Is There Such A Thing As A Perfect Mother?
In having conversations with other moms and blog posts I've seen, moms put a lot of pressure on themselves. Everything from:
- "Should I Stay Home?"
- "Should I Work?"
- "The house isn't clean enough"
- "My child is in xyz activities is it enough/too much?"
- "Should I use cloth diapers/disposables?"
- "Should I formula feed/breastfeed?"
- "Natural vs. Cesarean?"
I mean really, there are so many things that we overthink when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth and then parenting that I think we drive ourselves nuts! The thing I wonder is where is all this pressure coming from? Is it an inert pressure, or are there outside forces? I have found that the criticism shown by other moms really makes me rethink everything I'm doing and if I'm doing things right. All this pressure to be perfect led me to have a breakdown 3 days postpartum because of Sebastian's severe jaundice. The doctors were telling me I needed to supplement in order for him to get better faster. This led me to think that breastfeeding would be done for me from that moment on. I had failed my son already and he was only 3 days old! I felt and still feel like I'm missing out on something because I ended up having a C-section, even though there was nothing I could have done. He was in a breech position and I felt that if I had fought harder and maybe found a doctor willing to deliver breech babies that I probably still could have had him vaginally...if only I tried harder.
This seems to be the ongoing theme. I need to do more. I need to try harder. Because sleeping 5-6 hours a night (if that) is ok, because the baby needs me. Because even though I'm 2 weeks post-partum, I still need to eat so I need to cook, and the house is a mess so I have to clean it, even though I'm pumping around the clock and breastfeeding in between. There are people coming over, the house is a mess, and I'm two weeks postpartum from a C-section, I must clean because people can't see the house like this!!! And through all of this newborn madness, I felt I could do it all on my own and that asking for help or just letting things slide was a sign of failure. The house had to be perfect for the visitors who would come over. I had to look halfway decent even though I'd just had major abdominal surgery and was hunched over from the pain of it and in fear of pulling something. I had to have people tell me, "Wow, you look great!" even though inside I was just going through the motions because I hadn't slept since goddess knows when and I really was in some pain, even though I didn't let on that I was.
But this pressure I put on myself to be the perfect mother is really just my own preconceived ideas of what I think the perfect mother is, and apparently in my mind the perfect mom is Wonder Woman, because who else could do everything I thought needed to be done and take care of herself and a newborn?! These ideas probably came from my childhood obsession of watching too much TV where every mom is a Stepford wife and spends her day cooking and cleaning, and even though she may have 6 kids, the house is perfect and every curl is perfectly in place, her makeup is not smudged, even her apron is practically sparkly. I mean come on! I hardly have time to put on a bra in the morning, let alone do my hair and makeup! I try to get myself organized to keep the house clean, and then my son's schedule shifts because of his milestones, so once I get used to one way, chaos ensues and I need to get used to another way. This always seems to take more time than I'm comfortable with.
I am just now starting to learning the art of asking for help: from my husband and from my mother. Because as much as I would like to be a superhero, I'm not and I have given all I have for so long now that I haven't had any time for me and that makes me really tired, really cranky, really resentful, and really depressed. At the same time though if I don't do everything possible around the house or for my child, it makes me really anxious. It seems to be a no-win situation for me.
I think the biggest problem is that I really like idle time. I like being able to sit for hours and knit or play video games, or even just zone out in front of the tv. I'm not one of those people (like my husband) that finds things to do just because they can't sit still for 5 minutes. I can, and I enjoy sitting still for hours on end. Does this make me lazy? Maybe, but if it's what I need to recollect myself, so be it.
The thing is that even though I can talk a good game about how it's my family, therefore, it's my business, when someone gives me that sideways glance as if I'm doing something wrong, it really sticks in my head. I start wondering if what I'm doing is really wrong. Where things get a little haywire is when I try to take on more than I can handle to prove to myself that I'm a good mother. What I have to realize (and I think others can benefit from this as well) is that my family really is special in the sense that what works in my house may not necessarily work in someone else's house, and my kid is not like your kid.
I didn't get to exclusively breastfeed because my body just wouldn't produce enough to keep up with my son. I tried everything possible, but it just wouldn't so I gave him what I could. My house is never going to be perfectly clean because I'm busy playing with and teaching my son. I may not have had the birth experience I wanted, but the experience I had was mine and there is nothing I can do to change what happened. And finally, I really don't need other moms watching my child while he plays at the playground because I know that my child knows his limitations and won't do anything stupid, so if you catch me glancing at my phone for a second, or sitting down at that bench for the first time all day, don't think that you need to help my son across the bridge or to climb up to the higher level so he can go down the slide. I'm sitting here or checking my email because I've watched him do it a billion times all by himself and I know he can do it, otherwise I would be right there with him. Really, I appreciate your help, but it's not necessary. I'm not a lazy mother, I'm a mother that not only knows her child but also needs a few minutes of peace.
I guess the most important thing along this journey is realizing that not everyone's journey is going to be the same. Judging others parenting styles does nothing but cause damage to that woman and cause her way more stress and anxiety than she needs at this moment in time. We're all mothers on a journey and all our journeys will lead to one end goal: to raise a decent human being that can actively participate in our society and can contribute something to help better it. That's essentially what we all want, we just all have different methods of obtaining that goal. So instead of judging, I think we should support each other along the way, and most importantly, we need to stop being our own worst enemies because all the self-evaluation you're doing proves beyond anything that you're a great mom and you're doing a great job!