life, motherhood, parenting

On motherhood. Presence. And the lack thereof.

I consider myself a very present mother.

I don’t mean that I have this whole parenting thing down, because I most certainly don’t. I don’t mean I sit and play with him constantly, because while we do play, he’s happy independently playing and I give him the space he thrives in. It also doesn’t mean I watch him like a hawk, he’s always in sight but I do cook, clean, or read a book sometimes and my eyes are only two.

My definition of present as I mean it is I am very attuned to my son. I am in a state of marvel that he’s mine. I truly genuinely enjoy the moments with him, especially the cute ones that grab your heart and squish it like when he walks around in his father’s shoes, or picks up a book squealing with delight. I even am present in the tougher moments when he won’t sleep, or his tummy hurts, or he’s just in a bad mood. In those moments I am no where else but there, in that moment.

It’s been a rough few days, tissue and tears rough. Nothing life or death, but just difficult, and involving phone calls and inconveniences and worry and frustration and helplessness that’s taking up a lot of mental head space. Mental head space away from Waleed.

For Waleed ofcourse, life is gravy. I envy the days that I had at his age, when surely my parents managed stressors and worried but as a toddler I was blissfully unware. [Ofcourse I was also unaware that I was unaware]. I’m doing everything I should. His physical needs are met, his naps are on time, we’ve played hide and seek and had piggy back rides and trips to the park and I read to him all the stories his heart desires.

But inside, in my heart, that precious mental head space, I’m not present.

As I hide Pooh for him to find, I think about the things plaguing me. As I spoon out his food, I consider the options. As I change his diaper, singing songs and chatting, I worry the options won’t work. I’m physically doing but I’m not mentally doing. I’m giving him myself, but not all of myself. As far as I can tell, this is the first time this has happened.

When I was nine, my brother Ali, five, wanted to play with me. I still remember sitting on a lawn chair in our patio immersed in a book I just couldn’t put down. Play with me, he begged me. When I’m done, I told him. You’re always reading, he cried. I watched him leave and shrugged. Now? I don’t remember the name of the book. But I remember the moment I was not present for my brother.

This isn’t the same thing, but in some ways it feels that way. The way I smiled at him half distracted as he stomped about in his Abu’s boots. The way I let him watch an hour of Sesame Street not for its educational value but so he could be absorbed in something while I addressed other things. The way I gave him a Cliff Bar when he fought me on his lunch because at least he could eat it by hand and I could attend to other things.

I’m always there for Waleed’s bedtime rituals, but today? Today I forgot. And when K called me to Waleed’s bedroom because he was going to sleep and didn’t I want to give him his goodnight kiss? Waleed wrapped his arms around me and kissed me twenty-five times, and I left feeling like the worst mother in the world. He loves with everything he is, why couldn’t I have done the same? He may not know it, but I do. And considering there are people who would lay their lives for my stressors if they could have their child, being distracted as I am hurts more.

I know guilt is part and parcel of motherhood but somehow telling myself this isn’t helping. I feel like I’ve done a really bad job these past few days. I feel like God gave me the moon and I’m focusing on a misplaced pebble. One day these stressors will be a distant memory as will my son’s childhood and I know what I’ll regret between the two. I am so blessed to have him, and today I felt like I was redoing the mistake I made with my brother those many moons ago, I will forget these stressors but not the way I wasn’t fully present.

13 thoughts on “On motherhood. Presence. And the lack thereof.”

  1. I agree with anon. There will always be slip ups. You can't help it. The best you can do is to make sure you never give up.

    He sounds like a very healthy and well adjusted child so you should be proud and stop worrying! As long as he has a smile on his face, you are the best parent you can be!


  2. Thanks Anon and Kamille, it really means a lot your comments. It was a bit of a rough few days, alhamdullilah I feel better now even though the roughness remains. I write a lot about being in the moment w/ my child and I wanted to write a post in a point of time where I wasn't feeling myself in the moment so I could remember it, so I could improve on it insh'allah. You're right, we are all doing the best we can!


  3. You're being too hard on yourself. You can't always be only in the present, there are worries, plans, thoughts, simply me-time that will prevent that. You are doing your best. Try to focus on the positive, and correct what you need to. Cheer up!


  4. Oh sweetie, you're being WAY too hard on yourself. Waleed is such a beloved child, and he KNOWS that. It's also an important lesson for children to learn that although they are undoubtedly the most important things in our lives, they are not the ONLY things in our lives. A child who grows up with a parent who is never distracted or too busy, occasionally, is a child who's going to grow up with a very skewed sense of the world and his place in it. You're an excellent mother, and your boy knows that. Hope that things ease up, and get easier. I'm sorry you're in such a rough place right now.


  5. Forgive me,but I have to say that you are not being compassionate with yourself. There's no need to self flagellate yourself while being momentarily, but necessarily distracted by other things. There is no such thing as being a “perfect” parent. You may overshoot it and end up a martyr. You are doing an amazing job as a mother. Celebrate that. Ditto on what sprogblogger said. The middle way, my friend, the middle way.


  6. I have to agree with everyone else! Expecting yourself to be 100% present with your child at every moment sounds like you are expecting to be Perfect Supermommy, which is setting yourself up for failure, frustration, and guilt. I really admire your efforts to be present with your son as much as possible, it's a benefit for both of you! But it's important to be realistic. Waleed does not need your complete mindful attention at every interaction, and you have other aspects of your life that need attending. I can promise you that with my three boys, I am not present with all of them during every little part of the day. The important thing is to have balance and perspective. Soak in those moments of being present with him, this age is fleeting and precious! But give yourself the grace and compassion to be human, as well. xoxox


  7. Hi everyone! I was out of town and it was difficult to individually reply to each of you but THANK YOU for the virtual hug and words of reassurance. There are bad days and there are good days and its not so bad for a child to experience a little of each so they are a bit prepped for life at large, we can only do the best we can as long as we sincerely are at that point in time. THANK YOU


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