When Jenni from http://www.mamahhh.com/ asked me to be in the Brilliant Mama Blog Tour, I felt so inspired to be writing with a group of fantastic mothers.
Yesterday, Emi Canahuati of www.talkandthrive.com wrote an amazing piece that will change how you think about your child’s body image. And tomorrow Michelle Rivera of http://michelleaglow.tumblr.com will help us put an end to “mommy guilt.”
As soon as I heard about the blog tour, I knew exactly what I wanted to share with you. The short story? Mamas first! Here goes something.
Genesis of “Mother”
About two years ago my life was forever changed with the birth of my son. I had all the fixings: crib, noise maker, silly little bottle heater thingy, parenting books galore, the works. I had seen countless women be mothers. I truly felt that, while I didn’t know exactly what being a mother would entail, I was capable of being a wonderful mom. Through all of my preparations to become a mom, the one thing I neglected to research, obsess over, and worry about was; what am I going to need, for myself, to be a happy and well-adjusted mother?
So the madness of raising a child waged on. I battled postpartum blues. I was alone, A LOT, for reasons I won’t list here. And as the months turned into a year I realized that I was not happy. On the day of my son’s first birthday I had the sinking realization that I was not the well-adjusted, story book mom that I wanted to be. Not because I didn’t love my son. Not because mothering was somehow less satisfying than my expectations. On the contrary, being a mother is one of the most fulfilling things I have experienced in my life. But because I didn’t have what I needed. I forgot about the crucial idea that my happiness actually ought to come FIRST. Yes, you heard me, FIRST. Not second to my child’s happiness, not second to caring for my partner’s needs, not somewhere in the line of taking care of my family and friends…FIRST.
Reflection of the Doula Inside
I am also a doula. I have the privilege, the knee-dropping honor, to be in the presence of women as they become mothers. From the moment I am hired by a family to help at their birth I worry about the mother. I worry that she will find it oh so hard to adjust to this child, regardless of if it is her first or eighth. After all, every child brings a new chapter of motherhood. I worry she will feel alone. Depleted. Hurt by the lack of phone calls or drop by’s from her peers. Emotionally annihilated by the empty “How are you’s?” that she hears countless times knowing that the asker doesn’t really want to hear her. I know, as her doula, that she will spend ten months preparing for that single moment when her baby will reach her arms and then … What? Her family will applaud her for a week, two if she is lucky. Her friends will bring a few meals, wash a few dishes, and expect that to be enough.
But I know, as a doula and as a mother, that is is not enough. Meals and dishes and congratulation cards will lift her heart for a moment but then leave a gaping hole. I know she will be through the roof, to the moon, flying high every time she looks at the wee babe she birthed. But I also know that when family has stopped arriving, friends have stopped asking, and partner is back to work she will sit in her car with the air up loud enough to muffle the sounds of her weeping, while kiddo sleeps in the back seat.
The tears will be ones of deep worry. “Am I enough?” They will be tears of mourning, “I miss being me, not just baby’s mom.” They will be tears of loneliness and overwhelming desire to make it all work. To just be happy. But it isn’t enough. As a doula, as a mom, as a WOMAN I know that we are not caring for the mothers around us as we should. I am not cared for in the way that I should be, and I have not been the best friend I could be to my fellow mothers. And you know what? I am not alone. I did the math: approximately 80% of the women I have served as a doula report to me feeling deep loneliness and sadness at one point or another. Statistically that number is pretty on par with national estimates. We are not fostering the community mothers need. Mothers need to be…mothered.
Mothering the Mother
So after all of this emotional gush, I want to tell you a few things that I hear mothers say they need from one another. How do you Mother the Mother? How do you have a “tribe” of women surrounding you, a tribe based on trust and affection?
1. Encouragement without Judgment: When a mama tells you she is trying a new form of schooling for her child, don’t tell her about a program you think is better, tell her you are happy they are working toward a solution for better schooling. Telling your friends that you are proud of them does not mean you have to agree with all of their choices. And remember, just as you hate being told that you are doing it all wrong, your mama friends hate it too. Make it a goal to be the cheerleader of your friend’s decisions (as long as they are ethical).
Brilliant Action: Tell one mother each week that you think she is making great choices for her family, and leave any Judge Judy comments out of the conversation.
2. Be Thoughtful: We all have busy lives. Some days I think the words “mom” really ought to be replaced with “incredible stunt artist”! But no matter how busy you are you CAN take time to do one kind thing for a fellow mama. It doesn’t have to be big. A text saying, “I’m thinking of you today!” A drop-by, equipped with the extra cookies your family made, but certainly don’t need. An invitation over for a cup of tea. It’s really that simple. No matter how nuts your week is you can make space for somethings small and silly for a mama you know; and who knows? It just may come at a moment when she was at her breaking point.
Brilliant Action: Pick up a small candle next time you are shopping, think of a mama who could use a little aromatherapy, and drop it off to her next time you are in her neighborhood.
3. Listen to Your Intuition: Women have a certain intuition (men and children have it to, but we are talking about moms). It is undeniable. We have all had those moments when we talked to a friend and just … knew. Knew they needed something. But how often do we respond? And how often do we brush it off because we are too busy? All too often we ignore those inner churnings about our friends and come to find out we ought to have listened.
Brilliant Action: If you sense someone needs you, no matter how downtrodden you are feeling yourself, call them right then and there.
What Every Mama Needs
I close by telling you the one thing that has helped me overcome my moments of “mama blues”. It’s simple really. In fact, I worry that when you read it you will disregard its validity in your life, because after all, something so simple cannot really work. Right? My secret formula to passing through the tough moments:
Listen to your soul.
Yep. What every mama needs is to listen to what she needs. Learn to listen to what your soul yearns for at that moment, and yes, give in to that desire.
If you need to cry, but breakfast is already behind schedule, stop right there, Mama, and cry. Breakfast can wait.
If you need to run away to a yoga class once a week just to feel like your head is above water … run, mama, run.
If you need to disappear from the demands of everyone around you … pack up the kids, turn off your phone, and go on a hike. Go, Mama, just go.
Really, what can’t wait for you to take care of yourself? What?
The problem with how our society sees mothers lies in the fact that we’re expected to put everyone else first. It is so wrong. Mothers cannot be the well adjusted, story book mothers, if deep down they are crying inside to feel normal. We cannot be the examples of strong, loving, independent people when in fact we have not done one minute of self care in the past 5 days. It just cannot be. It just won’t work.
Brilliant Action: When the tides are shifting, the demands are pounding, the tears are coming…Listen to your soul. THAT is what every Mama needs.
~May Peace and Light mark you journey, Mama.
PS. Craving more Brilliant Mama wisdom? Sign up for the entire blog tour at http://mamahhh.com/blog-tour/