Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Debunking the Myths of Motherhood.

As mothers, we've heard them all. Whether during a pregnancy or the early child-rearing years, friends, family and strangers both near and far are quick to share these existential gems with you, or as I like to call them, the "myths of motherhood." 

Here I sit, ten weeks out from welcoming our third son and while I try so hard to ignore my ever-growing to do list, I can't help but reminisce and think back on some of the crazy things people have said to me during these times in my life. 

"Having a baby should be one of the happiest moments of your life!"

Welcoming a new baby into your family is a blessed, life-changing event, and the love that a mother feels for her baby can be all-consuming, transformative even but for many mothers, both new and seasoned, giving birth to a new baby and furthermore, those first few weeks of newborn-dom isn't always fairy dust and unicorns. Having a baby doesn't necessarily change you, per say. You're still "you" but now "you" suddenly have a baby to look after.  

Whatever insecurities haunted you before becoming pregnant/having a child, remain and may even be amplified. You and your spouse won't magically begin seeing eye to eye on everything and marital conflicts still occur.  Often times those first few weeks following the birth of your new baby are so fog-filled, with sleepless nights, sore nipples and thoughts of "oh my god what have we done," that it may be difficult to feel anything other than overwhelmed. That's okay. It's normal, in fact. Happiness will come but don't let people make you feel like a horrible mother if you aren't singing the praises of motherhood just moments after birth. Like with any milestone in life, an adjustment period or rather grace period, is necessary.

"Breastfeeding is the most natural thing you can do for your baby."

Speaking of sore nipples, breastfeeding my babies was the hardest "easiest" thing I've ever had to do. Parenting book after parenting book after hospital pamphlet had me believing that my milk would flow, baby would latch and all the while angels would be singing. Let's just say that was about the furthest thing to happen after the birth of my first. There was toe-curling and tears, over-supply turned lack of supply issues, poor latching and if any music was playing, it was definitely more of a heavy metal undertone than a Hallelujah. 

For many of us, breastfeeding does not come naturally. It is a learned experience that requires just that, learning. As well as patience and ultimately sacrifice of both your body and your time as a mother. Having been told and therefore assuming that it would "come naturally," I wasn't prepared for that type of dedication after my first baby. Knowing what I know now about breastfeeding prepared me for the birth of my second baby and all of the hard work that it would ultimately take for us to achieve a successful nursing relationship. Not only was I knowledgeable but I was prepared and I made sure to surround myself with the support of other women who had been there and served as my veritable "boobie cheerleaders," if you will. 

Breastfeeding is not easy. It does not come naturally. And it hurts like a motherf*cker. But? It gets better. After nineteen months of nursing my second baby, I can promise you, it gets better. Hang in there. 

"Sleep when the baby sleeps."

This is one of those pieces of mom-advice that always sounds so great in theory but when applied to real life, it isn't exactly the easiest execute. Yes, those first few weeks (maybe even months) of having a new baby in the house are exhausting. You will not sleep as much nor as well as you once did and you will feel it with every inch of your body every minute of the day. There will be days when, yes, you can absolutely sleep when the baby sleeps and for everyone's sake, you should

There will also be, however, many more days when the laundry needs to be washed, the kitchen cleaned and heck, maybe your other children would like to play with something that doesn't require batteries. Life doesn't magically pause once baby arrives. Dishes still pile up, clothes are dirtied and although the saying, "babies don't keep" rings true, your husband will appreciate a hot meal and a clean pair of underwear every now and then. Do not be afraid to accept help and for those of us who feel awkward asking others to do our laundry, pin a list to the refrigerator of "tasks" that need tasking. When friends and family come to visit, hopefully they'll catch on. 

"A good mother never yells."

This is just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Mothering is H-A-R-D and we, as mothers, are only human. With the bearing of each child, we aren't given additional patience, super powers or an extra dose of grace to handle the chaos that comes with raising babies who undoubtedly turn into toddlers no matter how much we try and stave off years 3 and 4, as charming as they are.

"A good mother yells and she may even stomp her feet and scream into pillows but then she takes a deep breath, returns from her hiding place in the pantry and says she is sorry all the while hugging and kissing her child," is what that should really say. 

There's only so many times a mother can count to three before she loses her cool. Along the same vein, it's okay to love your children but not like them every second of every day. It's okay to desire a break from them regardless of whether you're home with them all day or just between the hours of 7pm and 7am. 

Being a mother is exhausting. It is taxing. It is filled with unreasonable demands such as "Mommy, could you please build me a purple unicorn that sings, dances and brushes my teeth from these here two q-tips?" or "Mommy, can I please wear Daddy's shoes, this pair of Superman underwear and your scarf to the grocery store while it's blizzard-ing outside?" that if not immediately met, send the tiny demanding dictator into an epileptic fit of epic proportions.

Being a mother is hard work in an often thankless position but it is a work that also brings so much joy and so much love along with it that with just the joy and the love alone, it redeems itself. 

