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Life & Community

What About Me? Questioning the responsibilities and role of a new mother, Batool Haydar explores what can better describe ‘me time’.

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ne of the greatest challenges of motherhood is the level of never-ending commitment involved. From the moment you become aware that you are nurturing a life within you, you begin to slowly weave a bond between yourself and this new human being. The strands that tie a mother to her child only grow thicker with time. At first, love and the ‘new-ness' of the relationship sustains the total 24-hour dedication that an infant demands, but as the days turn into weeks and then months, many women begin to feel the strain of this utter dependency - physically as well as emotionally. When I was pregnant, I thought the biggest challenge would be changing diapers and lack of sleep, but like all habits, my mind and body adapted quickly to something that I was doing so regularly. Motherhood felt relatively easy while the only things my daughter needed were to be fed and kept clean, warm and dry. As she now heads for her third birthday, the reality of what lies ahead is beginning to dawn on me. And it is far from easy. This child with only the beginnings of a vocabulary already demands my mental attention every waking moment. She asks questions, and then asks them

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again (and again) until she gets an answer that is satisfactory to her, which leaves me having to play a game of guess, supplying variations of the same statement in the hope of hitting the right one with the minimum amount of repetition. She demands - assumes ownership

even - my emotions, my expressions, my gestures and my speech. Sometimes I can't sit next to my husband and talk to him because I am ‘her mama' and should be talking ‘only to her'. Any quality time I might want to spend with my other half has to wait until she's asleep and usually by the time I get everything else done that I haven't been able to do while she's awake,

I'm too exhausted to be bothered to spell ‘quality', let alone seek it. Through all of this, I have often joined other mothers in the woeful cry for ‘me-time'. I have felt the hostility at having to pass up activities and social interac tion while my spouse never has to think twice when he's invited to go play (or even watch!) footy with ‘the boys'. When I talk about ‘the girls', I am usually referring to my daughter and her friends. The need to find something that is other than mothering weighs oppressively over me some days. And then recently (perhaps after the endless requests for empathy on my part) my husband began to push me to take time to do ‘your thing' while he looked after the baby. So I joined a weekly swimming group, a craft club and a book club - all things I love and missed a lot. However, after a couple of months, the gnawing restlessness came back and despite having the time and freedom to do ‘unmotherly' stuff, I still couldn't shake off the feeling that I wasn't getting ‘metime'. I began to wonder what it was that I was looking for and why it was proving so elusive. Whatever it was, I couldn't find it in an odd hour or two every

islam today issue 51 - September 2017