This May, we take time to pay tribute to our mothers. We remember our mothers who are still living, and mothers who have gone ahead of us. We remember the moms who have lost children. We recognize and offer support to those who did not have the best relationships with their mother. We celebrate and motivate even the aspiring would-be mothers who continually struggle with infertility and pregnancy loss.
Motherhood isn’t easy. The road has its twists and turns, and every mother’s journey is different. Some mothers may seemingly have smoother paths than others, but the fact is – we all have obstacles to overcome. We all have our unique story to tell. While some mothers seem to have it all wrapped up easy, some mothers struggle with the basics of survival, like providing food, shelter, and safety for their family. Regardless however, motherhood offers a unique set of challenges for each mother. And despite how fulfilling it can be, motherhood can be outright scary and lonely too. Motherhood uncovers the parts of you that you might not have seen before, and it offers a brand-new perspective on life that a younger you would not have seen before.
Honestly, my heart goes out to the mothers who continually struggle to meet their family’s daily basic needs. These women seem to have an uphill battle, wherein every step further is a laborious struggle for survival. I grew up in a family that also struggled to make ends meet. Having come from an initially “have not” family, I pushed myself hard to recreate my future, and construct for myself a safety net that will someday extend to my future family.
My most important life goal was to become a mother. I wanted nothing more than a close, tightly knit, happy family. Deciding to become a mother has shaped and directed many of my life decisions. It has rearranged my life in ways I have not imagined before. For years, I would tell those close to me that I am very much willing to walk away from my career as a physician just to become the mother my kids deserve. At an incredibly young age, I had already pictured out the life I wanted for my future family. In fact, I used to read books on parenting and families even in my early teen years. I was so invested on planning out how to become the best mother to my future family.
Reality struck when my turn to assume motherhood competed with my current profession as a physician. It was not as easy as I thought. Being someone who is already a decade on her practice as a physician, the sudden shift from being a fulltime career woman, to motherhood, became a challenge. I wanted to stay true to my statement that “I would gladly walk away from my career as a physician just to become a mother---", but ironically, I found myself choosing my career over the gifts I have been entrusted with.
After a decade of being a dedicated fulltime physician, I finally came to the point when I realized that I needed to genuinely enjoy the greatest of all gifts that I have been given. Not everyone gets to be called mom, and not everyone gets to enjoy the bittersweet experience of being a mother. All of a sudden it dawned on me that I was given a life, and I have been entrusted with beautiful little girls to love, nurture, and lead by example. And not everyone gets to have that chance.
Motherhood changed my perspective in a profound way. My memory of first seeing my firstborn remains vivid: she was crying – screaming – at the top of her lungs. And she was absolutely beautiful. I was totally mesmerized by her. This little baby is mine to love and to hold. And not just that, this helpless little baby completely depends on me. I mean the world to this little creature. I am her world.
I enjoyed every moment, got very giggly over milestones, and it was a constant delight seeing my daughter grow up. However, as with the struggle of every working mom, work responsibilities take a lot of quality time away from family. This was my main obstacle. Juggling work with parenting and motherhood is a compromise I would never want to find myself in.
By the time I had my second child, I also had my loudest wake-up call. My child and I both had near death experiences, and it pushed me to acknowledge and focus on what is really important. Aside from traumatic experiences, COVID-19 happened. The pandemic pushed me to do the right thing. I was not bothered about isolation (medical school and university life had made me immune to the feeling of being alone), at all. I was bothered with the unknown – the constant uncertainties of the virus, and the extent of the pandemic. Potentially exposing my children to COVID-19 haunted me. At first, I dismissed the idea and remained pretty stubborn like the type A, hardworking physician I am known to be. However, the thought of irresponsibly exposing my children to COVID-19 continued to haunt me, and by the Fall of 2020 I decided to fully embrace the gift of motherhood, setting my career aside.
So, for you ladies reading this, always remember: no job is worth sacrificing your physical and mental health. No job is worth sacrificing the wellbeing of your loved ones. No job is worth sacrificing your relationships. If it seems that your life is spinning out of control, then stop, step back, and truly reflect on what is going on. Come up with a plan to restore your life’s balance. Believe me, it is possible. I have seen people struggle with extremely challenging situations, and they have come out like gold refined over fire. Restoring your life’s balance might be key to turn your life around for the better.
I think that in life, you can pretty much get everything you want but you cannot necessarily have it all at the same time. Compromising your family for your career will never result to a win-win situation. I could not be available at the drop of the hat for my patients inasmuch as I will be available at home for my growing girls. When I was initially too absorbed with work, I became too tired to really interact and spend quality time with my girls. The seemingly unending pile of paperwork kept drawing my time away from them. Self-care also took the back seat, and I paid the consequences. And I would rather not turn that same way again.
My life experiences have molded me to become the woman I am today – armed with the grit and the motivation to become the best mother my girls could ever have. I believe that my life experiences have uncovered the greatness that is within me, and your life experiences will also reveal the greatness in you.
Do not let distractions in life impede you from achieving greatness.
Focus on one thing, and let it be – family.
And do not forget that despite how clear our vision for ourselves and our family, always take time to take care of the most important piece of the puzzle – YOU!