So moms, the next time someone waxes poetic on all of the happiness, and sleep and soft-talking you should be experiencing as a mother, do not let these myths of motherhood fool you. Real moms and good moms and even us good enough moms, we all know the secret to motherhood is SURVIVAL, no matter how we come about it at the end of each day. And if you find yourself in one of those "less than motherly moments," send me an email. I can guarantee I will make you feel much better about yourself as a mother in no less than four lines of size 10 Times New Roman.

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  1. HAHA. Love this and so true. The hardest part for me was the "you should sleep when baby sleeps". When I first came home from the hospital with my first - she slept ALL THE TIME so getting a nap in and still getting stuff done was great. After month one SHE NEVER SLEPT AGAIN! Going on two years. Stuff still needs getting done and I prefer to vacuum in the light of day and fold clothes before 12AM when the baby is awake again. LOL. So exciting that you are so close to meeting M3. Cannot wait to see his precious face!

  2. This is a great post, and so true. I love my daughter (and baby to be) with all my heart but that doesn't mean that being a mother is always rosy or full of happiness.

  3. LOVE this. Especially the last one. I actually think that yelling can be a good thing. I've found that my oldest doesn't respond to reasoning or time outs. He responds to a stern voice. Each kid is different. And not to mention, like you said, we are human and sometimes we just hit our limit and yelling is all we have left. Sometimes I regret it, but other times... it's necessary. The important thing is that I always apologize to my children and explain why Mommy lost her cool.

  4. I'm not yet a mother, but I did work in childcare for 8 years. We were always told that we had to constantly remain calm. This was such an unreasonable thing to ask of us. In the earlier days, we were able to walk away and cool down if we needed to, but then we were understaffed, and the number of outbursts by staff increased. There's just no way you can always keep your cool with little ones pushing your buttons and purposely disobeying you all day. So if anyone criticizes a mother for the occasional yelling, they don't know what the hell they're talking about.

  5. I love this, AP. It's all so true. And this is coming from a mom who just curled her toes latching her 2 week old baby on! Oh, the pain of nursing. But after each child you gain perspective and you do know that it eventually gets better!

  6. Perfectly said. I can't even imagine how the 2, 3, 4+ years are gonna be! I also worry about being pregnant and already being mommy; but you make it very real and done well. Thank you for sharing your heart!

  7. Loved this! One thing I wish you'd added to the breastfeeding section: "And I promise you, that if breastfeeding never stops hurting like a motherf*cker and/or you just plain hate it, you don't HAVE to 'hang in there.' You can switch to formula and your baby will be every bit as healthy and smart as he would be on breast milk." Because, while breastfeeding is BEAUTIFUL and b**bie cheerleaders are great, sometimes, in a culture that puts undue breastfeeding pressure on ALL mothers, a suffering mother needs to hear the "breast is best" myth debunked to ease her pain (physical or emotional). I know I did.

    Dr. Sears is a smart man, but he ever had recurring mastitis. Also? I challenge him to visit my son's class and tell me who was breast fed and who was formula fed. I'd bet him a lifetime supply of pinot grigio, so you know I'm serious. ;)

  8. You are the best! How are you 10 weeks from having Collins?! Your pregnancy went lightening speed for me!

  9. amen. I couldn't have said it better!

  10. So very well said, and I am reading this as I am having my "I made it throught the day with my sanity in tact" glass of wine after day 4 of being snowed in with a 4-year-old and 4-month-old. I so appreciate your honesty!

  11. Perfect. As I ready for #2 in the next couple of weeks this all rings SO true to me {as do most of your posts} and I'll be going back & re-reading your posts from when Maclane was born. I'm hoping for a more successful breastfeeding experience this time, too since now I know how much work it is and how bad it hurts and how much it just plain SUCKS a lot of the time. Thanks for being my "mommy crush" :) You are awesome!

  12. As far as I'm concerned, any statement that begins with "A good mother always/never..." is almost always crap. There just are not any universals when it comes to parenting, aside from like...don't intentionally kill your children.

    Also, I'll add that when it comes to breastfeeding, moms may have vastly different experiences with each kid. I *hated* breastfeeding Lizzy. Nearly every single moment was awful and miserable for the both of us. She hated to nurse and I hated to nurse her, and I wish I would have switched to pumping and/or formula much earlier than I did. On the other hand, Becca loved to nurse. And while I really wasn't ever one of those people who OMG LOVED nursing, it was much easier with her, and much more enjoyable.

  13. This may be the best thing I have ever read on any blog, so so so awesome to hear other mothers speak truth! Thank you!

  14. whoot whoot!!! booby cheerleader for life!!! xoxoxo

  15. GAH. This is so great and you are just awesome. And it's all SO VERY TRUE. I have always loved your blog but now that I am a mom, I appreciate it more and have fallen in love in a whole new way.

  16. Yes, I call bullshit on all those myths as well. Sometimes I think people just say this stuff to make themselves feel better - I know I've said these things in the past because we're all preconditioned to speak in cliches at times - but then my cynical and sarcastic self comes out and I give out a big HA! and speak the truth ;)

  17. Sleep when the baby sleeps just doesn't happen. That's a complete joke when it comes to kids 2-4!


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