I wanted to do all the things this weekend. Maybe you can relate to the feeling.
I signed up for an afternoon yoga class, and I also wanted to take my son to a free morning outdoor boot camp. But then I also wanted to do a family bike ride to the library. Plus there was Buster Days. And I wanted to plant flowers and our garden! Oh, and then there was the Children’s Festival.
It’s easy to get pulled in a bunch of different directions, especially when friends are going and invite you to join them. I could have tried to squeeze in all the things, but let’s be real: it’s not realistic! Nor would it have been fun. I’d end up feeling overwhelmed, probably resentful, and cranky. So I had to set some boundaries for myself and pick what was really important to me. In this case, bike ride over boot camp, family time over Children’s Festival, and flowers and garden have to wait: little by little, they will get planted.
It would have been easy to try and do it all, but you know what the result would have been? I would have been exhausted, and I wouldn’t have been very fun to be around if you were my husband or child. I also wouldn’t have had much patience when it came to bedtime, which is often when you need patience the most!
A few weeks ago I had to make the tough decision to cancel one of my support groups. When I went to schedule posts about the breastfeeding support group, I looked in my calendar, and saw multiple things that day. I *could* have kept the support group, but I opted to cancel it. (I also cancelled an appointment for my son.) If I had kept the support group, I wouldn’t have been my best self, and then the experience for moms wouldn’t have been very good. I can’t support moms if I’m not my best self. See where I’m going with this?
As a mom, you are pulled in all directions constantly, and some of it is beyond your control, and you do have to learn to roll with it. But there are always opportunities to set boundaries and put yourself first, and this isn’t selfish. As I always tell moms, the best way you can take care of your baby is by taking care of yourself. There’s a reason you’re supposed to put the oxygen mask on yourself first: if you pass out, you can’t help your child or anyone else.
Tea with an afternoon yoga session: a little time for myself so I can fill my cup, literally and figuratively.
Maybe you’re a better mom if you carve out time to exercise a few times a week. Then you need to speak to your spouse to make sure you can do this while s/he is with the children, or find a class with childcare. Maybe you hate or don’t have time for cleaning, so you find room in your budget for a housekeeper. This might mean fewer coffee dates, so you have to be confident to tell your friends to come over for coffee instead of meeting somewhere. Maybe you are pumping for your baby, but it’s taking up huge amounts of time and negatively affecting your mental health: then it’s time to give yourself permission to stop if this is what would bring you peace and joy. No guilt. No apologies.
If you set boundaries, you will be a happier person, and a happier person is able to give more of themselves to other people. So it’s actually the opposite of being selfish. And, if you respect yourself and set boundaries, other people will respect you, your boundaries, and your time more as well. We all win.
So I encourage you to take a look around you and ask yourself what doesn’t bring you joy, and what can you do to change it? Speak up! Because no one else will do it for you. And then don’t be afraid to take steps to make it happen. I’d love to hear what boundaries you plan to set – leave a comment below here or on social media!
I’m proud to share this guest post from a fellow mom who is so articulate and strong, her words need to be shared far and wide. Enjoy. ~ Darla
Prior to becoming pregnant, I had put a lot of time and energy into myself, especially my body. I did yoga daily, was on a diet that I was eating primarily vegetables, went for runs, and spent a lot of time being concerned with how I looked. Were my muscles showing? How did these clothes fit? What size could I fit into? As I look back on old pictures and try and fit into old jeans, I can only see in hindsight just how tiny I was. I can remember having tricked myself into thinking that I was finally confident in my skin, but would then be so self-critical every time I stepped in front of the mirror. I was strong and healthy, but I wasn’t comfortable and I wasn’t happy.
During my pregnancy, maintaining that active lifestyle became too much to handle. Physical activity gave me anxiety and I worried that I would hurt the baby. Eating felt good so I caved into every craving that I had. I kept telling myself that I was young and would want my old routine back once I had my baby and would “bounce back”. The result? I gained 90 pounds in 9 months.
Once Neera was born, I quickly realized that falling back into my old workout routine wasn’t going to be an option. I needed to recover from my delivery. I was exhausted and sleeping whenever she was. Breastfeeding tired me out. Breastfeeding also made me want to eat everything in sight. Sure, breastfeeding helped in shedding some of the weight I had gained, but not all of it, and it didn’t “fall off” like articles I had read said it would. Instead, it stuck. It stuck to my hips and my thighs and my belly and my love handles.
The only part of my old routine that I maintained was the self-critical stares in the mirror.
When would I “lose the baby weight”? Would the stretch marks ever fade? Would my body ever look like it used to? When would I get to reclaim the body that my baby had taken over for nine months?
Pretty sad thoughts to be having.
What I should have been asking myself is, “When will my perspective change? When can I learn to love myself?” I don’t know what sparked it, but eventually I looked in the mirror and decided that I was going to love that reflection. I decided that I was going to focus all of my attention on being a good person and a good mom, not a “good” body – because every body is a good body! I decided I was going to celebrate my body for bringing the greatest thing that ever happened to me into this world. And I decided I wanted to talk about why I felt any of this in the first place, and why many mommas do.
