This is the reality of parenthood, spirited anticipation, and simultaneous lamentation.
The “Perfect” Balance
My daughter is a whirlwind of buoyant joy and curiosity. At the time of this writing, I am mourning the infant stage as we have officially entered toddlerhood. This is the reality of parenthood, spirited anticipation, and simultaneous lamentation. In recent weeks. she has begun making silly faces to make us laugh, eagerly stuffs her face, and becomes indignant when told no. She also walks with the sweetest, clumsy waddle. With every new stage and milestone, through the rapture, I am reminded that this tiny creature will one day tread the world as an adult and a member of society. I am tasked with moulding her, teaching her, and guiding her.
They tell us to live slowly and to cherish every moment. At the same time, remember that we are raising the future generation. These two truths perplex me daily. There is so much that goes into parenting that even as a professional writer, my words escape me. I want to protect my daughter but also equip her for the world without being a so-called helicopter parent. I want her to be close to Allah but know I can not force her, only teach her.
Since becoming a parent, I have become hyperconscious of all the nuances and idiosyncrasies within myself and our environment. In many ways, this has made me more efficient and cognizant of my choices. On the other hand, it has left me a victim of constant burnout and anxiety.
Striking a balance between recognizing my humanness as a parent, having healthy confidence in my choices, and holding firm to my passions has been tumultuous, to say the least. As I reflect on this, I am realizing that so much of life and parenting is split into arbitrary dichotomies. There isn’t enough celebration of the complex individuality of each family and relationship. The virtual world most of us are immersed in today is full of endearing idioms such as, “do not lose yourself in motherhood,” “fed is best,” and more. While full of truth, these pithy phrases are too simple to encompass our realities. Not losing myself in motherhood has become so important to me that I fear I am losing myself in this task! Even in pregnancy, I wondered how I would find the time to read (another passion of mine). It sounds silly, I know. But with the influx of information on parenting and specific how-tos, my thoughts were inevitably frenzied.
In the one year since becoming a mother, I have found it hard to turn down projects I love and I have become obsessed with a structure to sustain my passions while putting the pressure of being the perfect mother on myself. Motherhood brought out the qualities of what would be described as a “type A” personality in me. Time management and routine are paramount to me. My choices and decisions are thoughtfully carved out. I find it difficult to relax when this is questioned or goes askew. Ironically, my ability to sustain a rigid routine that allows me to be productive has also brought with it inner disquietude. So here I am, full circle, struggling to find yet another balance.
Between the restless days filled with colic, teething, and endless deadlines all in one, and the halcyon days of cuddles, firsts, and play, I am looking forward to it all. I don’t have it figured out. I can be neurotic in my parenting. I struggle with my thoughts and emotions. Yet I am confident in Allah, in the abilities He gave me, in this responsibility I was given, and in the life that is meant for me. Perhaps the biggest challenge I have faced in this short journey is not the balance of work, personal, and parenthood, but of faith. Islam is meant to be the centre of all facets of our life. The truth is, that my anxieties and desires have blurred this fundamental truth. Becoming a parent exponentially shifts everything. Your whole life becomes unravelled and tangled. I have felt this most profoundly. There was a time when I thought that after a period of uncertainty in my faith, I had all the answers. Strangely, although I have felt more in awe of Allah since I went through all the stages of parenthood from pregnancy to birth and beyond, the weight of it all has been engulfing me. My faith is stronger than ever, but putting this into practice has waned. Here at 13 months postpartum, and 13 months of parenting, I still have a thousand questions, thoughts, and apprehension. I do know that there is no “perfect” balance but there is lots of faith, struggling, love, and indelible moments of learning.