New Year, New You

What is it about the new year that makes everyone feel like setting goals and starting things anew? There’s definitely something about the beginning, whether it’s the beginning of the year, or month, or even week that gives you a fresh start.

It’s a blank slate, with no blemishes. The follies of the previous year are left behind and you have a chance to start new. The whole year is one big possibility and there’s no telling where you could go.

I love reflecting on the past, but I also can’t resist the newness of the new year. I love thinking about all the amazing things that could happen.

I also love reading everyone else’s resolutions and goals, whether it’s through blog posts or Instagram posts. Many of us have similar goals, and many of us fail at accomplishing them.

My goals are similar to previous years, but I still like to write them down. It makes them more official and makes me feel more accountable on following through on them.

1. WRITE MORE

Ok so this is my biggest goal of the year. I want to write more. Ever since giving birth last year, writing is one thing that has fallen off the radar for me. I’ve often sat down to write and feel so much pressure that I just end up not writing anything at all. I have this idea in my head about how I want to sound, and I rarely end up finding the words to express myself. It ends stressing me out instead of giving me joy, which it used to.

So my goal for this year is to just write anything and everything. Whether it’s random and silly blog posts here, or a few lines of broken poetry that come wafting into my sleep-deprived brain at three in the morning, or an idea for a plot point in my current work in progress. Anything and everything!

My soul is aching to me to return to a world where the words flowed like water from my fingers. But I can’t return unless I practice! I need to get over my fear of sounding stupid and just go for it.

2. BE MORE PRESENT

So many people talk about being more present, and everyone has their own idea of what that means. For me, I want to be a more present mother.

I haven’t been quiet about the challenges of motherhood on here, and those challenges make me selfish it feels. I feel like I’m often puttering around the house, trying to get all my chores done, rather than spend time with my daughter. Lately it feels like my baby is clamoring for my attention, but all I can think about is setting her down so I can get through a load of laundry, or dishes, or cooking etc.

I’m not saying that I’m going to completely abandon the things I have to do, but I want to make time to play with her more, read with her more, and just be with her. I don’t want her growing up feeling like I neglected her, which is what I feel guilty of doing lately. Laundry will always be there, but her childhood won’t be.

3. TRY NEW RECIPES

I’m kind of boring when it comes to cooking (and baking too). There’s so many recipes that I’ve wanted to try for ages, but I get scared and just stick to the same recipes that I’ve perfected.

But I want to actually tackle the millions of recipes I’ve pinned over the years on my Pinterest. I want to learn how to make fresh bread, practice my macarons more, and branch off from cookies and bars to other challenging baked goods like croissants and cakes.

Other than baking, I want to try to make the tricky Pakistani dishes that I’m deathly afraid of making, like nihari and haleem. I also want to learn to make some traditional Pakistani desserts as well, because my husband loves them! Over the past three years, I’ve made him loads of cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and bars. But I really want to learn the other stuff too.

And that’s it! Three pretty basic goals, but less is more in this situation. I wanted to make goals for things I can actually do or try to do, instead of things that I might not be able to.

What are your goals for this year?

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

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Goodbye 2017

Today’s the last day of 2017 and what a year it’s been! It was a big year for me and I can’t believe it’s already over.

I still remember being at this point last year, so excited for 2017 to begin. I was expecting my daughter and getting ready to move back to Canada, which couldn’t be more exciting.

2017 is the year my daughter was born, and so it’s probably the best year of my life so far. I don’t think it can get any better than the birth of a baby! I have known immeasurable joy this year, joy that many people dream of, and I couldn’t be luckier. Watching Emaan grow and blossom from her first few days of life to these past few months has been something I could only ever dream about. Her smile just makes me melt and her unwavering and unconditional love for me is something that I am so grateful for. It makes me want to me a better person and a better mother.

This year was also one of the hardest years of my life, for the same reason. Becoming a mother is no easy feat. I never used to understand it when other women would tell me that labour is the easy part, and that raising children is the harder part. I was deathly afraid of giving birth and imagined the rest as a piece of cake. Labour was no piece of cake, but compared to the struggles I face everyday, it does seem like it.

This year I’ve had to battle myself at a level I’ve never before. I’ve discovered some things about myself that I never would have known, if I hadn’t become a mother. For example I never would have learned how lack of sleep affects me so deeply to the point that I do not like myself. I never would have learned the true meaning of patience, a type of patience that I have to practice daily. I never would have discovered what self-sacrifice means.

This year I’ve had to come to terms with finding a middle ground between being selfish and selfless. After becoming a mother, I thought the best way to be one was to be selfless. To give my daughter all of me. And that’s what I did for the first few months. I felt like I was living in a bubble, with no clue what was going on on the outside. But recently I’ve come out of the bubble and realised that I can’t live like that. It isn’t a sustainable way to live. As my mom loves to say, if you’re not good for yourself, you won’t be good for anyone else. And I need to be good for myself.

Right now I want to cling to 2017 a little longer. The past few weeks have flown by and I’m struck with the realisation that it will never be 2017 again. It’s an obvious statement, but 2017 was the year my daughter was born, and after tonight, it will be over. Her whole life has existed in this year and it just makes me realise how young and innocent she is. Her life so far has been measured in months, and next year, when she turns one, that’ll no longer be the case.

