It may seem like a cliché but two of the most important lessons I have learnt as a mother are to lead by example and practice unconditional love. They are the invisible powerful agents that will make all the difference, even if they are never spoken about.
“Motherhood changes everything.” This was the most repeated sentence I would hear when I got pregnant, almost 20 years ago. For all the nine months that followed, I heard it said at the doctor’s office, from family and friends; from the birds and the winds: “Your body will never be the same. Your mind will change. Your ambitions will change. Your hair will change.” Basically, I would become a new human being altogether. It was my greatest fear.
Yes, I was filled with excitement at the prospect of welcoming my child. Very early on in the pregnancy, in fact, as soon as it was confirmed, I was chatting to my baby. I was convinced we could communicate in a very tangible way and be a team in one body.
Everything I did was shared with my unborn child. We would go to the library together, swim (or just float in the water, in my case) and have meals together. I later found that it was a girl! What a joy! She soon started responding to my chats with kicks and movements that I’d never thought I’d see in my belly!
But what changes did I fear, then? Apart of lifestyle and schedule, I still wanted to be ME.
I did not want to be classified as a ‘mother’. I wanted to still wear the same clothes (as opposed to cardigans covered in breast milk) and wear my red lipstick at all times for example. It may sound absurd and childish but I had seen enough examples around me to fear change and becoming somebody I wouldn’t recognise. I also feared having to give up dreams most of all.
So I decided to challenge that statement. I plotted that I would externally accept all that was convention but internally, quietly, steadily and surely, rebel. I would still be ME. Still carry on with my dreams, even if pursuing them would be a bit harder and slower.
And guest what? It did work! With my daughter, now almost 20, I have travelled to exotic places and learnt new languages together. We have changed our mindset and adapted to a new culture. We nurture shared interests for design, fashion and literature. We debate about a healthy diet and have tried being vegetarians, failing miserably. She asks for advice on her looks. I dye her hair and comment in her tattoos and piercing. She admires my style so much; she borrows my unique vintage clothes (mostly without permission).
It is true that it’s not always all rosy and agreeable. But one of the finest lessons a mother will learn is to lead by example. Looking after yourself, imposing firm boundaries to your child and everybody, showing love, kindness to others and showing that serving others is still the best way to love and live peacefully.
It may be that children will not listen to your words but they will definitely follow the example, even if it takes another 20 years to catch. Three years ago, for example, my daughter used to mock me for doing Yoga and Pilates. Today, she has got her own DVD’s and practice every day!
Another lesson is to exercise patience, unconditional love and duty. It also means having to do the shopping on your own, then be soaked in rain without an umbrella and come home in a packed bus. Exhausted, cook dinner and just so your teenager can complain that the food wasn’t well seasoned – believe me, this happens too. That’s when you put your self-control into practice.
However, my child has given more than I could ever imagine. No one else would I love unconditionally – I did not know what it really meant until I became a mother.
Being a mother gave me drive and resilience to bounce from life’s inevitable valleys, simply because you have to fight for your child and put effort in the most important relationship you will ever have. So you bounce back, work hard and never give up.