No matter what else you do, no matter how hard you try to prepare and do your best — the very best thing you can do is to take care of yourself. Giving yourself permission to relax and nurture yourself is not a luxury: it is an essential part of this entire picture.– Karen Kleiman, Clinical Director of The Postpartum Stress Center in Rosemont, Pennsylvania
As a young, first time mom I have a mantra:
I’m a wife, I’m a mom
But above all, I’m still a ME
Never forget your ME-ness.
I remember the struggles I felt trying to really GET breastfeeding- a feat we never truly ever did get the hang of. My son would wail in hunger and panic and frustration and so would I. I remember resisting all suggestions to supplement with formula, absolutely determined to realize my Maternal Dream of exclusive breastfeeding. My son and I wailed piteously into each others’ faces for about a week, before I caved and finally fed him his first bottle of formula, feeling like a Grade A failure the whole time. And although that feeling lurked under there for ohh…a WHILE, as I settled into feeding him both breast and bottle, I found that just having my nipples stop feeling like lava was pouring forth was enough to render me actually serene while feeding him. I was able to watch his face as he went from hungry to blissfully sated. I stroked back his hair, I kissed his suckling cheeks, I hummed to him, I dreamed a thousand different lives for him. I Mommed him.
More than that, I bathed regularly, I combed my hair every day, I remembered that I was a GIRL. My husband got a wife back who- although still excruciatingly self conscious about the horrific things still being wrought on her post-partum body (more on THAT later) was remembering she liked to sing and so sang; was remembering she liked to feel pretty, so painted her toes; was remembering she liked HIM, so paid special attention to him when he came home. Was remembering HERSELF.
This is not a blog about breastfeeding, or bottle feeding, or even bathing. It’s about the lifelong effort it will take to defend our right to ourselves. When you have demands pulling at you from all angles, it’s easy to keep shifting your own needs further and further down the list of priorities until they drop off altogether. If they’re happy, we sigh, then I’m ok. Really?
Once the process of Motherhood begins- be it the minute you see that stick turn positive or you see the ultrasound or hear the heartbeat- you begin to relinquish and to redefine so many things in direct reference to the baby. And when does it end? Does it ever? No matter how you may have resisted it, somewhere between ‘how cute, a baby bump’ and ‘wow, are you having triplets?’, you become trained by fairly inflexible biology to give, give, give of yourself for him or her. Or them.
Plus, there’s that weird thing that gets tripped in our brains when we become moms and we begin to cultivate this list of all the things we NEED to do to ‘pass’ as Moms. When you find yourself sobbing in abject exhaustion, smelling of all shades of milk, incapable of recalling when your last shower was and bemoaning the fact that you STILL look pregnant, and your hoo-ha is on fire, well you feel like…admit it: a failure. Unanswered questions torment you (Where’s the effortless breastfeeding? Why are my nipples cursing me? Are my feet inflating in front of my eyes? WILL I EVER BE SEXY AGAIN?) and there’s a deep fear that you’re losing your mind, you’re boring your husband and that before the day is done you just might drop this baby in exhaustion.
And deep, deep down inside is this: I’m not the World’s Best Mom. So then, who am I?
You’re a You.
Women believe it’s okay to become a “sacrificial lamb” within their own families. This is a lie- Women must re-language what it means to be a wife and mother. If you don’t take care of yourself, in the long run ALL the OTHER people you love in your life will also take the hit- Oprah
Protect your ‘Me’. It is not selfish to invest the time to ensure that you’re healthy physically, emotionally and developmentally. We carefully track our children’s developments, even that of our partners- why shouldn’t we keep growing too? When we’re last on the list, and run the house while running ourselves into the ground, we deprive EVERYONE of our best selves- especially ourselves. Come on now ladies….pot-scraps are not yummy in rice and peas, and they’re not yummy on Mummy. You are worth the time it takes to find and nurture your best self. It makes you a better woman, a better wife, a better mom. A better YOU.
I‘m a wife. I’m a mom. But above all, I’m still a ME.
I need to remind myself that I am more than a wife and the expectations of that role: I am a Me. I have valid needs and desires that I’m ALLOWED to express, and ALLOWED to expect to have met.
I need to remind myself than I am more than a Mom and the expectations of that role: I am a Me. I get to explore what I’m good at, I get to grow, to develop, to change, to thrive as a ME as well.
I need to remind myself that I am still only a ME. And no matter how awesome or awful I, my husband and/or my kids think I am in any given season, I’m still just a me. And a Me needs to remember to never buy into the “superwoman” press that’s all around us. A Me needs help, needs support, needs family, needs God. Always
I‘m a wife. I’m a mom. But above all, I’m still a ME.
This is my mantra. And if you ever need it, I’ll let you to borrow it whenever you want. In the meantime, go find your You, and drag her kicking and screaming out for a pedicure, some ice cream, a girl’s date, some time alone with God, some fresh air or a quiet room.
Dinner/homework/house work can wait.
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Prov 3:5-6 (The Message)