Late last year, I was blessed with a lovely little human being with whom I fall in love with each passing day even as I navigate the not so easy waters of becoming a parent in an era where personal goals are given top priority and other things like parental roles sometimes get relegated to a second or even lower position.
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Motherhood has changed me. I was an introvert, still am. I loved my personal space and time. With fewer responsibilities, I could retreat into my shell whenever I wished and no-one would bother me. I enjoyed my freedom. When I wasn’t working, I embraced the art of doing nothing.
Granted, my partner and I had been living together for more than six years, having been together for even longer, outside of our relationship and mutual interests, we basically lived our separate lives with our love and support for each other uniting us. Thus, my love for “my space” had had years to grow.
As soon as we realized that we were expecting an addition to our small circle, we quickly realised that life as we knew it would soon change. And change it did. 2020 saw us with a new member to our family, a new house and live-in help.
Upon the baby's arrival, our home was packed with visitors coming to see the newborn. Among them were my mother who stayed with us for a few weeks. We live quite near to my partner’s mother and she took it upon herself to take care of me, my guests and her grandchild.
You can imagine my struggle as I tried to adjust to life with a newborn and suddenly having a full house when I had previously been so used to being on my own. Being in closed spaces with strangers took a toll on my emotional well-being, such that I found myself lost in my own house. Then came the plea by the government to stay home as much as possible, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections and I felt my world slowly closing in.
I had planned to go back to work and in the process regain some of my “me time” as soon as toto hit three months, but the pandemic put a dent in my plans. I was now confined to the house with two “strangers”: one who depends on me for their wellbeing and the other one who is supposed to be my right hand whenever I’m in need.
To prevent a complete mental breakdown, I had to come up with coping mechanisms. For starters, I have learned not to sweat the small stuff. For instance, I was so used to having the T.V. to myself but now that we’re all staying indoors, I have had to share screen time. If I really want to watch something, I livestream it instead. Otherwise I occupy my time by reading a book, studying online or sleeping.
I constantly remind myself that nothing lasts forever. I might have been made uncomfortable by all these life changes: the invasion of my space, and being forced out of my comfort zone, but this has also afforded me ample time to spend with my baby which I would otherwise not have had. I have been there for the different milestones. I now look forward to my baby waking up in the morning, our play time and hearing the laughter that results from playing with the nanny as they have formed such an amazing bond.
I would love to see my family and friends but since we have to practice social distancing, I’ve had to look for other ways to speak to and even see them. Calls, unending chats and video calls have become my new best friend. Talking to my friends has enabled me to have some much needed support and allowed me to keep my sanity.
The last coping technique I have taken up is taking advantage of whatever little space I have for that elusive “me time”. I enjoy the early morning silence that engulfs the house so I take advantage of that time to sit alone in the sitting room before everyone else gets up.
I have learned to find joy in my routine. Playing with and talking to my baby even when all I get is a lot of baby gurgling in response. I practice mindfulness even when doing my chores ensuring that I am present for each. For instance, when making the bed, I pay close attention when straightening and tucking in the bedsheets and how I spread the duvet.
We’re lucky to have outside space which I take advantage of. I strap my little one on me and we go outside to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and the sound of nature.
By putting all this into practice I have created my alone time, even though I am not entirely alone and found a way to manage my new life amidst a global pandemic.