It’ll definitely be hard to top this year, that’s for sure! But the next year is only a few hours away, and it’ll be a new adventure.

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

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Self-Care

Self-care is one of those buzzwords that has become super popular lately. Everyone seems to be talking about it and what it means to them.

Recently I read an article that lamented this need for self-care. It talked about living a life that was full of purpose, one that didn’t need you to take a break from it. You took care of yourself at the get-go so that you didn’t feel the need to schedule bubble baths and other self-indulgent things.

But self-care is so much more than that. And while the concept is a great idea, unfortunately it doesn’t happen for some people. Most of the people that struggle with this are moms. And I’m one of them.

Self-care can seem impossible as a mother, especially a new one. I have recently come to realise how important it is to take care of yourself and honestly wish I had more time to do it.

As a mother, you are constantly giving: your time and energy. As my mom loves to say, you can’t be good for others if you’re not good for yourself. And I never really understood this concept until becoming a mother. Another saying that helps explain this is that you can’t pour from an empty cup. And it’s so true.

Being a mom is a 24/7 job. There are no days off, no vacation days, no sick days. If you feel like crap, you still get up at 2AM for the fifth time that night to take care of a crying baby. And then you go about the rest of your day like nothing happened. And it’s exhausting. It can become impossible to keep caring for baby if your energy levels are running on low and you haven’t slept properly in weeks or even months. It can lead to frustration, anxiety, depression, and so many other things.

I’m seven months post-partum, but some days I still feel like my daughter was just born yesterday. How is this still not any easier? Why am I still so tired? Why do I feel so depressed all the time?

I constantly tell myself that right now I only have the one kid. I have no idea how women with multiple children do it. I am in constant awe of women who work and run their households and take care of multiple kids. Or women who also choose not to work but also handle everything so seamlessly. How do they do it? How come I can’t?

Before becoming a mother, I had no concept of self-care. I woke up when I wanted, went to sleep when I wanted. If I was craving something to eat, I ordered out. If I wanted to bake my little heart out, I did it at 9AM or 9PM. It didn’t matter. If I felt like watching a movie in the middle of the day, I did just that. It was all me, me, me. Now? Not so much.

It’s hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and it doesn’t get any easier. But I’m realising that I have to start taking care of myself. If I don’t, I will lose my sanity. Some days, I feel like I’m close to it…

Some days it just doesn’t happen. There are a million and one things to get through the day. My daughter’s short, 20 to 30 minute naps don’t leave me with much time to do much for myself, other than maybe take a shower and eat. Take this blog post for example. I wrote a similar to it almost one month ago. I never finished writing it and it continued to gather dust until I realised some of the things I had written were no longer relevant. I planned on doing some writing on Monday and today is Wednesday when I finally have the time to sit down to write this. I’ve already been interrupted once and will probably not finish posting this until later tonight or maybe even tomorrow. That’s just how it is.

So what does self-care look like for me? For starters, I’ve started reading again. There was a period of time where I was too tired to want to read before bed or any other time. I would browse on my phone for a few minutes before sleep finally claimed me. But lately, I’ve been been reading more and it’s something to look forward to at the end of a crazy day. I’ve missed getting lost in a good book and excitement that comes with wanting to know what happens next. I was currently reading through old favourites but have started on some of the unread books that I have had on my bookshelf for ages. Sometimes it’s only a few pages, and sometimes it’s more. But it’s my treat for getting through the day.

I’ve also picked up my markers to do brush lettering again. I wasn’t very good when I abandoned it last year, but it’s something I loved learning to do. It’s something that I find so therapeutic since I can actually switch off my brain and just doodle on the page and try to create something beautiful. It’s so relaxing to be able to work with my hands again. I miss being creative so much, and this is such a non-stressful way for me to get back to it. When my daughter falls asleep for the night, I love to sit with my markers for a few minutes and just doodle some words on the blank page, the thick and thin lines erasing the stress from the day.

I’ve also baking again for myself. I’ve gone back to some old recipes and made the ones that I loved. I’ve made the ones that I know my husband hasn’t tried but will love. It’s something I have to plan for a little more than I ever did, but it’s so worth it when that smell of butter and sugar fills the kitchen.

I’m going to be honest. I find it hard to relax and let go. I always have. But now it’s more harmful than good. I have this concept of guilt that takes over my brain when I do anything for myself, even if I sit for five minutes. In my mind, I could be doing something productive, like cleaning up or organizing. It’s something my mom instilled in me and it’s become so ingrained in me that I have a hard time letting go of it. I feel guilty for relaxing and for taking a break. But at the same time, I complain constantly about being exhausted and of running around all day. I know it’s my fault and I’m the first to admit that I’m a hypocrite. I complain about being tired but refuse to rest or relax when I have the chance.

I’m trying to get better at it, but it’s a constant battle I have within myself. Today I was faced with the choice of napping when my daughter napped or doing chores. I chose the former and it felt amazing.

