuff is rewarding, both here and hereafter. If one is blessed with pious kids, there’s no greater joy. Even as babies, their innocent smiles instantly lighten up one’s mood. One often finds himself speaking sweet nonsense, singing non-existence lyrics, to see a baby laugh. Their love is raw, undiluted and genuine.
On a lighter note, I would like to advise myself and other mothers to take it easy; it’s okay to take care of oneself. It’s even highly recommended. Go out and have some adult interactions, discuss with other moms, watch movies, spoil yourself, and rejuvenate your mental health. You need it. Forgive yourself when you are wrong; parenting is learning in the process. You are human. Do your best, pray for God’s guidance and protection, leave the rest to the Almighty.
Aisha Musa Auyo is a doctorate researcher in educational psychology. A mother of three, parenting and relationship coach.