The media creates images of perfect mothers such as June Cleaver and Claire Huxtabel. TV moms look perfect, have spotless homes, and great relationships. Magazine covers portray moms holding beautiful babies, breastpumps and briefcases who are perfectly made up. From such images women define their “shoulds” and “musts”creating unattainable standards of perfection and judging themselves for not keeping up.
The truth is that motherhood is hard work. As women become mothers and face the accompanying stressors and challenges, they often internalize their inability to cope flawlessly as personal failings. Add sleepless nights and fussy babies and it’s not hard to see why mothers lose confidence. When the idealized view of one’s self and motherhood collides with reality, they criticize themselves rather than recognizing how well they are doing given the endless expenditure of physical, emotional and mental energy that goes into caring for children. Pretty amazing!
Nuclear families encourage isolation, especially in the early days postpartum. Experienced mothers rarely discuss hardships inherent in mothering. No one wants to admit they felt less than adequate, irritable, anxious or depressed maneuvering new motherhood while this is true. Although the internet provides some connection, many moms lack the face-to-face support needed to see that everyone faces challenges and make mistakes. Supporting themselves and each other by acknowledging that motherhood is hard work and that perfection must be tempered by reality is what’s needed.
So, starting today cut yourself and the moms around you some slack. You’ve earned it. You deserve it!
Jamie Bodily is founder and director of ParentsCount which provides birth and postpartum doula services, childbirth education and counseling
As soon as a woman announces that she has a positive pregnancy test, everyone has their advice and questions on choices she must make. Will you have an epidural or not? Will you use cloth or disposable? and the list goes on. This myriad of opinions can feel overwhelming, confusing, and even irritating as a woman begins her journey towards motherhood.
Because women have been conditioned to nurture and please others, we agonize over choices, worrying we are going to hurt someone’s feelings by not doing it their way or that we will make a “wrong” decision and harm our children. Society exerts considerable pressure to conform and attain a level of perfection in mothering that is impossible.
But parenting is more of an art than a science. Intuition is as important as what experts say. Learning to be ourselves and accept our choices, whether they conform or differ from others, is an important part of the journey of becoming a mom. The ability to transcend the opinions of others and make our own best choices enables us to become the mothers our children need instead of anxious, guilt-ridden mothers subject to the popular opinions of the media or others.
Following our intuition means we must take time to know ourselves, to nourish ourselves and to trust ourselves; it means we must take time for self-care or the voices around us will drown our own.
Jamie Bodily is founder and director of ParentsCount which provides birth and postpartum doula services, childbirth education and counseling.
Have you noticed lately there’s a lot of news about the chemistry of relationships? I love to think about the reaction between our bodies, brains, and feelings. I was talking to my teenage son about this and he said, “Isn’t that meta-chemistry? How people react to each other? Like metaphysics, only between people.” Yeah, like that.
New research shows that serotonin dips when you feel like you “can’t get enough” of a new love. Dopamine increases in love, which makes you feel just oh so good! Oxytocin, the “cuddle chemical,” not only helps us birth a baby, but it helps us bond and want monogamy, while testosterone makes us want sex. It’s easy to say that women are one way and men are the other, but intimacy doesn’t work well if we forget that men are emotional beings and women are sexual. Thank goodness that metachemistry helps us remember.
Real Mom Wendy
Chemistry is also at work when you’re anxious or angry, and your brain, heart, and adrenal system pump out a virtual fireworks display of chemicals. If you can remember that when it’s happening, you might not have to lash out, freak out, or run away. That’s easier when you’ve been taking care of yourself.
Just as stress builds up, self-care and relationship-care add up too, both for the heart that beats in your body and the heart that holds your love. Now, that’s metachemistry!
Today’s author is Wendy Davis, Postpartum Support International (PSI) Program Director.
This month we’ve been talking about self-care and the importance of making it part of our lives. Last week, our guest blogger Mommie Kate, had some simple self-care tips which many moms appreciated. Still, the issue of time stops many women from practicing self-care.
In our new book, Life Will Never be the Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide, Ann and I devote an entire chapter to the obstacles that get in our way. Here’s what we write about making time for self-care.