I think self-care, for me, just means being kinder to myself. It means letting things go and being okay with it. It means taking a break and not feeling guilty. It means knowing that I’m not a bad mother if I take some time for myself.

How do you tackle self-care? Do you think it’s important?

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The Mom Bod

This is going to be a difficult post to write. But one that has been 3 months in the making, maybe even more.

There are so many changes that happen to your body during the journey of pregnancy and childbirth. Despite all the tabloid images of celebrities slimming down merely weeks after producing another human, the general consensus is that childbirth should be celebrated. Your body is a beautiful thing, we are told, to have housed another human being.

But when I look in the mirror, I don’t see beautiful. I see a monster.

Let me back up a bit: I have always struggled with low self-esteem when it comes to my body. I have struggled with my weight my whole life and when I became pregnant I was afraid of going down a path I wouldn’t be able to return from.

Growing up I was always chubby. I loved dessert as a kid and the pounds packed on throughout my preteen and teen years. Given my height (or lack thereof), my weight gain is always apparent. It can’t hide anywhere on all 5 feet and 1 inch of me. I eat a cookie and I’ve gained a pound.

A few years ago, I got sick of always being the fat girl, of always not knowing what to wear and of feeling so ugly. My self esteem was intrinsically tied to my weight and I wanted to feel good again.

So I embarked on a crazy diet. I hated exercise and so decided that dieting was the way to go. I cut out all sugar and carbs from my diet and I lost almost 30 pounds in a year. I gained about 5 back after that but I more or less maintained it over the years after losing it. I could go into a store to buy clothes and come out with my self-confidence intact. I almost felt beautiful.

After marriage, I gained some more weight. I’ve always been an emotional eater and the stress and drastic changes in my life made me double up on the cookies and cupcakes and cake. If there was dessert, I wanted it.

When I became pregnant, I knew I had to be careful. Because I gain weight quickly and lose it slowly, I knew that the pounds would pack on pretty quickly. And they did.

But I kept hearing how breastfeeding would help me to slim down quickly and that I would drop several pounds right away, once the baby was out.

But as my body would have it, I barely lost 20 pounds. Even after my daughter was born and I was 6 weeks post-partum, the scale still read that hateful number it had read the day I came home from the hospital. Even though I was breastfeeding around the clock, every two hours, sometimes even every hour. Even though there were days where I felt so hungry I was dizzy. Even though I felt like my energy was so low from all the running around I did. Even though there were days I barely ate more than 2 meals, that number did not budge.

As a breastfeeding mom, I get HUNGRY. Hungry in a way I wasn’t during pregnancy. Hungry enough that when I have a chance to sit and eat, I can go on for a long time. So hungry that I will eat anything and everything my hand finds.

I know I should eat healthier. But I find easy comfort in chocolate on the days that are extra hard. There are moments where I hate myself as I gorge on chips and cookies and chocolate in the small twenty minute nap my daughter takes. I hate myself even more when I see myself in fitting room mirrors, with a pile of clothes that don’t fit on the floor. But I still don’t stop.

I know I should exercise, and trust me I tried. But after a night of barely sleeping and hours where I feel like all I do is feed and put the baby to sleep, the last thing I feel like doing is moving. I want to sleep and not get up for a long time.

I know all of these probably sound like excuses for not being able to lose the weight. And that’s because some of them are. I promised myself that I would work hard after giving birth, that I wouldn’t stay this way, that I would lose the weight. But I didn’t know how hard it was going to be.

It’s hard to feel beautiful when your wedding rings are too tight to even make it down your finger. It’s hard when all that fits are still your maternity clothes, 3 months later. It’s hard when your feet still look swollen and have grown an extra size. It’s hard when the largest size in your favourite store no longer fits.

I have friends that tell me to be proud of my body and all that it has achieved. And to be honest, I am proud. When I look at my daughter and her growing tummy and legs, I feel amazed that she is growing because of food that she gets from my body. She is surviving and thriving because of what I am able to provide for her and that is a miracle in itself. But it still doesn’t stop me from feeling like a failure.

It’s even harder when my Instagram feed and Facebook is filled with friends who bounced back weeks after giving birth. Girls who didn’t breastfeed and lost the weight. Girls who breastfed and lost the weight. Girls who exercised accordingly and lost the weight quickly. Girls who aren’t celebrities, but real girls who slimmed down and who look amazing. So all I can think of when I see them is my own failures. If they can do it, why can’t I? Why is this so hard for me?

I should applaud and appreciate this body that has done so much and continues to do so much. But I don’t. Because all I see in the mirror are lumps and bumps and bruises.

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Drift Away

You and I, we survived
The tides of heartbreak and heartache
Of growing up

We had so much in common, that we never stopped talking
Even when there were ripples of discord
Between us

We moved across continents and countries
But still remained like two rivers flowing parallel
Boundless

There was no tsunami or seismic shift
That altered our relationship
Or broke it

It was a sprinkle, not a stream
Of small changes that littered our lives
So drastically

So when the waves of life pulled us under and apart
The silences were mangled and and massive
And misunderstood

Our memories of the good times became frozen
As our lives pooled in dramatically different directions
And the bond broke

You and I, we didn’t survive
The torments and torrents
Of life

 

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