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Life Motherhood Parenting

The Anxieties of Motherhood

Motherhood. It’s something that I truly adore and equally abhor at the same time. Not really for the reasons you may think. I enjoy my role as a mother. To me, being present for my two boys is a priority and yes it does give my life more flavour and meaning. 

But what I find hard to swallow is the impossible and unattainable social construct of motherhood that is constantly shoved down my throat; whether consciously or sub-consciously. 

I’m entering my fourth year into my life-long ‘employment’ as Mum, and it has been quite a ride. The funny thing is – what started out as theoretical ideals in my head (formed from my own understanding of what it means to be a mother from my own upbringing) started dissipating as quickly as you can say ’super-mama’. More often than not, I really do feel like I’m a fail-mama. 

Anxieties are a norm, especially when you care deeply about something or someone. You fear that your actions will jeopardise the progress and final outcome. Naturally, when it’s a human life you’re responsible for, the stakes are really quite high! And that’s where it gets really tangly, and it has definitely given me much to think about over the past year.

Precious time out to the playground. My favourite way to just be with my kids.

2020 kicked off with me returning to work after the birth of my second child. It was also a year where I invested a lot in my own growth – mental and physical. Pushing myself to look at challenges, opportunities, hopes and dreams from all angles.

One overarching theme was ‘How can I be a better mother’. I have faced this question with several lenses. As a result – I undertook many mini-missions to make sure I was progressing to that goal-post. They include (among others):

  • Engaging my children with open-ended toys/play
  • Connecting with them emotionally, being empathetic
  • Potty train the elder one 
  • Bake/cook with them
  • Speak more Mandarin to my children
  • Feed them well
Little tyke, my soon-to-be 2 yo.

They are all small steps and with the fierce support of my husband, I think I have done okay. In spite of a raging pandemic, and the working from home situation, I believed I had levelled up. 

2021 has just begun and I think I am making good strides in my mum job. I was however thrown for a little loop-de-loop when last weekend, I was told I needed to work at being a better mother. 

It came from family, so I know it was well meaning. But that comment spiralled into my negative self-thoughts like an asteroid. I took it quite hard. My mind became a report card and I started grading myself with each action I took. Washed the dishes = +1. Fed the kids = +2. Didn’t manage to put the child down for a nap = -2. 

Oh what a catastrophe that was. My mind was bubbling and stewing with so much negative self-talk that even Daryl noticed and probed to find out more. A meltdown ensued. Even I did not realise what was coming. I got sucked into a ridiculous expectation. I allowed guilt to fester and overflow because of my over-reaction to a simple comment that I hung onto and filled in the blanks. 

My family certainly meant well. But what wasn’t constructive was a sweeping statement that made it easy to misunderstand. And then I realised why I was feeling the way I felt.That’s because the existing social construct of motherhood (a.k.a. what it means to be a good mother) is this:

Excel in your career. Be with your kids 24/7. Continue to be happy and grateful even if you never have time for yourselfBe a good wife. Keep the house clean. Do it all on your own and don’t complain.

Now that’s quite impossible to achieve and honestly rather absurd. I do believe that as a society, we’re getting better at being more empathetic but I think we can do more. Us mothers could do with more support and definitely more affirmation. 

After some reflection, I put pen to paper (and now here) to remind myself that I am a mother to my children and therefore should be focussing on excelling at motherhood on my terms and via goals I decide on (instead of trying to prove something to others): 

  • Raise, kind, caring and resilient children with values and morals
  • Equip my children with the tools to be emotional literate/intelligent
  • Encourage my children to do their best in whatever they do (thus focussing on effort and not primarily A* grades/outcome), to build grit
  • Be consistent (this is useful when disciplining)

There is no textbook to motherhood and there shouldn’t be. Every child is unique and we are not here to prove our mettle but rather act as guides as they navigate through life. 

To all my dear fellow mamas, I hope you know that you’re not alone. As mothers, we are the lighthouse for our children, but let not others affect how you shine that light. As long as you’re guiding and lighting the path, that’s good enough. Everyday is a brand new day to do our best and let not others dictate what ‘best’ looks like. 

