I spent the first eight years of my son’s life pretending.
That is, after all, what I thought I was supposed to do. The quaint suburban town I live in is very appearance oriented. I remember feeling like an outsider most of the time, trying to squeeze my square personality into round social circles.
Then this past year, my daughter was born. With some stroke of luck, or out of pure exhaustion, I was hit with a high risk pregnancy, a disastrous delivery, and a large dose of Postpartum Depression in the fourth trimester.
Why was this lucky you ask?
Because all the mess, disappointment, and frustration made it nearly impossible not to wear my anxieties on my sleeve. This prompted me to reach out and get help. And that was the best thing I could have done for the way I see motherhood to this very day.
I am not sure how this archaic expectation to be the perfect parent is still pervading our society, but it is, and we need to debunk the myth.
We need to stand firm as women and mothers and admit that our job is incredibly difficult. Whether working, staying at home, single, or dealing with special needs, we women need one another. Standing together not to mirror the perfect mommy image, but to shoulder one another on the days when the darkness creeps in.
Here are five Mommy Myths that I have found a need to makeover:
1. “Just Enjoy Your Pregnancy.”
There is a lot of pressure in that statement, and I heard it with both of my children.
Perhaps eight years ago I was bit more receptive as I thought being a mother was the beginning of some magical Goddess journey into womanhood. And in some ways it really is, but it is in the struggle where I found my strength. I heard it more times than I went to pee at night, “Just enjoy your pregnancy.”
Yes, there are parts that are absolutely beautiful—the first flutters, the thick flowing hair, people carrying your groceries for you and holding doors. But we have to admit pregnancy is in and of itself a vulnerable and scary condition. Every woman is unique, and everybody is different, so we cannot place that stigma over the mass humanity of womanhood because what we deal with inside and outside of our bodies has a direct effect on our “enjoyment quotient.”
I would like to challenge that statement and hear something like: “You go girl, way to be strong. Let me know how I can help you.”
2. “You are Breastfeeding Right? Right?!”
What I did with my boobs before my baby was nobody’s business. How is it that now they are public objects subject to critique, because they now contain food stuffs for the person inside this body of mine?
I tried breastfeeding with both of my children. I was successful with one; the other didn’t work out. My son refused to latch on, and it became painfully draining to continue to lose sleep and sanity over something that could be solved with a bottle full of formula. My daughter latched like a champ, and we made it a few months before I made the decision that formula was going to work best for our family. It was my choice; they are both happy and healthy. We are able to feed our children here in this country and that alone should suffice.
It would be so much nicer to hear: “What works for you is best, whether that be bottle or breast.”
3. “Treasure Every Moment.”
It’s 4 a.m. The baby has eight teeth coming in and her bedroom is right next to her brother’s who has a raging cough. She is screaming, I have a headache, and my husband somehow doesn’t hear any of this.
Or how about when we finally go to a nice restaurant with the kids because all of our family sitters are “occupied” and the baby decides to poop all over herself and her high chair and my son refuses to eat anything on the menu while barely looking up from his iPad. I can’t help thinking: “Is this the new normal?”
I do not treasure these moments; these moments make me want to scream. What I do treasure is the fact that despite all of the struggle to get from here to there, I am doing it. I am ducking and dodging sheer destruction daily and growing stronger and more available to my children with each trial we encounter. And somehow these “moments” of struggle turn into memories of strength.
Perhaps something like: “It’s tough, but so worth it” would sound more encouraging.
4. “Make sure you Take Time for Yourself.”
Within the time frame of Belly to Baby there is little if any time to take. I am a need machine. Family, house, work, school are all needs. I am left most days feeling drained by the time everyone is in bed. True, some people have supportive friends or family that may help to lighten the load, but from my experience, when the going gets especially tough the traditional support network seems to go silent.
Through joining a few postpartum groups and being honest about where I was at, I found a new tribe. Women that had been in the trenches and had support from others who had experienced the draining sensation of the sometimes repetitious seasons of parenting. These women helped me through and now I am able to give to those in need.
Rather than someone giving the age old advice to take time for yourself, it would be nice to hear: “I am coming over on such and such a day, and you are getting out,” or more simply, “How can I help you?”
5. “Don’t Worry, You Will get Your Body Back”
No, no I will not.
Even if I could have slid right back into my post baby jeans the day after delivery, my body is no longer mine. My body belongs to the children tugging, hanging, sleeping, and spitting up on me. I am standing in the grocery line in yoga pants wearing my husband’s hoodie to buy formula and there is so and so gracing the magazines in a bikini the minute after her baby was born.
The pressure is palpable, and I have news from the trenches, so listen up Mr. Media: We mothers down here doing the dirty work—we don’t care. We know that one day we will feel sexy again; it may not be in the first week, month, or year after having a baby, but we will get our groove back. We can learn to love and accept our bodies as they are because they just went through nearly a year of hell to bring a miracle into the world. There is no need for this added pressure. All good things in good time.
I would hope the new encouragement would sound something like: “You deserve to rest up, heal, and love every bit of the body that made that beautiful baby.”
My journey has taught me to open up and genuinely look at the reward that comes from being real in a world that puts so much pressure on being perfect.
It is through my imperfections that I have found strength, beauty, and camaraderie. I hope that one day soon society will catch up and give mothers the respect, encouragement, and room to grow that we deserve.
In the meantime, encouraging and engaging one another through the challenges of motherhood sounds like a great way to ditch the myth of perfection and give one another peaceful perspective.
Author: Quenby Schuyler
Apprentice Editor: Dottie Hollingsworth / Editor: Travis May
Image: Flickr/Denise Sebastian