Every mom has her struggles

Every mom has her struggles

I tell moms all the time: you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.

I know first-hand how hard it can be to follow this advice.

I also tell moms: motherhood can be hard, but you’re not alone.

Because I haven’t been following my own advice, I’ve found myself feeling overwhelmed and isolated. Ironic, right? I’ve come to realize, though, that I’ve been focusing so much on helping other moms that I’m not doing the best I can for myself.

I’m sharing all of this not so much for your sympathy or pity, but so you realize every mom has her struggles, including me.

In some ways, I have tried to reach out, but I’ve found this difficult now that I’ve moved into a caregiving position. In other ways, I’ve felt isolated or maybe even isolated myself.

I’m always excited when a support group for moms is established, and when a new one recently began, I contacted one of the organizers about coming as a support for moms. I was asked to not attend so attendees weren’t overwhelmed by facilitators or experts. What I should have asked was, Can I attend as a mom myself? Because the night of the meeting rolled around, my husband was working out of town, and I found myself at home with my toddler, feeling sorry for myself, lonely and excluded.

To do something fun for myself, I signed up for a class where my toddler was in childcare in the next room. I thought it’d be a great opportunity to meet some moms and who knows, maybe gain a friend or two. There was an incident where my son was crying in the adjoining room (door closed and locked, but I could hear him and see the tears through the door opening). I tried to get to him and was stopped, informed the policy was for the caregiver to take care of it. I bawled on the car ride home, asking myself, Was it because I felt I’d been admonished in front of my peers? Because I felt peer pressure and then didn’t respond and be the parent I wanted to be? Because it made me feel even more alone in my parenting choices? D, all of the above.

I tell you these stories not to throw shade on anyone. In the above case, the instructor forgot to send me the policy beforehand: these things happen. We are all busy moms, we are all being pulled in multiple directions, and we all have our own struggles. That is my point. If you want to look to me as someone who has it all together all the time, I am not the support person for you. If you want someone who is real, struggling sometimes, and needs support herself, that is me. I’d rather be honest than pretend because pretending doesn’t help anybody.

I want to attend meetings both to support moms but also for my own support; however, I worry about coming across as disingenuous, like I’m attending for business reasons only. The truth is, it’s the opposite. It’s because at times I am lonely.

Lonely because I work from home while also being with my son. Working from home is a blessing because I get to be with my son. It is also stressful, trying to get my work as a web and social media editor done, while entertaining my child enough so he isn’t on an iPad all day. Add in trying to grow a postpartum business, and I’m often overwhelmed. Cranky. Resentful of the job I once loved even though it gives me the freedom and flexibility I want. It feels like most women with toddlers his age are not at home (I realize I don’t just need friends with kids the same age, and I’m grateful for the many I do have). Lonely because he is still nursing, and on top of not knowing many women at home with toddlers, I know even fewer whose toddlers are breastfeeding.

Lonely because for whatever reason, our son doesn’t want to say very many words, even though he knows his colours, the alphabet, numbers. It can be hard to be around people with toddlers who talk a mile a minute or parents who ask, He’s still not talking much yet? I feel like I’m justifying my son’s intelligence, that he is developing at his own pace (which I believed before and continue to believe after seeing a speech pathologist who couldn’t offer us much advice), and I shouldn’t feel the need to do that. That’s on me, not others. I know people are mostly curious but of course I worry about them judging him. We all want the best for our children, and we all worry about them being labelled as “different.”

I’ve written this post over the course of a few days, and I’m feeling way better. Since I first wrote down my thoughts, I’ve had conversations with numerous women in my life. Strong, wise women, who have made me realize I’m not alone, that I have a very solid tribe behind me, and that like everything, this is a hard season, but it is a season that will pass. Thank you to these wonderful women. I also attended and was welcomed at a support meeting for moms and was reminded again that we are all struggling at times, some more than others. Together, we are stronger.

Last night I went to my weekly yoga practice, one of the things I do regularly for my self-care. The instructor suggested next time we feel anger or distress to breathe in the moment and try to just acknowledge the feeling and then let it go. Similar to what my husband reminds me and what a journalist once told me: it’s important not to wear other people’s stories or pain. I found myself crying because I’ve definitely had moments in the last little while where I found myself frustrated with my son, unfairly, when I know it’s not him who is causing me the distress. I also know when you are down, it can be hard to practice gratitude, even if you know your life is great. And I know mine is.

I like to think crying last night was a release and a fresh start to a new week. One where I will continue trying to focus on the mantra I say to others: Be kind to others, but most importantly be kind to yourself.

I will still be here if you need me. Please don’t hesitate to contact me. But for the next little bit, I have to focus more on me so I can get myself back to where I need to be for myself, my child, and my husband. If you need me, I’ll be in my garden or at the spray park. Come say hi, and bonus points if you give me a hug or a coffee!

