Three things caught me off guard when I become a mom – the length of time it took my swollen feet to get back to normal, the jarring lack of sleep I experienced in the first year, and the things that fell out of people’s mouths.
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The swelling subsided and I’ve been sleeping through the night for a couple of years now. But as they say, you can’t take words back and so some of the things people said to me in the five years I’ve been a mom have stuck.
“Work-life balance is especially important when you become a parent.”
I can’t begin to count the number of books and articles I’ve read about work-life balance. Way to make an exhausted mother feel worse! The trouble is I believed it was attainable.
I think the concept is an honourable one, but what happens when you don’t achieve it?
The mere term, work-life balance, reeks of perfectionism. For me, it began with one slightly off-balance day. I was scrambling to get back into my ‘work-life’ routine, fully intent on not repeating the same mistake again. Then, when it happened, again and again, I felt like I was developing a bad habit I couldn’t get away from fast enough. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The panic of losing ground set in and before I knew it, I was giving up on having a healthy routine and began indulging in the things that I loved because they felt a lot better than dealing with being off “balance.” Thirty chocolate bars later, the only break I was catching was with a diet coke in one fist and a Kit Kat in the other. The scale went up, my mood went down and the prospect of ever achieving work-life balance became a distant dream reserved for rare nights when I actually got some shut-eye.
Between spending time with the family we love, ensuring that we are going above and beyond at work, keeping a clean house, eating a healthy diet, getting it on with our partner and meeting our girls for a night out, something is going to fall through the cracks once in a while. I figure so long as it’s not my baby, I’m in good shape.
“You’re a woman. Parenting should come naturally to you.”
Yes, as natural as aspartame.
The assumption that moms are supposed to be better at parenting is archaic and frankly adds another layer of pressure to the mix that’s unnecessary.
I would rather approach parenting with a compassionate eye. Some days you’re over the moon in love with your child. And as is the case with any human relationship, some days being a parent will make you wish you could fly to the moon and never look back. Seriously, when moon travel becomes a thing, moms should be on the first rocket out, so they can experience the serenity and silence the Google ad promises. But I digress.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to say the right thing, to feed them the healthy stuff, to ensure they’re getting enough rest or play time. If they fight back on something and we give in, we’re bad parents for not enforcing rules. If we fight them on it, we feel like bad parents for saying no. It’s a vicious cycle.
In my experience, the bond with my son grew and continues to. There’s no doubt he is my world. But I felt incredibly insecure in the first little while. I often tell people my partner was more so the natural when it came to parenting.
At the end of the day, it’s like learning anything new. We all grow at different rates and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“You’re going away for the night with your partner? What about the baby?”
My son was nearly two years old when we spent our first entire night away from him.
The truth is, spending one-on-one time with your partner is just as important as ensuring you’re bonding with your little one, especially when the dynamic changes and you become parents. Those initial months can be a true test of your relationship.
You’re so exhausted that you could pass for an extra on The Walking Dead. And we all know about our decision-making abilities when we’re tired. But you need that time together because nothing will change you more than the process you go through when you become a parent.
So go ahead, find someone you trust to watch your little one and go on your first date as new parents.
“Your child needs a brother or sister. When’s your next one coming?”
The first time I heard these words I was in a haze. I couldn’t even remember the day of the week, let alone figure out whether I was going for round two. I won’t tell you who uttered this perplexing question, but I will say she gave birth to the writer of this post.
To be fair, she wasn’t the only one to ask. I still giggle nervously every time I have to come up with a smart-ass sassy reply to this question, but it bugs me to no end.
I know there was a time when this question was perfectly acceptable. But 2018 is not that time. There are so many reasons, some, very personal, why women decide to stop at one: Medical reasons, physical trauma due to childbirth, the choice to keep your sanity… or your partner.
Some women have a long and emotional journey before they give birth. Did it ever occur to the people asking that maybe mommy doesn’t want to explain herself? Shouldn’t that be her choice?
Regardless of yours, it’s a decision you make with your partner. Period.
And just like asking how much money is in your bank account is intrusive, so is asking about your decision to bear a child.
As for my son, I’m sure he doesn’t mind having all our attention and resources while being spoiled by his cousins, aunts and uncles. Hardly the making of a serial killer. I think he’ll be fine.
And if you’re still doubting my argument, remember, Dexter had a brother and look how those two turned out.