All too often, on top of all of the other new pressures and expectations when you become a momma, there is an unfair focus put on your body. What was my body before? What is it now? What did it go through? Will it ever be the same?
When I search #postpartumbody on any social media platform, the majority of photos are regarding what it took to “loose the baby weight” or tips to get fit quick.
I’m sorry, but this just isn’t real for me. It is hard enough for me to find time to make a healthy meal, let alone get to the gym multiple times a week. And you know what? We shouldn’t feel like we have to do any of that!
Don’t get me wrong, I still strive to be a strong and healthy momma, but I think it is well past time time that we start to shift the conversation about what that looks like, sounds like, and feels like. The size of clothes that fit you does not mean strong and healthy. The number on the scale does not mean strong and healthy. Limiting your diet so you feel guilty every time you want a cheeseburger does not mean strong and healthy. “Losing the baby weight” does not mean strong and healthy. To me, strong and healthy means balance: fuelling your body with good food but not feeling bad about the wine and chocolate – trying to get outside for walks but not feeling bad about binge watching Netflix while you cuddle your baby – having goals for living more actively but not being self-loathing about where you’re at. Be a rebel and love yourself, as you are, where you are, for all the glorious things you are!
I “lost the baby weight” the moment that Neera entered the world. I love my body, as it is, for being capable of such an indescribable, miraculous feat: creating a human life. The extra skin, the push and pull, the scars; they all serve as reminders of what my body is capable of and the space that it gave me to grow a new life. My focus, now, is on the love and connection I have with my child. My focus is on the light and love I see in her eyes every time she looks at me, and how much easier it is to manifest that love for myself than it ever was before.
I think one of my friend’s kiddos said it best. Every time she is in her bathing suit her son points to her tummy and asks, “Did I do that, Mommy?” And she responds, “You sure did buddy.” Then he smiles at her like he created the most beautiful piece of forever artwork. And you know what? He did. They do.
I hope that one day, all of us can look at ourselves the way that children do. I hope that one day we can search #postpartumbody and see mommas who are celebrating their bodies as they are and not attempting to live up to some ridiculous body ideal that the rest of the world has. I hope that mommas can be the ones to shake the way we see one another in the world, because body positivity doesn’t just affect mommas; body positivity affects us all.
So here is me and my daughter, stripped down and as real and raw and honest as we can be. This, to me, is what really matters. Let’s start filling our social media feeds with photos like this; with photos of reality and of love.
**these wonderful photos were done by molly.jeanine.photo – check out her amazing work on Instagram**
This post originally appeared on The Momma Moments blog, and it was shared with permission. Read more about Jess here: she is a mom, daughter, partner, sister, teacher, writer, yoga enthusiast who uses her talents to help break down the stigma around mental health. She is part of a revolution to normalize talking about our struggles as moms. You can find more of her work on the Mothers Empowering Mothers Blog.
I realize I always should have just appreciated what single or solo parents do, and on some level, I always have. However, we often don’t tend to truly appreciate certain scenarios until we find ourselves in them.
My husband recently moved to another province for a new job. The opportunity came out of nowhere and was too good to pass up. He’s enjoying it, and I’m so proud that all of his hard work has paid off in the type of job he has always wanted. In the mean time, my son and I, along with our pets, have stayed behind until we sell our home. Once our place sells and we buy one there, we will move and join my husband (and while I can’t wait, I also kind of dread moving provinces with a toddler and 3 pets).
That means, until we sell this place, I have to try and keep it “ready to show” at any given time. With a three-year-old, two cats, and a dog. Just thinking about it makes me tired. I’m forever grateful for all the help of my mom, who comes up at least once a week to hang out with Cub so I can work my two jobs (more on that below!) and also does so much to keep our house clean and looking beautiful. My husband did a lot of the cleaning when he was here. One of the many reasons I miss him.
For those of you who don’t know me personally, I work another part-time job in addition to being a postpartum doula. I’m a web and social media editor 15 hours a week for an Indigenous newspaper. And then I’m obviously a mom full-time, and most of the time, it’s just me.
As such, here are the first four things that come to mind that I appreciate even more about having another parent around:
- Mealtimes. My husband would always make breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Oh, how I miss this. Maybe I was spoiled, but it was really nice having those two days where I could wake up and not have to worry about making something to feed myself or my toddler. I feel more relaxed on the one morning a week my mom is here, even if I still make myself and/or my toddler breakfast, just because I know someone else is here to help and can play with him while I get some other work done.
- Company. Even if I do most of the care for our child, it is really nice having someone come home at the end of their work day and be here for the evening, particularly on days when my toddler doesn’t want to leave the house. While those days are relaxing, they can be quite lonely. I love my boy, but we don’t have the most in-depth conversations, even if he does like looking up random animals and places from atlases. In addition to someone to talk to in the evening, it was someone who helped during mealtime, bath time, bedtime. And it was someone home with our son so I could occasionally go out to yoga, which leads me to….
