The Balance of Life and Everything Else
Far too often as a mother and a wife I find the pressures of “the shoulds” overwhelming and impossible to conquer. The shoulds as I will refer to them through this article are those pressures that we hear from all around us. The pressures that are suggested to us, handed over to us or suggested upon us by both ourself and those around us.
I believe that the shoulds are one of the largest struggles to face as an adult, a parent, a partner and a person in our society. Sometimes I wonder if other countries or other cultures struggle with the pressures of what should be done as much as we do. I was recently speaking with an old friend of mine who has spent years living abroad. Her husbands line of work has allowed them to live in multiple countries and they actually began their family of four while living outside of the US. Recently they have come back to live here in the states and speaking with her highlighted the pressure that our culture of the shoulds places on us. What I took away from our conversation was that in other cultures there is a place for a mother and child, there is room to be a new mom and a new human being in this world. Mistakes are welcomed, lessons are admired and advice is given from the heart and not from a place of judgment or ridicule.
I sat for a moment after our conversation and imagined what it would have been like to raise our daughter in a culture that nurtured the newness of it all and supported both the mother and the child. I feel that here in the United States we nurture the mother of a new child as long as that child is still within the womb of the mother. Suddenly when that baby is born the mother is expected to live up to every expectation, every should and every image that society places upon her. She is supposed to loose the baby weight, look polished before walking out the door, regain her self esteem, remain emotionally stable, prepare meals, use disposable diapers, breastfeed, regain her sexual desires, maintain a clean home, host and care for visiting family members, go back to work and find the perfect preschool for her child. All while ensuring that her new born baby never cries, always sleeps and poses perfectly for photos.
Ladies, take a moment and read that again…
How? How can we do this, what mad-man or woman ever thought that any of these shoulds were maintainable, sustainable or supportive of a new mother? A woman who just became a new person, a new mother, a new self. A woman who is stepping into the largest life-changing moment she will ever go through. This country is lacking the support needed which would allow a woman to focus on the monumental task of becoming a mother let alone the support needed to take charge and respond to child birth the way we should.
I provide a message to every new mom out there fighting her shoulds; Let yourself fall, let those around you catch and support you. Cry when you need to cry and allow your body to heal, your mind to settle and your heart to absorb the amazing change of becoming a parent for the very first time, second time, third time and so on.
Many people give the advice of sleep when you need to sleep, forget the dishes, leave the laundry and just stay in bed. This sounds great doesn’t it? Let’s however have a reality check. First, sleep when you need to sleep? Okay so baby just went down, you have not showered or eaten or sat down for a moment of silence in what feels like an eternity. So rather I urge you to do what you need to do in order to help you feel nourished and calm in that moment. If putting a load of laundry in does this so be it, if it is a bath, a cup of coffee in the sun, a quick snooze. Do what you feel like you need to do in order to take care of yourself. It is all you can do, it is all you should do.
Forget the dishes? Okay is there a postpartum fairy that comes in to do this for me then? If you can afford the assistance of a doula or house help please allow yourself this gift. If you cannot, take a deep breath and allow yourself to eat straight out of the pan, order pizza, or do whatever else it takes to intake calories and minimize the mess. I remember when my daughter was six weeks old and my husband had to travel for work my dinner one night was peanut butter straight out of the jar and a glass of red wine. I had all my bases covered; calories and relaxation. Remember that priorities have to change, that having a baby in the culture we live in means giving yourself a lot of self support and a lot of allowances to do what you need when you can.
Unfortunately we do not have the support system that we should or could have and because of that woman are often thrown to the side when baby is born. While this thought saddens me beyond words I also know that every woman who goes through the process of becoming a mother has the strength to advocate for herself. It might be hard, uncomfortable and ugly at some points but that strength to listen to your body, to your heart and to your intuition is there and remember that you are valuable, needed, important, necessary and essential in this world and in your family. You should do nothing more than what you must to care for you and for your baby.
“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” – Jill Churchill
I am a mother, not a wizard. I share what is hard, what is scary and what is real. The rest I leave to you.