How to make a postpartum plan

How to make a postpartum plan

When you’re expecting a baby, a lot of the planning tends to revolve around the things you think you’ll need: a crib, a change table, a breastfeeding pillow, a pump, bottles, sterilizer, how many sleepers and onesies, receiving blankets, diapers, wipes, a stroller, car seat…the list of things you could buy in preparation for a baby’s arrival is endless.

While you do need some of these things, I’d suggest it’s more important to stick to the basics when it comes to stuff (you will have a better idea of what extras you truly NEED after baby arrives) and plan for what your day-to-day life will look like after baby arrives, or what I call postpartum planning.

I’ve written before about why it’s important to do this: the short of it is because cultures that support women more during this time have lower rates of postpartum mood disorders. Where I live, 1 in 4 or 5 women will suffer from PPD. (Of course, just because you have support doesn’t mean you won’t get PPD, or if you don’t have support, that doesn’t mean you will. But the two are often tied together.) And planning doesn’t mean everything will go perfectly, but it does increase the likelihood of mom feeling less stressed, overwhelmed, and isolated, which means she’s more likely to feel peace and joy in motherhood.

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In the very early days, we spent a lot of time in this position on the couch – which wasn’t always possible with two dogs, so I welcomed any help I could get with meals and letting the pooches out!

So, what does postpartum planning look like? To start, think about a regular day/week in your house and who is responsible for what. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • who buys the groceries?
  • who picks up the mail and deals with paying bills?
  • who takes care of housework such as laundry, sweeping the floor, vaccuming, dishes, cleaning the bathroom?
  • who cooks?
  • who walks the dog or changes the cat litter if you have pets?

In our culture, we often place unrealistic expectations on moms. She’s at home, so she should do all this work, right? No. She’s caring for a new baby, and that’s a HUGE job. How big of a job? Watch this video to see how many hours you have leftover in a day after you care for yourself, a baby, and do the bare minimum of meal prep and housework (hint: it’s fewer than 10 and you still haven’t slept).

So you need to think about who is going to do the above tasks: is it all going to be dad? Remember, it’s a hard time for dad, too, after baby is born, so he can’t be expected to take on it all. If that ends up being the arrangement, make sure you talk about it first! Don’t just assume: that isn’t fair to either of you. Is there anything you can delegate to other family or close friends? If not, what can you leave? Maybe the mom can still do some of this, but not as often: maybe you can sweep the floors every two weeks instead of once a week. Maybe you can hire a housecleaner once a month. Maybe you order takeout more often. It is an intense but short season: it’s not forever. Housework will keep, and eventually it will be easier to do some of these tasks (think babywearing!).

After you’ve thought about household tasks, try to imagine your life with a baby (which I know can be hard to do until your baby is here – here are some tips on what to expect from a new baby):

  • do you want visitors right away? (If you do, ask them to bring a meal when they come! If you don’t want visitors, no apology necessary! It’s your home and family.)
  • how are you going to feed baby?
  • cloth or disposable diapers?
  • where is baby going to sleep? (your baby might dictate this to you!)
  • who gets up with baby in the night? (if mom’s breastfeeding, that might be your answer, but maybe dad changes baby first and then returns baby to mom, as an example)
  • how will you ensure mom gets enough rest, recognizing she’ll be waking in the night?
  • how will you ensure dad gets enough rest, recognizing he might be getting broken sleep but still going to work an eight-hour day outside the home?
  • who will mom call if she’s having a really tough day?
  • how does the family ensure mom has time for self-care?

I encourage families to create lists: lists of household chores for people to do when they come over; lists of groceries you need; lists of activities older children like to do; lists of healthcare and postpartum professionals mom might need (think lactation consultants, pediatrician/family doctor, pelvic floor physiotherapist, chiropractor, public health nurse, postpartum doula, etc).

Even if you’ve already had a baby, I would encourage you to do this exercise, but instead try to imagine life with a baby and another child, and reflect back on your first experience. What would you have liked to have done differently? What worked?

Whenever I present to new or expectant moms, I tell them it is a strength, not a weakness, to ask for help. I can’t say this enough. Whether you are hiring help or getting help from a family member or friend, you should never feel bad or that you aren’t a good enough mom because you are asking. It’s the opposite: by acknowledging you need help, you are taking care of yourself, and that’s how you will have the energy to take care of others. You are also helping to change the stigma around asking for help and paving the way for moms who come after you: the more we all acknowledge we need help, the easier it is for us to ask.

Motherhood can be hard, but you don’t have to do it alone. 

If you’d like a FREE postpartum planning outline or a sample postpartum plan, message me below with your preference, and I’ll send it your way!

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