Tuesday, 29 January 2013

At the risk of sounding selfish, what about me?

Put on your seatbelt Mama, this journey begins now...
It's pretty hard work being a Mom.  You can never know what you're getting yourself into.  Likely, because if you did -- you would have given that night of condomless bliss a second thought.  Let's get honest here, first and foremost, I love my son and I love being his Mom.  Nothing can change it, I'm hardwired to love him to infinity and beyond, so if you're being a hater -- calm down.  You can read what to expect until you're ready to push that babe out, but until you're a full fledge Mama, how can you really understand it?  Let's face it...For 25 plus years, you've cruised around thinking only about yourself (and ok.. sometimes others) and in a second (ok, if you're lucky like me, 28 debilitating hours..) you're someones ENTIRE world.  Instantaneously, thinking about yourself takes a back seat (along with eating hot food and sleeping).  

Becoming a Mom turns your life around and can be pretty isolating.  I was literally parked on the couch breast feeding for 23 hours a day thanks to a slow let down and an even slower eater.  So as you can imagine, the pvr became my friend.  

Now before motherhood, you think -- I have my friends, they're awesome!  It never dawns on you the need to make new friends.  What do I need new friends for?  My friends are great, we hang out all the time, I'll have so much time when I'm "off" -- it won't be hard to keep in touch at all.  Three weeks after becoming a mom, you realize the error in your thinking.   It's about the time that the novelty of you creating a human has worn off, the gifts stop coming in, everyone is back to work, and you're on your own Momma.   A few will keep in touch, but it's not the same as it was -- never can be.  They conventionally go to work, and you do not.  When they can go out, you just want to go to sleep.    It's even harder with your working child-less friends, because they just can't understand (it's really not their fault) or they try to draw parallelism between having a kitten and a newborn baby (yes, because that's the same...).  I highly recommend having lowered expectations, it's way better than the stark realization that everything is different.

Flashback to my three week old baby.  Scary times.  I remember the first day I was by myself with him.  There was so much crying, probably because the more my son would cry, I would just cry harder.  I vowed  to figure this small human out.  I made him, I should know what to do with him --right?  Nah.  In hindsight it seems like you just fumble along the way, and sometimes things work and sometimes things don't.  You probably never really know what you're doing.  And here, three weeks in (and counting), is where the hard work begins.  

It's not the sleepless nights, acquiring a taste for coffee no matter how cold it is, or trying to eat a quesadilla in one hand while bouncing your baby in the other while breastfeeding.  Nor is it the cracked, chafed, pain-ridden, leaky nipples or the inability to hold your urine in your bladder for months after childbirth (...kegels anyone?).  It's not even not being able to go out like you used to (remember going to the movies, or to dinner, or even to the grocery store baby-less?), having to change poopy diapers (it really doesn't even phase you anymore, is that poop on my hand or guacamole?), or having to perfect your shower routine to under 4 minutes (including drying time).  I know, hard to believe that any of that is not the hardest part of being a mom but it really isn't.  All of that is just par for the course and most of it is a phase that will eventually end.  The hardest part about being a Mom is not falling into the trap of ONLY being a Mom.

Hey you--with the boobies,  come here!
My son is six and half months old, and only now in the last couple weeks have I felt like myself again.  I went through some emotional times, especially at the beginning of January.  I don't know if it was the lack of sunlight, or the drastic drop in hormones because it's been 6 months since I pushed out a human (...seriously, what is with all the hair I'm losing?) but I felt sad and lonely.  I realized it was because while I've devoted everything to being at home with my son -- for some reason my highlights of my day: getting regularly milked like a dairy cow, vacuuming, stopping to watch a bit of pvr'd Kelly & Micheal, then cooking dinner, and maybe folding some laundry, were not at all satisfying.  For the record, I love my husband and we have a great marriage (I know, where's the barf bag?).  And I know it's cliche but he's my rock who is hilarious and keeps me laughing through it all, and not to mention that he is a phenomenal Dad.  And I love being a Mom, it's a gift and a blessing -- my son, I simply adore him.  I love him to the moon and back.  But I'm more than just a Mom and a wife.  Hold your shock, but what about me?

