If you haven’t already heard, I will be facilitating a support group for moms on select Tuesdays out of Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness. Our first meeting is this week, so I thought it would be timely to give a real-life example of what a difference a little bit of support can make.
Imagine you are a mom whose toddler has built a beautiful wall of blocks at an indoor playground, but when he comes back from a snack, another child has dismantled it. He’s upset, and you empathize: he worked so hard on that, and it’s a big deal to him. Perhaps you’ve even been in this exact situation!
No amount of empathy or “can I help you build it again?”or distraction or leaving him alone helps: he cries and cries and cries and cries. Real tears, at times screaming. To the point that you now have tears in your eyes and take a break to cry in the bathroom, because you have no idea how to make it better and you were already having a tough day. A couple moms give you empathetic smiles, one mom asks your toddler if he’d like to join them on the slide. Such little gestures that make you want to cry more, but in a good way: because these moms get it. They understand how it feels, and they want to help you.
This is exactly why mom support groups are powerful: they build us up, let us know we aren’t alone. At times we definitely FEEL like we are alone, or like we are the only person who has ever been in a particular situation, but I assure you, you are not. Somewhere, and some point, another mom has been there, and she gets it. She will cry alongside you and laugh with you at the situation once enough time has passed.
And so I hope you will join us for the Warman Moms Support Group. Motherhood can be hard, but you aren’t alone, and you were never meant to do it alone. See you Tuesday.
First comes love, then comes marriages, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.
So the saying goes. Then it’s happily ever after, right? Right?!
If only life were that simple and linear. I don’t have to tell you that it’s not. It’s full of bumps in the road and U-turns, and even though Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest may tell you otherwise, no couple has the perfect relationship or family – they just show you what they want you to see.
Marriage is hard, and it’s even harder after you have kids.
Nobody really tells you that when you get married or if you take marriage prep classes (and even if they do, you probably don’t listen or believe them at the time). Just like a wedding is one day and marriage is meant for life, birth is one(ish) day and raising a child is for life – and so with that comes a lot of change! Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and part of preparing for your baby’s arrival should involve giving some thought to how this change will affect your marriage and having a conversation with your partner. Here are some thoughts from me and other moms on marriage after kids.
Probably the biggest key to life after a baby (and marriage in general, I suppose!) is communication. Your spouse is not a mind reader, and neither are you, so if you want something, tell them. As one mom says, “If you want sex, say it. Everyone is too tired to guess.” On the flip side, if mom doesn’t feel like sex right away or physically can’t (which is totally normal postpartum), find other ways to be intimate that make both of you feel loved. Remember that her body went through a huge transformation physically and emotionally, and it may take her a while to be comfortable and confident in her own skin.
Look how perfect! The photo, not the marriage. No marriage is perfect, don’t be fooled! It takes work, but like anything that does, that makes it rewarding. (We were just babies ourselves here! I think we both have substantially more grey hair now….)
Don’t just assume one of you is going to do the housework. Would you like your partner to do some chores you used to typically do? You need to ask him and have a discussion – don’t just assume he will. And dads, don’t just assume because mom is home that she will be able to do all the housework and cooking, because taking care of a baby takes A LOT of time (watch this video to see just how much!).
“I found that discussing expectations for each partner for chores/activities helpful because the parent at home often gets the ‘well, what did you even do today’ talk (well, I kept an infant alive so think I did pretty stellar) but deciding ahead of time or having that discussion if it’s a strain is necessary,” says one mom. “If you can discuss or make strategies ahead of time, that is great.”
If you are both too busy for housework, consider hiring a house cleaner, even if it’s temporary. If it alleviates stress, it is worth it! If you can’t afford someone, ask family or friend for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I always say it is a strength, not a weakness, to ask for help.
Tell your partner you appreciate them. This works both ways. Don’t come home from work and ask a mother what she did all day. And don’t discount how hard dad works at his job and then has to come home and help maintain the home and care for the baby and you (postpartum is hard for dads, too). And if something is bugging you, talk about it and don’t sweep it under the rug: the longer you leave something, the more the little things grow into big things and lead to bigger arguments or resentment.
“Always remember to continue working on your relationship as a couple because one day the kids will move out and it will just be the two of you again,” one mother reminds us.
