I don’t know about you, but I can recall dozens of stories from young moms who all reported the same thing in the first few months of motherhood:
– I barely sleep more than three hours at a time
– I don’t know when I last took a shower
– I also don’t know when I was alone in the bathroom for the last time
– I usually (still) wear pajamas in the evening
Do you recognize yourself there?
Social media is full of perfect pictures of perfect babies with their seemingly perfect mothers. The latter always look top styled, they have no dark circles under their eyes, their hairstyle is in place and there is no milk or spit-up stain on their white blouse. What are the other 99% of mothers doing wrong? Are they simply lacking a stylist and Night Nurse (yes, that exists!)? Or do they have the kind of babies you read about that sleep through an entire night after only two weeks? Maybe it’s both, and maybe it’s the same make-believe world where dozens of filters are used just to show the highest possible discrepancy between photo and reality.
There is no such thing as perfect. We don’t see what’s happening behind the scenes. We don’t know if these mothers are really happy. And the babies balanced. This world does not lend itself to being a role model.
But even without social media, every mother is under scrutiny and pressure to please everyone. There are the other mothers from the toddler group, the mother-in-law, the husband or partner, the neighbors, one’s own family – they all have their say, they all obviously know how one should do things better. And very few of them ask YOU how you’re doing. If you sleep enough. If you’re eating enough. Whether you need help. We get ourselves so trimmed down to please everyone – and of course we have to please our baby – that we forget to take care of ourselves. We put pressure on ourselves because our expectations of ourselves are so high.
Do you know this one too?
– My baby only gets home-cooked meals every day. And organic, of course. And yes no convenience foods.
– I sing / read / dance to my baby every day so he develops well.
– I have a certain sleep technique from a smart guidebook.
– When the baby is sleeping, I take care of the house.
Those would be a few of the statements from perfect moms. I, too, have practiced them. After all, it is only praiseworthy to prepare fresh and healthy food for your child. And no one objects to a clean home either. But if everything is so right, why are we so exhausted in the evening? Why do we forget when we were last in the shower? Or can’t manage to change our clothes?
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are too strict with ourselves. That we don’t want to break our own rules. Because we have the feeling that this is the only right way. Because everyone does it that way and because it (supposedly) works for everyone. Because our mothers already did it that way. We now have what we have so longingly wished for, don’t we? Now we have to go through it, without whining, without complaining.
Have to? No, we don’t have to. There is nothing at all wrong with breaking out of certain patterns. You are exactly the mom you want to be. She can be cool, calm, at peace, chilled out, unruffled. And still loving and caring.
Therefore, it’s okay:
– To lie down and sleep when the baby sleeps. Everything else can wait. Everything else has to wait.
– To ask for help when you can’t anymore. Even if it’s just an hour to have grandma or a friend go out with the stroller.
– To cry. Pregnancy and birth trigger a hormonal explosion. Your body performs at its best, your emotional world is like a roller coaster ride. But it’s not all sunshine. Sometimes you are tired, overwhelmed, don’t know what to do. Don’t hold back your tears. But also try to communicate. Open up to your partner, your friend or your own mother. You are not alone. And what you’re going through is as much a part of that as the happy, fulfilled moments of holding your child.
– Letting the baby sleep where it’s most comfortable for the mother. Whether it’s the shared bed or the crib. That is your decision alone. And if it’s too much for your partner, maybe he could move to the guest room or couch – so you both have a quieter night.
– For once, not to cook. For once, not cleaning up. For once, not doing the laundry. Even if there’s no one to do it for you, you can sometimes do it without. Order sushi, finally raw fish is allowed again! Ironing is overrated. And as long as your baby isn’t crawling and licking the floor, it doesn’t have to be clinically clean either.
– Going outside every day. But it’s just as okay to push the stroller out onto the balcony when the baby is sleeping – because you’ll get some peace and quiet during that time, too.
– Going out with the baby – even in the evening! You had a life before motherhood – get it back! It doesn’t have to be the fanciest restaurant, but eventually you’ll develop a certain rhythm so you can take liberties in the evening, too. And babies don’t even like silence that much. Plus: they’re humans, so they’re creatures of habit. Driving a car, riding a train, even flying – you can do all that with a baby. Even with help from the next point:
– Making it as easy as possible. To resort to aids that make your life easier. This starts with an (electric) rocker, a sling and a mobile baby food warmer. Relax. You may not be doing everything right, but you’re doing most of it. You love your child more than anything, and that alone makes you a good mother, because you protect and take care of your child. By the way, relaxed mothers often have relaxed children!
– Thinking of yourself. Because for everyone else, too, the new family member comes first. No one intends any harm, but everyone first asks how the youngster is doing. If you don’t take care of yourself, you run the risk that no one else will.
– Don’t just feel like a mother. Yes, it’s probably the most important job of your life. But you’re also a woman. A partner. A friend. An adult human being with needs. Don’t put them completely on the back burner. There was a life before the baby. And before you know it, the baby has become a toddler, a school kid, a teenager. Keep your hobbies. Find new ones. Expand your horizons. Even if you can’t think of much else at the moment. Consciously meet your childless friends. And for an hour or two, don’t be a mom. Just be yourself. This will do you good, but also your friendships.
Putting aside or reducing the expectations you have of yourself will make you more relaxed. And it will also help you solidify your role as a relaxed mom. Not only for the first eighteen months but also beyond.