What I Wish I'd Known
This post appeared on The Today Show's Parenting Team community site. You can click on that link and vote for it there. (Please do, if you can, as I will post some more pieces over there from time to time).
Here it is:
Everyone will tell you to take care of yourself, to sleep when the baby sleeps, to not forget about yourself, and to practice self care. They are completely right. I, myself, have told new mothers that although showering can seem like a luxury, they should find the time for themselves if it makes them feel as refreshed as it does me. It’s amazing what a 20-minute shower (alone - and, yes, that needs to be said for a mother’s shower) can do for my psyche.
Some may tell you that you’ve gone too far in caring for your babes, that you’ve lost yourself in your children. Some may say it accusingly as if your actions of being super focused on your babies actually affect those people that you didn’t birth. And they may be right: You may have lost yourself in your babes. It may feel ok at times and it may feel not ok at other times. You may want to change it, but you may not know how just yet.
Here’s the thing: Work to change it if it feels mostly bad, but it’s ok to lose yourself in your babes if it feels ok to you for now. I am a feminist and I am still saying that it is ok. We mothers are a special breed – nurturing, protective, and primal. There is no need to counter those feelings – those wonderful species-lasting feelings – if you feel ok with however you’ve decided to parent.
If you want your baby in your room with you to sleep, that’s ok, even if your mother-in-law says it’s not. If you want to nurse your baby whenever she’s hungry, that’s ok. If you want to be there for your baby when she cries, that’s ok. That is loving. You are not going to spoil a newborn baby because a newborn baby doesn’t spoil. Food spoils; babies don’t. Your baby is the human who grew inside of you and who just came out into this big, crazy world.
You do you. And her. However you want with love. You trust your mama gut because there is nothing in the world more powerful than that.
If you lose yourself for awhile in your babes, no biggie. You’ll find your way out eventually. Because here’s the thing I know for sure: They grow up. Those sweet, little needy beings eventually grow up to be not so needy. You won’t know that for what will seem like an eternity, but all of a sudden you’ll have a 6-year-old telling you how he’d like to open a new business and you will wonder where the babe that wouldn’t take a bottle went. He’s gone now, drinking a can of soda with his friends on the block.
People told me that I shouldn’t lose myself in them. It’s so bad, they told me. It’s no good at all. You have to have a you. They told my mom that, too. She’s off now having a life of her own, a career that she loves, and she pops in to visit her grand kids before meeting my dad or her friends for dinner. She found her way out.
There are times when I know I’ve fallen into the abyss of changing, wiping, making, driving, washing, loving, and it doesn’t feel good for me. I need a break then. And I take a freaking break.
But, often, I give them all. They take all. And there are moments – beautiful, honest moments – when they give back to me some things that I lost way before they ever got here.