Being a mother is a ride.
No book really ever sets you up for it. No person’s story ever really helps you understand it before you have a child, and no matter how much you prepare for it, preparations do not meet opportunity; they meet confusion, challenges—and joys—beyond all words.
Parenting is a gift like no other. Many say that the best parents are always those who never had children—because when you become a parent, you realise all the guidelines and rules in the world never fit perfectly and you have to adjust and change all the thoughts you had about how you would do it. You also realise all the how-tos, to-do lists, and ways to manage this and that never fit your parenting perfectly, and you have to change that too, because there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It is an individual journey for each.
I remember reading somewhere how breastfeeding makes your child healthier. I sadly could only attempt breastfeeding for two weeks. No milk was coming in, and after waking every hour to try and feed, I decided that the healthiest feeding was one where my daughter had food. I never spoke about this as I was too ashamed—because people judged me for something I could not change. I could not give milk; my body just didn’t make it. However, my daughter is healthy. I realise that for some, breastfeeding may be possible, and for others it simply may not—and that’s okay. I feel like sometimes these rules, like “breast is best,” get in the way of allowing us to enjoy our own unique experience.
My daughter has been traveling since she was born. We’ve lived in Australia, Austria (three places), Saudi Arabia, Switzerland (two places), and now we’re looking to move again. I have been told by many how I must settle—that I must do this and that—or it won’t be good for her. But I see many parents who have lived in the same spot and they are struggling with their kids. I have also spoken to parents who have traveled, like me, due to work and life. The overwhelming lesson from all of the parents I’ve spoken to is that we must look at the children—if the children are well, it is okay. Some traveling kids grew up happy and well, and I, someone who never traveled as a child grew up happy as well.
For now, my daughter is excited, loves making new friends, and is doing well in school. She knows three languages and is compassionate and empathic. I feel that life—the world—is a school itself, and it’s as wonderful an education as going to a brick-and-mortar school can be. It helps us understand different cultures, allows us to see that life and world are not only one way, and it helps us to hold space for what is different, to learn about it with curiosity rather than be fearful and judge.
As my daughter grows up, I feel I am learning just as much as her. She reminds me so much of what we think we know—what we’ve been conditioned to see that is not actually true.
For example, in society, our bodies are viewed so harshly and there is so much misappropriation and judgment. Every day, I am learning how the body is not the issue. I create and share my art with my daughter in which the subjects are both clothed and not clothed, and she sees differently from what the world sees. She does not see sexuality; she sees the lines, the person’s features, the joy and beauty of it. The body is a gift and I am grateful that she can unapologetically see and use hers, but also see others with no judgment.
When my daughter was in grade three, one day, her clear love for her body just stopped. I wondered why. I found out someone had commented on her belly button—because it is an outie—and made fun of her. She became shy about her belly button and felt not beautiful. I took three days with her to practice seeing her beauty and to get her to say: I am beautiful and my belly button is beautiful.
It was heartbreaking to watch as a parent but also an important learning curve to see how the outside world can change our perspectives in a blink of an eye.
But—if we have a supportive community, we can do the work to heal from it and even grow from it. Hurt people do not have to hurt people. Hurt people can also lead to healing. I am grateful she can say she is beautiful again. It gives me courage to keep doing the work for myself, to heal myself. However, this experience also taught me that most of the voices in our heads about our unworthiness are not from us; they are the words of others that we need to let go of.
My worst and my best features have been melded into my daughter’s personality—and she has had her own blossoming in between. I have struggled with seeing some negative things reflected in her that I did not realise I did, and it has made me consciously aware of how I need to work on myself. I have also struggled with seeing the best parts of me develop in her—they simultaneously light up my world and show me how I am lacking those qualities these days.
So, I must work on feeling more joy again and on being a better role model. I have learned that children do not do what you tell them, they do what you model for them. So if we want our children to be more kind, responsible, clean, compassionate, and understanding, if we want them to learn more, spend less time on social media, go outside more, and be more open to others—we must model that same behavior and way of being.
Parenting is also an adventure in both allowing children to explore and setting boundaries. I am realising that they need guidelines to explore safely and boundaries and rules to learn to handle adversity. The must also learn that simple word, no. When they learn all of this and also that they must sometimes do things that do not bring them joy, they can learn to manage better when adversity kicks in.
However, as a softy, I sometimes give too much—and this makes parenting hard, as sometimes she cannot handle no or does not appreciate all she has. I am learning that love is also teaching a child to deal with challenges, so they can learn to self-regulate and to see that not everything that comes easy for them is good for them.
Parenting, I am learning, is something that everyone has an opinion on but no opinion is right or wrong.
It is a unique and powerful journey, and we should each share our stories more often so we do not feel alone. So we can each connect and learn and grow, but also so we can know there is no right or wrong way to do it. So we can be there for each other as we go through the scary unknowns and the joyful adventures of parenting, which brings to our lives whole new levels of both hardship and magic through helping a little being grow.