I’m not sure what I’m writing here, or what this will look like at the end. I have a feeling it will be heavily caveated, because no matter what I say it will come off as either a judgment or an excuse.
It’s sort of about me and exercise. Sort of about breastfeeding. Sort of about attachment parenting. Sort of about society and the superwoman syndrome. Sort of about balance.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that adjusting to life with Chip was a struggle. He didn’t behave how the other babies behaved, and he certainly didn’t behave how the babies in books behaved. It was hard for me not to feel like I had pretty much everything to do with that, which led to me often feeling like a completely useless mother. But I didn’t just feel useless because I couldn’t seem to keep my precious baby happy. I also felt useless because I was huge and fat and tired and not getting any exercise in and not keeping up with the housework and that sort of thing.
Occasionally, we’d have a “good” day, mostly involving a long nap, and I’d get a bit more done. Or he’d be happy and easy, and we’d be able to go out for a walk and lunch with friends. Or he’d settle easily and sleep mostly through the night. On those days I felt like supermum, and thought I had this Mum thing DOWN.
It wasn’t til about 3 months, maybe later, that I realized I had it all back to front. I’m not any more of a supermum on the days that I do chores while he naps in his cot, or on the days we enjoy walks and coffees, or on the nights I’m well rested. In fact, I’m my most super Mum on the days I cuddle him to sleep because he’s feeling yucky, or stay patient with him when he grizzles and cries all day, or respond to him 5 times overnight because he needs food or teething gel or a cuddle.
The thing is, I don’t just think I have it back to front. I think it goes far deeper than that. When your baby is born, for every voice telling you to relax and take it easy, and just spend the day on the couch feeding and eating lactation cookies, there are a thousand “voices” telling you (usually more indirectly, and not to your face) that you should be keeping house, being out and about, and getting back in shape. Easily a thousand voices telling you your baby should be napping X hours per day, should be able to be put to bed awake, doesn’t “need” a night feed, should be sleeping through by now . You can fit exercise and dinners out and everything in. More than that- you SHOULD, and if you do, you are lauded as being inspirational.
We seem to applaud mothers for getting back into triathlon training, or cooking, or working or whatever FAR more than we applaud them for actually BEING MOTHERS.
It’s NOT that I think we shouldn’t be continuing to take time for ourselves after we give birth, or that it’s wrong to want to get out for a run, if just to escape the baby thing for half an hour. It’s just that I feel like we’ve gone beyond acknowledging that it’s important for women to be able to continue to be people upon becoming mothers to EXPECTING women to just continue not only being the same people but doing the same things as they did before, despite having become mothers in the meantime.
What does this mean for me, now?
1. Acknowledging that right now, I can’t exercise, breastfeed, mother and work. Some people can (Sarah being a great example.. . WOW), but right now, I am falling asleep during night feeds, and I’ve snoozed my 6:30 alarm every day for about 3 weeks. I could try to squeeze it in between 7:45 and 8:45 every night, but I don’t want to.
2. Deciding that out of those four things, my priorities are mother, breastfeed, and work in that order.
3. Accepting that that means exercise is very much a bonus right now.
4. Deciding that I don’t need to forgive myself for making that decision; and
5. Embracing the 3am cuddles, because they won’t last forever.