Put down your screens and actually spend time together. We recently made a pact to put down our phones and computers for at least an hour in the evening so we can either visit or watch a show together that we like. For us, this is sometimes the three of us, but that’s what works for our family. Maybe it works better for you to do this after your baby or toddler goes to bed. Maybe you’re open to doing “date night” or “movie night” with your little snuggled in your arms. There is no right or wrong answer – just that you spend time together.
“I am a firm believer that our marital relationships need a reboot every once in a while, as in you need to do something that is specifically meant to help build your relationship in a good way, whether that’s taking a course or class together, or for us, a week camping with just the family to reconnect without handheld devices is a must,” says one mom.
Taking a class or going away may not be possible when your little is a newborn or infant, plus it will depend what help you have around (do you have a trusted babysitter? Do you have family or friends who can watch the baby while you go out for supper or play volleyball together?). Start small and as your child gets older, it will become easier to do the bigger things (I promise: it does get easier!). Remember, in the scheme of things, this is a small window of time. It’s for now, not forever. Your baby will only be so little for so long, and when that time has passed, part of you will long for when they wanted to be held in your arms. Try to be patient – one of the many parenting lessons our children teach us.
Respect each other’s parenting styles. Just because dad doesn’t do things exactly as you do, doesn’t mean they aren’t just as good. Realize that as long as you both have the same values and end goal, you might reach it a bit differently. Then again, if one of you is opposed to spanking and the other thinks this is a good discipline tool, you need to have a discussion.
Remember that your children are watching you, and children model the behaviour they see. So, tell your spouse you love them and what you love about them. Show them affection through words, hugs, and kisses – and of course do the same for your children!
As a married couple and family, do we do all of these all of the time? Nope – we are not perfect! But we are happy and solid, in case anyone is wondering if that’s why I wrote this blog (my mom might wonder!). I wrote this, as always, to help other moms and parents, because we’ve all been there in tough times, and to remind those who are there that they are not alone.
Is the above a fool-proof plan for a perfect marriage? No. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, nor a perfect plan. But as long as you both remember your life will change after a baby and vow to keep working on your relationship, you’re on the right track. It’s a work in progress, and you will have ups and downs, but hopefully you can continue to navigate the journey together.
How often has a spouse come home from their paid job, asked a mom how her day was or what did she do, and she responds with, “Nothing really”?
I just finished reading a great book that reframes and refutes this whole concept. Mothers do a lot, even if people don’t see it!
What Mothers Do: especially when it looks like nothing by Naomi Stadlen is touted as a parenting book, but it’s not like other parenting books in that it’s not a how-to guide. Rather, it looks at behaviours of mothers and breaks them down, describing how much in fact moms do every day with their children, even when it may look like nothing.
The untrained eye might see me doing nothing but I see so much more. My baby is one month old here.
She talks about the power of comfort, and that to an outsider, a mother who is comforting her baby may look like she isn’t doing much, just holding her baby. But any mom can tell you much work it is to soothe a child and how satisfying it is once they are able to calm them down and feel them relax and melt into your embrace.
Stadlen makes this interesting point:
No one supports the mother while she is learning how to comfort, or celebrates her when she is able to give it. People ask mothers: ‘Is he sleeping through the night yet’ ‘Have you started him on solids yet?’ ‘Has he got any teeth?’ No one seems to ask: ‘Have you discovered what comforts him?’ Yet the ability to sleep through the night, or to digest solid food or to grow teeth, has little to do with mother. Babies reach these milestones when they are mature enough, whereas being able to comfort depends on a mother’s ability.
Another interesting point she makes is around how exhausted mothers are, and what is revealed when you compare their feelings to another group of exhausted people: physicians. She notes that doctors “recount their times without sleep like badges of honour, tanglible symbols of their dedication to the profession and testimony, to all, that their sacrifice justifies the status.”
Practicing medicine is seen has having status and that you are tired for a cause. Stadlen asks, what if your cause is a baby? Is that not worthy of status? Instead mothers often feel like they are failures because they are tired, rather than saying they are tired because they work hard all day and night caring for their babies.
