Being a parent has been a privilege for me, and I will always be most grateful for the opportunity to be a mother.
When I was pregnant and knew that I'd become a single mom, I was fearful but elated. Fearful that I didn't know what I was doing, whether I was equipped to be a mom and how every action I take would affect my son in his journey. And elated that I get to experience being a mom to this beautiful boy.
Raising my son, we've both had our ups and downs. Though being a mom has been a joy, something I will also cherish, every phase of motherhood has come with its own set of challenges.
Somehow looking back, I always get stuck on the not so happy memories. The not so happy moments that I wish I could erase from both our memories. But we can't. In a way, the mistakes made along the way were crucial in my learning process as a mother.
Like so many, there’s no doubt that motherhood is a journey. In reflecting on 17 years as a single mom, here are some parenting lessons I've learned.
1. You can never really prepare for it
Everyone knows that having a child doesn't come with an instruction manual. You can read as many books or mom blogs or get advice from family and friends, but nothing really prepares you for motherhood.
I read books, yes, but I put all these aside and went my way after a certain point. I realised that my experience is different from anybody else's, and my child is different from any other child.
The only thing I was sure about was that I wanted to be the best mom to my son and for him to have a great childhood.
Of course, I made mistakes along the way that I wished I hadn't, but we're human, and mistakes are just lessons to be learnt.
I admit that I had a village to help me in my first few years, which I am grateful for. Still, the problem of having a village is that sometimes, their parenting advice and ways don't align with the way I would like to parent, so when circumstances were better, I cut back on having that village, and I did it my way.
I believe that as soon as we become mothers, we're given this innate sense of knowing. At least, that was how it was for me. Knowing what is best and sensing what my child needed. I was winging it most times, but my winging was not bad. And sometimes, I listen to my son because he makes more sense than I!
For me, every milestone of my son's life was new to me and a learning experience, and I embraced it all. I was doing this on my own, and this was my only child, and I was determined to make motherhood and childhood as hassle-free as possible so both of us could actually enjoy it without sweating the small stuff.
2. A Mothers instinct is real
I've read some articles saying that this is a myth, but I know many mothers would agree that it is as real as it gets.
It may be a bit wonky and all over the place at times, but real. There have been many times that my instincts about my son or situations surrounding my son have proven me right, especially when I'm not physically there with him.
That feeling in your gut that's telling you something trust it. I always have, and at certain points, without going into detail, it has saved a situation from turning bad. I'm not psychic, but I trust my gut every single time when it comes to my son.
I honestly do not know how this 'instinct' or 'gut-feeling' really works, but it's really amazing when you're tuned in - like a superpower you secretly have.
3. You become selfless
Before my son came along, it seemed as if the world revolved around me. I was numero uno. But having a child changes this fact without you knowing it. You become selfless, emotionally, mentally and physically. It can be exhausting when you think of it, but you don't even think of it most of the time. It comes naturally.
I must be honest and admit that my selflessness only applies where my son is concerned. I'd always tell him how it still surprises me, till today, the things I would do for him in a heartbeat, but I wouldn't give them the time of day if it were anyone else.
4. You learn to be present
When my son was younger, and I hadn't quite figured out how to balance motherhood and my work, there were too many times when I might have been physically with my son, but my mind was often somewhere else. I realised that I was missing little moments in my son's life because I was distracted by the bullshit that was going on around me that shouldn't have mattered.
There was once, my son was talking to me, he was telling me something, but my head was somewhere else. I was looking at him, but my mind was on my work and the things I had to do. He sensed it. He held my face in his palms and said, "Mommy, you're hearing me, but you're not listening to me". He was six.
Him saying what he said truly woke me up and made me realise that I needed to prioritise what's really important at any point in time.
From that day onward, I promised myself that I will never let that happen again, ever, and I have been mindful and present ever since.
5. You appreciate the little things
Being a mom has taught me to savour the little things and moments I have with my son. Him holding my hand till he was 14, his bedtime storytimes, our chats after bedtime stories, the 5-minute chats in the car on the way to school, the smile that greets me when I get home from work, the good night kisses and when he asks me how was work.
Parenting has taught me that the little things are the ones that have meant so much to me. Certain little things come with certain phases of a child's life. Once that phase is over, you trust that those moments will be replaced with a new set of little moments in a new phase.
Parenting has also taught me what it means to live life fully present in each moment. It teaches you to cherish those moments.
