March is International Women’s Month and I thought of writing about all the ways I’m proud to be a mother – Nanay and proud! But let me go astray here and tell you first the biggest reasons why motherhood didn’t look so appealing to me as a single or even married woman:
Your body changes from “sexual being” to “mukhang nanay”. I know this is very shallow and vain but I had this longstanding belief that my body should be desirable. I want to be fit and healthy to be able to work and play – but a big part of it was also to look good. The breasts, a flat stomach, clear skin, a nice butt, healthy hair ~ all of them to be a “desirable” woman.
But becoming pregnant and a mother, it felt like all things “desirable” go out the window! Your breasts change for breastfeeding (goodbye cute pink nipples), your belly expands to make room for the baby (goodbye flat stomach, hello stretchmarks), bad skin (hello sleepless nights)… you get the picture. You suddenly feel every bit undesirable (based on old standards) and this shakes your identity as a woman. “Mukha na ba akong nanay?” was a common question I asked my husband when we were going out – as if looking like a mother was nakakahiya. We want to “bounce back” immediately so that people won’t call us “losyang”.
Your time won’t be your own anymore. When you’re a strong, single, independent woman, you can focus all you want on building a successful career and all the external accomplishments of worldly success. You can travel anytime, anywhere or cultivate any hobby or passion. When you have children, it feels like a goodbye to that freedom and hello to this big responsibility of raising children.
And it’s not just time! Suddenly your brain needs to know and remember so many more details about breastfeeding, doctor’s appointments, your child’s nutrition and development, education, and the list goes on. Your brain is suddenly needs to hold so much more information than it did before.
Your priorities will change but no one tells you that it’s hard to let go or loosen your grip of what you held dear. Your heart suddenly expands for your new little family and you want to be THE BEST MOM and WIFE EVER… but also you think about your career, your dreams, your own accomplishments and even your independence.
You can still pursue your career, but it doesn’t come easy with all the guilt and expectations to be a perfect mother. What people won’t normally tell you is that any choice comes with some guilt and it’s you who need to learn how to cope.
It’s not that womanhood can only be experienced through motherhood, but I guess motherhood sent a shock through my whole life and physical body that I was forced right smack to make sense of my own womanhood in this season of my life. There was a push and pull of old beliefs and mindsets versus new realities that I needed to contend with.
Who am I as a woman now when I let go of my “desirable” body, my time and my own accomplishments and independence in this season?
And am I proud of this woman?
I’d say it’s been a process of learning and unlearning to become the “Nanay and proud!” person that I am today – after 4 years of being a mother. And here’s what I’ve discovered in this phase of womanhood:
My body was made for nurturing in this season of womanhood. My worth is not based on society’s standards of “desirable” and I am proud to be able to nurture my child with my body. My breasts and the rest of my body are no longer primarily for sexual attraction – and that is okay. I will take care of my body for my well-being and my new nurturer role, not to please society’s standard of sexy. I actually love my body better now. I am less critical of “flaws” and I’m more focused on improving my character than my physical looks. I still try to be fit and healthy but now for a different purpose – to live as long as I can for my family.
My new mindset in this season of womanhood - there are a lot of things that my female body can do that male bodies cannot, and I am proud of it!
It’s okay to slow down, be softer and less independent. If you’ve been a proud, strong, independent woman like me pre-motherhood, being in that same frame of mind can cause you some strain. Motherhood forces you to be soft and strong at the same time. Soft in a way that you melt experiencing so much love and care for your child. Soft in a way that you need to rely on other people too for your needs because growing and taking care of a child is not meant for mothers to do alone. But at the same time, you need to be strong because motherhood can be physically and emotionally taxing for us mothers.
I needed to be aware when my need to be a strong, independent woman was hindering the softness I also needed to have in this season. And I needed to remember that softness is not a weakness – it’s also a power in womanhood. I had to put my guard down and let my husband, extended family and friends help me without feeling insecure and any less of a person. I learned how to graciously receive help in this softness.
I can be grateful for the present while looking forward to the future. Like any other season in our life, the early childhood season shall also come to pass. What gets me through “what ifs” is the idea of impermanence. I am grateful for all the joys and struggles of motherhood and womanhood now because it is not permanent. And while I take it easy on whatever I let go of for this season, I look forward to the future where I can be whoever I want to be. I can take it easy now while I design the life I want to live piece by piece, day by day.
Being a mother is not a roadblock to our dreams as a woman, it’s fertilizer that enriches the soil where our dreams are planted. I am proud of myself for being able to love myself better as a woman in these challenging and fulfilling transitions in womanhood.
This Women’s Month, let’s be proud of being women and mothers! Let’s celebrate not only the strong, independent woman but also the soft, fluid, vulnerable, passionate beings that we are in this season of motherhood. We are imperfect but ever-changing, evolving and transforming ~ and that is our power.