During my pregnancy, I often tried to imagine the kind of mum I was going to be. I used to observe other mums around me, my friends and family who had kids… No matter how I envisioned myself in the role of a new mum, when the time had come and I finally held my little boy in my arms, the natural motherly instincts had awoken and nothing that I could have imagined until that point could have compared to the feelings and reactions I was going through from that point on.
The reactions that we go through as mothers are just like colours of the rainbow, bright and bold.
4 Colours tests
There’s a very common general psychology test which is often used for team development exercises in the workplace which I’ve experienced both professionally and academically. After a set of questions, you would score points and the total points scored would indicate traits of personality, it’s strength and weaknesses according to one of the four colours; yellow, green, red and blue.
The Yellow colour represents a happy go lucky type of personality. It symbolises friendly and sunny people who are always happy and upbeat; very creative and expressive, who often take the role of peacemakers and avoid conflict.
The Green colour stands for very calm and harmonious personality. Usually very logical and calculated and do not rush to make decisions, as they have to weigh up all the pros and cons first.
The Red colour indicates a dominating type of personality. Often very demanding competitive and driven. Inpatient and confrontational.
The Blue colour signifies a perfectionist type of personality. Very thorough and precise to the smallest detail. Often sensitive to criticism and can be indecisive.
The most profound part of that test for me was that some people combined several colours according to their test result; with a few having very close scores so that you could almost associate all four colours with them. At first, you’d think it would be impossible to imagine a Red and Green personality mixed together but such a result is a lot more natural than we realise.
We were told that a good leader and manager would often combine several colour personalities simply because a good leader knows how to adapt their behaviour and reactions depending on the circumstance; naturally switching between the colours. I learnt that adaptability is a skill that can be gained with experience and exposure to various environments.
So, the ability to adapt was the key here. This is exactly what I discovered with motherhood. The more experience and exposure to being a parent we gain the vaster the spectrum of skills and reactions we possess.
I’ve realised that during my experience as a first time mum I have projected a number of different reactions:
Reaction one. The emergency number on a speed dial.
I will never forget the time my baby picked up his first cold. The fever was rising and so was my state of panic. I dialled the hospital emergency number so many times that my phone added this number to my list of favourite numbers in one night.
Reaction two. A book knows it best.
I went through stages of reading every book and online articles that I could find about all possible topics related to babies and being a parent.
At one point, I felt that I was doing everything wrong and that I have already wasted months of my baby’s life doing things completely the opposite way described in yet another book. I felt like all other mums in the universe knew what they were doing apart from me. Disheartened I felt that I had to start all over again…I just needed a time machine.
Reaction three. Do it yourself. Over and over.
Being a perfectionist, at first, I struggled to adapt to the fact that things were not as much in my control as they used to be. So, for a while, I was obsessing over making sure that I was the one to do everything and I mean everything when it came to looking after our new baby and the household chores.
Reaction four. It’s not ok but it’s ok.
I went through stages of refusing to admit that things were not ok. When the strain of sleepless nights and tiredness have finally reached an unbearable level I still continued to push myself to pretend like I was perfectly fine and I would never allow anyone to know that I was not ok.
There were a million and one more reactions but these were the ones that have dominated over me for longer, taking turns in driving me insane one at a time.
I was so confused and could not understand clearly which reaction was the right one until one day, walking by the river with my baby peacefully sleeping in the stroller, I finally realised that neither one of them had to be the dominant or my go-to reaction whatsoever. I took a deep breath of the fresh morning air and I felt relaxed and connected to my inner self, something I haven’t felt for months in a surging flow between one reaction to another.
I felt so calm, very naturally calm and that’s when it struck me ‘natural, it has to be natural’
The emergency number on the speed dial mum in me needed to learn to cope with the fact that her precious little baby would pick up a countless number of colds and other bugs along the way; obviously referring to every day, not life-threatening infections. I could not lose my sanity with each cold my boy was having, because it was affecting me in the ways which made me unable to think clearly and rationally. Instead of allowing panic to take over my brain over and over again I had to learn to recognise signs and symptoms of mild colds and infections; identifying them and knowing when it was time to contact a doctor and when I simply had to allow my baby’s immune system to fight it off with the support of some appropriate medicine.
I’ve become more educated in the appropriate ways of attending to a sick child and helping him to recover; figuring out various aspects that would work for my boy, still knowing what alarming signals to look out for and take further actions when necessary.
The books know it best mum in me simply needed to understand, that although a lot of literature existed in order to provide help and assistance, and a lot of it is based on real-life mum’s advice, every baby was different and it was ok not to follow any book, but to do things in the way that worked for my baby. My little one often left me wondering just how wonderfully unpredictable he was and I doubt any book in existence would have an answer to all of his magic tricks! I just had to find my own answers and keys to the doors of my little jewel.
The do it yourself mum in me soon realised that although having it all done exactly the way I wanted was good for my obsessive perfectionist self, it was damaging to my health. When tiredness takes over there’s nothing better than having someone to give you a hand with household chores or anything else you might need help with. Because a healthy and happy mum ready to take on the world is a lot better than an exhausted and hardly able to function obsessive perfectionist.
The Its not ok but ok mum in me had to start being honest, first of all with her own self. The fear of being judged by others and the fear of criticism for being tired or stressed or needing help with the baby had previously sealed my lips and hid my true feelings behind well put together layers of make-up on my face and a believable smile.
However, after I’ve met a couple of other mums and shared some of my experience and struggles with them, I’ve realised that I wasn’t the only one who was going through ups and downs of motherhood and it was ok to be not ok.
We can do it!
I slowly started to speak out more and shared my feelings, whether they were positive or negative with my loved ones. My husband was and continues to be my best listener. He patiently waited for me to come around to a comfortable place when I would start opening up to him more about my built-up feelings. When it finally happened, I would just vent and vent until all locked inside my chest frustrations and concerns would finally leave me and reach out for a very much needed hug after a long day of looking after the Baby. That hug still remains my magical healer.
This support from my loved ones was there for me from the very start but I was trying to hide the fact that I needed it. Admitting and accepting the reality that I needed their support was the most liberating experience. I felt so happy that I could finally just speak freely about my feelings.
It’s ok not to be ok, it’s ok to feel tired or angry or whatever is it that we are feeling as mums because we are mums, we have so many things to take care of, we are the keepers of the sacred family happiness. The sacrifices that every mother makes for her baby are undeniably the most selfless acts, that’s why we should fight and push away the fears of criticism or self-doubt and simply allow ourselves to feel whatever we are feeling and express it in a healthy manner.
All these reactions had essential positive sides to them too. I recognised that I have learnt to be alert and well-read with the first two reactions, and I’ve become a master of multitasking and perseverance with the other two.
Combining traits from all those reactions, blending the positives and acknowledging the potential negatives helped me to learn to react to the things in a more appropriate and healthy manner.
Most importantly, I’ve discovered strengths that I had never known that I had and I realised that motherhood is not all about learning how to be a better parent you are, but it’s also about self-discovery and personal growth and development as a woman, which in turn naturally helps you to be a better parent.
The perfectly imperfect mum that I was at the beginning of my journey into the world of motherhood has taken various shapes along the way and I’m sure it will continue to reshape as I continue my adventure in the mummy land. I continue to grow together with my little bundle of joy and do my best to remain honest, at least with myself, but one thing I know for fact; just like the tests that employees and managers take to show their strengths and weaknesses and ultimately help them to become better at their roles, mums go through a colour of emotions, and as well as we learn from them, these experiences would only mark us stronger.
So, no matter the shape or colour my personality adopts I will always remain a perfectly imperfect mum and that’s perfect for me.