Mothers could probably cope better if we all acknowledged how complex and difficult it can be. If a mother says she is short on sleep, this could be a sign not of her failure, but how well she may be mothering. I believe that the real, dreadful qualify of maternal tiredness is the mother’s sense of struggling against prevailing disrespect.
Until babies learn how to talk, mothers need to figure out what they want, and somehow they do! This is huge! A certain cry might mean baby is hungry or wants to be cuddled or has had enough stimulation. Mothers talk about how even when their toddlers don’t use words other people understand, they still know what they want. To an outsider watching, this may look like nothing, but it’s not: it’s mothers being mothers.
Stadlen sums up her book perfectly on the last page:
It’s time we as a society take a closer look at all that mothers do. And we as mothers should be proud of all that we do, even if it may look like nothing. Because I can assure you, you aren’t doing nothing. You are mothering.
If you know me or have been following my blog, you know I’m passionate about pregnancy, birth, and parenting. While I don’t read as much about pregnancy anymore, I often read about parenting and lately, how to support newborn mothers.
By the way, I love this definition of a newborn mother from my teacher, Julia Jones:
I’ve become so interested in the topic that I decided to take Julia’s class on how to support newborn mothers postpartum, and I’m so excited to say I’ve passed and am now a Certified Postpartum Professional!
What does this mean? Right now it just means I have furthered education in something I’m passionate about, but in the future it means I look forward to a career where I can support moms: helping them take care of and love themselves so they can do the same for their new babies, providing some nourishing and nutritious meals (I’ve gotten back into the kitchen and it feels good! If you want to be a taste tester, let me know…), belly binding, tips for self and baby massage, and more!
I can’t wait. I still consider myself a new mom and I’ve experienced really great aspects of postpartum (I’ve had a lot of support and continue to – couldn’t have done the class without it) and challenging ones (going back to work at 6 weeks postpartum, thrush, mastitis, moving), so I get it. I’m not an expert, but that’s not my job…you’re the expert on you and your baby, and my job is to help women see and embrace that.
Exciting things to come! Thank you everyone for always reading, supporting, and encouraging. It takes a village.
Wake up a bit earlier than usual, just in case parents were getting too comfortable with the routine.
Alternate between playing with trucks, watching videos on trucks, and banging the gate, thereby signalling you want to go outside.
Crying when your mom answers the door to greet the visitors, again signalling that you’d rather be outside.
So your mom takes you and her friend outside. You point to the stroller, so your mom puts you in, only for you to insist she takes you out. You’d rather walk and guide her and her friend for four blocks in the neighbourhood. That’s pretty tiring, so then she must pick you up. You want her to carry you another two blocks to the park, but she carries you home instead, so you cry in disgust.
Not pictured: the cartoons allowing this photo to be taken.
Decide you’ve been social enough and instead of playing with the two other boys who love all your trucks, you watch videos about trucks. You do look up to wave bye-bye.
Fall asleep two hours earlier than usual for your nap – but that big walk was exhausting! This means you can go to your friend’s birthday party, so your mom is pretty excited about that!
Wake up and get into the car. Drive to birthday party. Walk into the backyard with all the people, immediately get upset, cry, and insist your dad takes you back out to the street, which you walk up and down, pointing at the trucks.
“It’s not my party but I’ll still cry if I want to!”
Dad tries to bring you back, but you repeat. Stay with Mom for a bit while dad uses the washroom. Cry. Go back to the street with Dad, point to your SUV, climb into your carseat and buckle yourself in. Time to go home.
Get home and play with neighourhood friends and then point again to stroller, so your mom and dad take you to the park. Play for a while, have fun, get back in, go home. Get near home and get upset that Mom won’t keep walking around the neighbourhood.
Continue being pretty upset inside. You’re likely hungry, but too upset to eat. Eventually you calm down.
You decide even though you got up earlier, napped earlier, and had a big day, to not go to bed earlier. Won’t fall asleep for Mom, who texts Dad in a pleading manner. He lies down beside you, takes you in his arms, says, “Cub, it’s time to go to bed,” and you promptly fall asleep sprawled out beside him….while Mom thinks both, Why the hell won’t you do that for me? and Thank God, now I can grab a snack and pee.
It’s hard work being a toddler.