1. Self-Care is a Choice:
“Children are demanding. They make their needs known. Messy houses scream: “Load these dishes” or “Make that bed.” Bosses inflict deadlines. Your needs sink to the bottom of the list. But, no one will make time for you or take care of you if you don’t. No one will realize your needs if you don’t speak up. Choose to put yourself first-at least once a day. ”
2. Adjust your expectations
“Another part of making time for yourself is adjusting your expectations about how much time is needed. Learn to think small. Take five minutes to practice deep breathing. Or take twenty minutes to disappear into the bedroom when your partner comes home. Use multi-tasking, too. Lie on the floor with a magazine, next to the baby while he has his “tummy time,” and coo to him. Walk or jog with your infant. Repeat to yourself, “Time for me is essential,” “My baby deserves a happy, healthy mom.”
For more ideas, preview our book at www.realmomexperts.com.
So, I thought I’d “mastered” blogging (lol) when I discovered Monday night I’d erased Monday’s post and on Tuesday am, didn’t schedule it right. After chastising myself for “ruining” Monday and Tuesday, I thought I can either keep feeling bad or let it go. Yes, it was a mistake but not fatal or harmful, except for my beating myself up.
And isn’t this how life goes? Whether it’s being a “good enough” mom, wife, daughter, worker, blogger, we as women focus tirelessly on where we’ve fallen short, feeling worthless and unhappy. We are our own worst critic. We would rarely be as unforgiving of someone else. But we’re convinced, we deserve it!
How do we get out of this rut? First, by practicing self-care and making our health and well-being a priority. My “mistakes” followed two crazy weeks of non-stop activity but I was so energized by what I was doing, I told myself that would carry me through. It didn’t. The more depleted we become, the more likely we are to make mistakes, and vulnerable to self-criticism because negative thinking comes easier and seems truer.
Next, we need to “befriend” ourselves and extend the same kindness and generosity we would to a good friend who was feeling badly about herself. Yes, it’s okay to treat ourselves as well as others. It is the key to releasing self-criticism, knowing we are deserving of love although we are imperfect and make mistakes. Unconditional love towards ourselves.
A most important self-care skill to practice.
Here are some additional thoughts on how to renew ourselves and release old, worn thoughts and habits. Spring cleaning from the inside out.
Discover what’s nourishing. Just as plants need water and sunshine to grow, we need physical, emotional, and spiritual sustenance. Start with eating healthy foods, getting regular physical activity, sleeping 8-9 hours, and taking breaks for your mind and body. Do one thing you enjoy daily, whether it’s phoning a friend, listening to music or walking your dog. Nurture your spirit through prayer, meditation, or communing with nature.
Let go of un-nourishing relationships. Being honest about admitting and detaching from relationships which aren’t good anymore can still hurt especially ones involving family and long-term friends. If we’ve spoken to them about what needs to be different and things haven’t changed over time, release them with love. Clearing space for nourishing relationships to enter.
Cultivate optimism. Looking more on the “sunny” side of life can be learned by shifting attention away from negative thoughts to more positive ones. There are few situations which are all good or all bad. Our great job may sour when we get a new boss. An untimely move lead to a wonderful neighborhood with friends with love. Prune your mind of unnecessary negativity.
Photo by Real Mom Kim
When we feel grateful, our souls are nourished and restored. We have a more positive attitude toward today and what lies ahead. We feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. Supported in the deepest sense. Abundant and alive.
Spring is in the air. As the days get longer and the weather warms, we feel a growing urge to refresh and renew our lives. The blossoming season brings with it the opportunity to release what we’ve held on to mentally or emotionally, which no longer fits. Spring cleaning indeed.
Clearing away old beliefs. Just like our physical space, our minds are often cluttered with wornout beliefs and ideas. In cognitive therapy, clients learn to monitor their negative beliefs and refute them. If someone grew up being criticized, they may have the belief “I’m no good”. As an adult however, they may have a successful career or be a caring parent, evidence that this belief is not true. Changing automatic assumptions is empowering and liberating.
Sow the seeds of intention: Step One. Along with releasing negative thoughts, we must clarify what we want. Why is this challenging? First, our minds chatter constantly over urgent but not important matters. Like what we said that offended someone we hardly know or putting the laundry away. Instead, we need to quiet our “monkey mind” through prayer, meditation and relaxation. Stillness allows connection with our deeper selves.
Sow the seeds of intention: Step Two. When our mind is still, we see more clearly how we want to live. Then during our daily meditation/prayer, we can set our intentions for serenity, peaceful relationships, health, etc., allowing our intention and energy to flow in the direction we desire. Creating the life we want one day at a time.