I still read many former infertility blogs. Jos, from My Cheap Version of Therapy wrote a fabulous post that quickly got her readers talking. Instead of writing my own giant response, I thought I’d write a bit more here.
Have you scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed lately? There seems to be article after article written straight to moms about how to do it. You know, how to be a mom. Every topic is covered – “how to be happy as a first time mom”, “how to feed your children organically while on a budget”, “how to set up a morning routine that works”, “how to keep your toy room organized”, “how to feel guilty while reading this article because you’re not doing things right”. Oh, that one’s not out yet? Give it time.
With regards to new mothers specifically, there seems to be a huge debate on how much kid-free time a mom needs to have to be successful as a parent.
I think we can all agree that mothers (and fathers, but I’ll get to that in a minute) need to take care of themselves. The problem is the underlying message that they need to take care of themselves first in order to be a better wife, or a better mother, or a better friend. How about doing it just for you?
More than that, though, is the argument over what “taking care of yourself” looks like. I can recall how I was pushed, in my twins’ first year of life, to take “breaks”. If I had some alone time, or time with just my husband, I’d be a better mother. It would be good for me. Good practice for my future when the kids….I don’t know. Have sleepovers, I guess. Go off to college. And for some moms, they need their own time alone on a daily basis. That’s fine. The fact is, I flat out didn’t WANT to leave my twins. I just simply didn’t. I enjoyed them, I felt needed by them, I felt like I was answering my calling. So to do so would be going against what I wanted, what felt right. Simply because I was being pressured to do it, as if everyone knew how to take care of my needs when I knew what I needed. My kids.
What does a “break” look like in Facebook’s eyes, anyway? An hour alone at the gym? A date night with the hubby? A weekend out of state? Because to me, those are all drastically different. Ah, of course the internet isn’t clear about that part.
Last year, I wasn’t ready to “take care of myself first” in this way. I took care of myself by feeding and meeting the needs of two newborns. It was my exhausted, delusional happy place. Of course, it was important for my husband to take care of himself too, and so if that meant we went away from them for one night (which we did), then so be it. He also played softball and had his own hobbies. Hobbies he didn’t have to think twice about, because there wasn’t any pressure for him to “take care of himself”. He just did it.
And let it be known – this summer, I happily went away for a night without the kids. HAPPILY. The breaks I need now are called naps. Silence. That’s me taking care of myself.
Let’s also talk briefly about dads. Dads have a crucial role in raising children. Yet, where are all the Facebook articles telling them how to do it? How to discipline a child? How NOT to discipline a child? How to raise independent toddlers? How to, how to, how to. Where’s the pressure facing dads? I know it exists, but the ratio here is way off. I’m just saying – we’ve got a double standard going on and it doesn’t seem fair.
I have always had the sort of personality that sees almost every issue from both sides. In that same breath, I’m also easily influenced. These pieces of advice I keep reading leave me with a nagging “Oh, I should really be doing that” thought. Yes, I really should try to get my kids to eat meat. Yes, I really should just let it go, because they eat other foods just fine and who cares. Yes, I really should start potty-training because they turned two and the internet says that’s the magic number. Yes, I really should just wait it out until they’re ready. Whatever the article tells me – I’m a first time parent, I don’t know what I’m doing. Tell me what to think! (I’m a bit hypocritical here, as I sometimes even post these articles on my Facebook page without further thought. I don’t want to spread the wealth of pressure and anxiety to other moms! I’ll be watching more closely what I share.)
What I’m saying is, I’m getting a little tired of feeling endless pressure from the internet to do what I’m doing (parenting) just a little bit better. As if you can always better yourself. As if they way you’re doing it isn’t quite as good as it could be, and you, moms, should be aiming for perfection. Facebook certainly is changing, and it’s a constant stream of self-help articles geared towards moms.
However you “mom”, just do it your way. If you take lots of kid-free breaks and it makes you happy, good for you! If you don’t take kid-free breaks and instead you spend every moment with them and it makes you happy, good for you! If you feed your kids Goldfish and pancakes for dinner and you’re down with that, great! If you feed your kids organic, grass-fed beef meatballs and you’re down with that, fabulous. Honestly – we don’t need to be told how to do it. Neither do dads. I’m going to try to stop reading these things (as I tend to read them all) and just trust my gut.
Hey, If I really have a question, I’ll just Google it.