Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. Juliano, Marla Darwin, Monica Eleazar-Manzano, Rossana Unson, Chrina Cuna-Henson, and Ronna Capili-Bonifacio tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.
In my first few weeks of motherhood, I simply felt like there were a million things that needed to be done all at the same time. As any new mom would know, it was quite overwhelming. In the moments where I was alone at home with my daughter, Coco, I would be running around like a headless chicken—trying to put away laundry, while washing bottles, and awaiting a pocket of time where I could squeeze in a shower… all that, while singing loudly to her so that she would know I was still within a 20-foot radius of her crib. I didn’t want her (or anyone else) to think that I was an absent mother. Neither did I want to be one.
I had dreamed of being a mom my whole life, and I wanted to savor every moment of it. As reality set in, I quickly discovered why it was so hard. It was because being a mom is so much more than just cradling a baby and changing diapers. It was making a home that my family would find comfort and rest in, it was breastfeeding or bottle-feeding so that my child would be nourished, it was taking care of myself and my husband so that we would be able to be our best selves for our daughter, and eventually, it was going back to work so that I could show my daughter what it’s like for a woman to use her time, mind, and energy for something she is passionate about and called to do.
A whole new level of complexity awaits when you add work to the mix.
Full of courage and with my rose-colored glasses on, I attempted to do this work-from-home thing thinking it would be a piece of cake. After a few attempts I started to realize that I was in over my head. Coco was constantly touching my keyboard or reaching for my smartphone to see what was so special about my laptop and phone that it was taking me away from her. I know science tells us that there is no such thing as multi-tasking, but we all know that mothers have the superhuman ability to manage a zillion things at once. Unfortunately, while it may have seemed like I was successfully getting things done with my baby on my lap, I knew I was failing somewhere. I was toggling between my laptop and an infant, and neither of them was getting the best of me. My daughter seemed unsatisfied and my work was satisfactory at best.
To make it work, I needed to set some boundaries around my juggling act. As much as possible, “Coco time” had to be purely cuddles, peek-a-boos, and bible stories, while “work time” would be undivided attention to emails, meetings, and planning. This meant that I had to make it a point to put down my phone and shut my laptop during my time with my daughter. Likewise, I’d have to stay focused, sit in a conducive place, and just trust that my child is in good hands while I get my work done.
As I started practicing this, it was as if a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. When I’d leave Coco with my mom for the afternoon, there were no feelings of guilt about working. I knew that I had given her the best of me during playtimes, through the night, and into the morning. There were no doubts about whether or not she would grow up questioning my love as a mother. The reason I felt like a failure when trying to intermix work and playtime was because though I was physically present for my daughter, I was mentally and emotionally absent… and being absent was the exact thing I wanted to avoid.
There is such power in creating pockets within the day where you can be fully present for your child. Our children deserve the version of us that is not distracted by work, chores, or social media. I realized that we don’t need to be with our child every moment of the day, we just need to be fully present and engaged in the times that we are. It ultimately breaks the cycle of guilt that many busy moms face. Being 100 percent present when we are with our children means that we can be guilt-free when we give our best at work.
I am far from mastering this art of being present, but every day I’m getting a little bit better. Every day, I’m a little more mindful of the quality time I’m giving my child. Hopefully, there’s real quality in it. Instead of the mediocre, multi-tasking me, I hope she gets a fully engaged mama—complete with the kisses, gazing into each other’s eyes, and playful conversation. After all, a mother’s presence is one of the best gifts you can give a child.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Marian Hukom