- Self-care. We like to throw this word around to moms who are tired or stressed out. “Find time to do something for yourself, even if it’s something little.” I’ve realized I’m guilty of this: no doubt I’ve said something similar to single moms or moms who are solo parenting while their spouse is away for long periods of time. I’m sorry for that now because it probably came off as naive at best and annoying at worst. By the time my toddler falls asleep (which isn’t that late – usually between 8 and 9), I am too tired to do anything like yoga, even if my body is screaming at me to do it, and even though I know I’d likely feel better for it. All I want to do is have a bath, zone out on social media, and go to bed. But what I’ve noticed is if I don’t find time to do something for myself, my patience wears thin, and I get short and angry at my toddler for things I know I should let go. It’s true I now need to find self-care in different ways: the odd yoga stretch here and there if I can’t do a whole practice, listening to a relaxation recording before bed, a cup of tea I like, or an outing we both enjoy. I have managed to incorporate short yoga practices once he goes to bed and I’ve started meditating.
Self-care: standing pigeon pose while the toddler has a bath. Take what you can get.
- Getting s*** done. I mentioned above I work another part-time job. I sometimes felt completely overwhelmed by this when my husband was still here, so now it can feel even worse. Somehow I do it because I have to, but it isn’t always easy. It was definitely easier when I had a partner in crime who could play with and parent our child so I could do my work. Now I do it when my mom is here or when my son is watching a video or playing a game. Now household chores are also entirely my responsibility, although my mom helps a lot when she is here. However, that’s one or two days a week so the rest of the time, it’s on me. I follow the advice I give other moms: I let go of what I can (most housework, to be honest), and I try to do work when my toddler will watch videos or when he’s in bed if I must.
After a visit to the art gallery and river walk, I felt invigorated. I kept telling my son how much fun I had with him. Getting out can make a big difference.
These are just the 4 that come off the top of my head, but I know there are more. As the saying goes, you often don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I half joke that being apart has made us realize how much we love and rely on each other. Not that we didn’t know before, but you really don’t fully understand until you’re apart. I know my husband and I both eagerly look forward to when we are reunited as a family, and I know not every mom who is solo parenting is that fortunate.
So if you have a friend who is a single or solo parent, help her out. Offer to pick up some groceries for her when you’re out. Drop by for coffee. Take her a meal. Play with her child so she can do a quick yoga practice alone in her room. What might seem small to you will be huge to her.
It’s easy to feel like you’re alone and no one understands what you’re going through as a mom, no matter how old or young your child is.
I’m here to remind you that you’re not alone and that at least one mom, but probably many more, get it. And the more we talk about our struggles, the less alone we feel.
Like when all your toddler will eat are hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, and ice cream. I promise you there is another mom out there, feeling guilty that her child doesn’t love apple slices.
Or when you snap at your little one who just wants you to play with them but you have a chore you want to do or work you need to do or you’re just tired and want to sit for one moment and drink your coffee while it’s hot.
If you’re having a bad day, mama, please do something kind for yourself: a coffee or tea, a favourite song, a bath, or flowers for yourself. You deserve it.
Or when you let your child watch TV or videos so you can get said tasks done but you still feel guilty about it because someone likely posted an article on Facebook that said screen time was bad.
Or when you don’t feel appreciated by your spouse (don’t they see how much you juggle every day?), or your boss (don’t they see how much you accomplish while still being a mom?), or the public health nurse (don’t they see how much work it takes to get your little to an appointment? Why all the questions? Don’t they see you’re doing your best? And that you feel less than adequate, even though you know you shouldn’t, when your child hasn’t said the “right” amount of words yet or weighs in a low percentile?).
Or when you’re frustrated because your spouse doesn’t understand you’re too tired or touched out for sex. Or when your spouse doesn’t understand you don’t want to have to beg for it either. Or when you feel like your spouse begrudges your need for something just for you (the gym, work outside the home, art, a class, whatever), whether they actually begrudge you or not. Or that just because part of you resents your spouse who gets to leave for work during the day or go out at night doesn’t mean you love your baby any less: you’re just tired and overwhelmed from the sheer responsibility of caring for another human who is utterly dependent on you. (I would just add…please tell your spouse how you’re feeling! No one is a mind reader.)
Or when you get upset because plans with a mom friend fall through because baby or toddler isn’t feeling it, and you know they can’t help it and it’s not personal, but you’re still disappointed and frustrated (why can’t you ever do what YOU want to do?!?!).
Or when your baby won’t nap. Or when your baby naps and ruins your plans. Or when your little one won’t sleep through the night and you swear everyone else’s child is (ha! This is such a lie).
Or when you think you’re the only mom breastfeeding a child older than one. Or you think you’re the only one bottle feeding. Or the only one doing baby-led feeding or the only one spoon feeding purees.
I could go on and on and on! Any of these ring true? Some do for me, so I’m willing to bet some do for you. And you know what helps? Talking about it. I bet you’d be surprised to see how many other moms feel the same as you do. Case in point: I met another mom for a play date and we had more than one struggle in common. She got it. I got it. And we both felt better after talking about it with someone who understood.
Maybe you don’t hear it enough or wish you heard it more: you’re a great mom. You’re not alone. We’re all in this together and we have each other’s backs. Next time you feel alone, please reach out to another mom: you might be surprised to see she feels just like you do.
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!
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.
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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