The problem with being a Mom is we inherently think it's selfish to want to do anything, and I mean anything for yourself.  Not too long ago, I felt selfish for wanting to take an uninterrupted bath for 30 minutes.  A freaking bath people.  True story.  So sad, and so totally brought on by my own negative self-talk.  So, it was a red letter day when I realized that it's ok to put myself back into the equation.  Seriously ladies, it is OK to do something for yourself-- infact, it makes us refreshed, more patient, and thus better parents (so really, that pedicure is not selfish, it will in turn make you a way better mom to your baby...I'm calling for an appointment right now...).  So, I took my life back into my hands, signed up for some classes, and decided I was not a prisoner to the sleep schedule.  That's right, I said a big *screw-you* to the nap schedules and I stopped worrying about when I can leave the house.  I bet some of you are like, "What? You're crazy! But how will your child sleep? And what if he doesn't? What if he melts down? Do you feed him only organic food?  Are you worried about BPA from your baby bullet? You don't use cloth diapers? Oh my God!"  

My mothering philosophy.

The truth?  I no longer care about what anyone thinks about me or about his day time sleep.  If he sleeps, he sleeps.  If he doesn't, he doesn't.  What's the big deal anyways, it's not like I can get him to sleep when I want him to at home or for longer than 17 minutes.  Honestly, he'll be fine -- really he will, and I need to feel like me again.  

For those of you just getting the hang of it, the trick is hanging out with other Mom's to remind you that you're not alone in this battle of re-discovering who you are.  Maybe go to a knitting club, join a baby boot-camp, or do some ridiculous sing-a-long class where you feel like a dork -- my current favorite is learning how to salsa dance with my 20-lbs chubba-lub strapped to me.  It's a pretty easy recipe once you're ready to take the plunge and be "selfish".  Take something you like to do (that you can bring your child with you -- or not, your choice) and add a Mom or two or twenty to the mix (my baby boot camp has SO many awesome Mom's in it).  Voila, you'll feel better in no time and you're a better mom for doing it.  

Other Mom's are awesome sources of empathy and inspiration -- you can be certain that you won't just be sweating, squatting, and cursing suicides at your work-out because collectively you become each others sounding board.  Warriors, fighting the good fight, battling the same war, these wonderful women are becoming my new friends. They make me feel better about myself, don't judge, and remind me that we're all in this together.  They even text-guilt me into getting my butt to boot-camp or even better, Zumba.  But the best part is they share in your victories (no matter how trivial they may seem to husbands and child-less friends) and legitimately feel your pain from your child waking every 15 minutes for 4 hours during the night (because they've been there done that, and all they got was this lousy breast milk stained t-shirt).  

Now please know that I still love all my friends (with and without child) and my husband.  I can't tell you how much I adore him for trying to be interested in things that are definitely not interesting to him --like finding a new nipple for a bottle that is more like a regular nipple so the baby will be more likely to have less nipple confusion with it.  He won't have a clue how to follow up on that mouthful, but a Mom-friend will ask you what brand it is and marvel that you could find the number 1 and 2 nipple at Superstore.  

But rambling aside, the truth of it all is the only people who can truly appreciate how hard it is to be a Mom, is another Mom.  So if you're newly initiated to motherhood and crying into your pee diapers, get out there and meet some Mom's.  We're all treading the same stormy waters, trying to get to the same shore of sleep and sanity.  Trust me, you need new friends (really, who can't use a few more), and only Mom's will fit the bill.  And to all of you Mom's in my life, whether I've only had one conversation with you or I've know you for years -- if you're reading this, you've been a big part of helping me find me again.  Thanks.  

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  1. We clearly have babes that are the same age because as I feel things...you write them. (Mind you, you can articulate my thoughts and feelings in a significantly more cavalier fashjion). I shall call you in to tap me out in my next argument with hubby!! Keep 'em coming! Your postings always brighten my day! :)

    1. Aw thanks for the love and the comment, you just made my day! It's nice to not feel so 'alone' in the land of spit up and poop explosions. But ... sadly I can not harness my blogging superpowers for evil during a disagreement with my hubby -- always 30 minutes later, I'm like... Dammit, I should have said that! ;)

  2. I totally agree that the whole sleep thing is where parents tend to compete the most. I had a non-sleeping child and a sleeping child. I felt with my first (who didn't sleep) that I was horrible at being a mom because of it and strangers would just compound that "Oh, MY child slept through the night at 1 week!" My second is a sleeper and I can't say I did much different.
    Congrats on your baby. Are you back to teaching or taking some time off?

    1. Thanks for the message. Right now my son is 8 months old and while he used to sleep just fine the last two months he's been a completely unpredictable sleeper. I'm just trying to roll with the punches :) Thanks for the congrats -- I'm off for the whole year, and won't be back until September. I'm very much enjoying the time with my son :D