6. Your children will learn when they are ready
As a parent, we're often subjected to regimented milestones in our children's growth that we're supposed to reach. They should be standing, crawling, walking, talking, feeding themselves, sleeping through the night, reading, spelling, weaning off diapers, the list goes on, at a certain age. Failing which, would be seen as either you're failing at parenting or there's possibly something wrong with your child (eye roll here).
I refused to listen to all that and let my son learn all that he needed to at his own pace. I never saw the point of trying to push something on him before he was ready for it.
I was feeding him way beyond what was considered normal, and I'm not embarrassed by it. I didn't even bother with toilet training because I knew instinctively that he would be ready when he was ready.
All children will eventually learn to do all the things they're supposed to do and at different times for different children.
My son will be 17 soon, and not feeding himself, using the toilet or weaning off diapers at the so-called "right" time has not proven to have any bearing on his health, growth or happiness whatsoever.
It is not a race, so trust that your child will figure things out in their own time, at their own pace.
7. Your child is their own person
I recently heard a talkshow with Dr Shefali Tsabary, where she says: We lose ownership of our children as soon as they leave our bodies. They are not ours; they are their own.
How true this is.
As much as I felt the need to control, I also wanted my son to be free to express who he is. The older he gets, the more I realise that we are different in so many ways, and he's not shy of letting me know how he feels or his opinion on certain subjects. Not just with me, but his teachers, grandparents and other people.
In allowing my son to have that freedom, I have had the opportunity to watch him grow and be his own person. I mean, his decisions sometimes can be questionable, but as long as it is justified and safe, I'm totally okay with it.
As a parent, letting go of the need to control is probably the hardest thing to do. You want them to be safe, make the right decisions, but part of allowing them to grow and be their own person is to let go and give them space to navigate their own lives and allow them to try different versions of themselves.
Some choices he makes, which sometimes might be at odds with my own choices or doesn't seem just right. I also instil in him to weigh the pros and cons. Like all decisions we make, there are consequences to certain decisions we make, and I've always made it very clear that whatever the consequences are, he needs to see it through.
We are here to guide them and support them as they grow into their own person, so my son knows very well that I am here for him.
His journey is entirely his.
8. Time does fly
Children grow up too fast.
I never really noticed how time was flying by when my son was younger, but the older he gets, it's as if time is going at a fast forward motion, and before I know it, he'll be off to college soon. Now I can't help but wonder where all the time went. Now I want to pause time or do it all over again if I can.
Before it's too late, I would advise any parent to soak in every moment of your children's childhood. You'll never get it back. Their first steps, first words, learning to read, ride a bike, swim, football games, school sports day, graduations. Be there for them. Really, truly spend time with them. Be present.
The past year and a bit, once the realisation hit me on the head like a ton of bricks, I found myself going back memory lane more and more often for when my son was younger and asking myself whether I've done enough and if I was completely there for him.
The thing is, what is done is done, and I will never be able to go back and do or undo anything.
Parenting can be extremely hard, especially when you're juggling so many things that are going on in your life, but there is nothing more worth the sacrifice.
Investing your time in your child would be the single most important thing you do as a parent, in my opinion.
9. Your happiness matters to your child
Whatever I was feeling, happy, sad, frustrated, depressed, agitated, it's amazing to see how my son could pick up on it even from a very young age. I always thought he was very intuitive.
Luckily I quickly realised that this was certainly not fair for him having to sense all these unnecessary emotions exuding through my pores and having the burden of trying to figure what was wrong with me. I'd needed to put everything into perspective. I learnt to meditate, do yoga, take walks, be silly with him, and, most importantly, not to sweat the small stuff. I learnt to relax.
Carving out time, no matter how hard it gets, will help you in the long run. It was quite surprising how a few minutes of quiet time to myself by myself could go a long way, not only for my well being, but it translated into having a more relaxed relationship with my son - a happy one.
Now he's at this age, he's very supportive of me when it comes to me doing my own thing, be it coming up with this blog or making healthier lifestyle choices, whatever that makes me happy in the moment. I'd like to think he is every bit my cheerleader as I am his.
10. Parenting is tough
No matter what kind of parent we are, single or not, we all worry that we are bad parents. At the end of the day, when I realise that my son still wants to be around me, chats with me about stuff and listens to advice, I end up feeling like I've probably done not such a bad job after all.
I take great honour of being a parent to this beautiful boy I have.