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Motherhood recipe

Nutritious Oatmeal Cookies


If you think being a parent is a strange new world, think again. It’s even stranger as a lactating mother. 

I went into Motherhood pretty cold because I refused to go down the rabbit hole. I didn’t want to scare myself. Those who know me will know that anything I put my mind to I go in with deep abandon. 

Breast feeding, is a wonderful experience and for most part, it is what they say – a great way to bond with your newborn. The chemical release of oxytocin floods through you – and for me, my tear ducts always flow.  

Then there’s the byproduct of the process – the glorious breast milk. Filled with it’s own cocktail of nutrients that miraculously changes as your infant grows. A mixture of vitamins, anti-bodies, fats, I think it’s a super food!

With Ciaran, my first born, I only managed up to 6 months. The stress at work at my previous company got the better of me and a first-time mum navigating the feelings and emotions of such a role that is motherhood — I had so many unrealistic expectations. 

That was when I first encountered this delicious word  – galactagogue.

To this day i find it hard not to chuckle. My first thought was Galactica Monologues? What fantastical thing could this be?  

It originated from the Greek word “galacta,” meaning milk.

Galactagogues help you with your breast milk. And apparently it’s a whole list of foods that ‘triggers’ or encourages your glorious pair of boobies to continue feeding your precious child. 

Fatty foods and a whole lot of herbs make the bulk of the list. From nuts to seeds, to garlic and fenugreek, it’s an interesting make up. 

Then there’s oats. Oats is the most popular one – as it’s the most commonly found ingredient and easily available. Oh and you can keep it for long. 

Having nursed my second child Eoin for the past 8 months, I was feeling rather good. But my supply has dipped of late. 

And I’ve taken it upon myself to make sure I catch up on my galactagogues. Lactation cookies were my immediate choice as I do love my oats. But I prefer not to call them lactation cookies because they are really just souped up oatmeal cookies that are ultra nutritious (and really shouldn’t be limited to lactating mothers).

The good nutritious stuff. These ingredients are easily available from iHerb (I’ve included links in the ingredient list) or your local supermarkets.

Brewer’s yeast and flaxseeds, almond butter is the brilliant trigger. And chopped chocolate chunks make them irresistible to other non-lactating humans. My son and husband enjoys them just as much as I do. 

It has been a week since and my supply has been steadily increasing. Try making these for yourself if you find yourself requiring some assistance (or even just an excuse to eat a cookie in the name of health). Brewer’s Yeast, a common key ingredient in lactation cookies is a rich source of B-complex vitamins, protein, and minerals, including a biologically active form of chromium. It is also said to be effective at supporting the nervous system and enhancing the immune system.   

Delicious nutritious morsels for lactating mothers or otherwise.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 227g butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 1 tbsp barley malt* (optional)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1/3 cup brewer’s yeast
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter (substitute in peanut butter or leave out altogether)
  • 3 cups rolled oats (Bob’s Red Mill Thick Cut is my favourite)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate chunks

*Note: Barely malt is an excellent sweetener for baking and especially helpful for lactating mothers. It is barley grain that has been allowed to germinate. When this happens, the barley turns into a sweet syrupy malt that also contains a lot of beta-glucan (a prolactin stimulant, what lactating mothers need).

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 175 °C. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  2. Using a mixer, beat together the butter, sugar and barley malt until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
  3. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, ground flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast. Add this to the mixing bowl and beat until just combined.
  4. Add the almond butter and oats, mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks
  5. Drop 1.5 tablespoons of dough onto the lined cookie sheets. Bake s20-30 minute, or until the bottom is golden brown. Cookies will puff up a bit in the oven; if you prefer flatter cookies, press down on the top of each cookie with a fork. 
  6. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Store cookies in an air-tight container for up to a week; cookies will keep frozen for up to 3 months. Cookie dough can be made in advance and kept in the freezer 6-12 months (make sure it’s tightly sealed).