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OTHER ITA SITES:
Are New Moms Hardwired for Self-Sacrifice?
I love babies. There is nothing more fulfilling and heart-expanding than having and raising a child. However, there is another side to being a new mom we don’t talk about much. And that’s…shhhh, don’t tell anyone….all the hard work and self-sacrifice that is required of her!
It’s true, isn’t it? From the moment a woman brings her new baby home from the hospital, and for that first year, at least, finding time to sit down and catch her breath is rare. The truth is that a baby is a twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week “need machine.” A newborn needs to be fed, changed, bathed, held, rocked, loved and put to sleep long enough for mom to wash his onesies, empty the diaper pail, stock up on more diapers and pump breast milk, or make more formula, and the cycle starts all over again the moment baby wakes up. Whew! Because it’s such an intensive time, it usually means that just about everything else that matters in a new mom’s life will be excluded. Hence, the self-sacrifice.
After being childless and carefree for much of my adult life, I was in for quite a shock when I gave birth to twins. Like losing a best friend, I witnessed the instant deterioration of any time for my meditation practice, walking the trails with my dog, writing, cooking, having lunch with friends, and having an intimate evening with my husband. You know, the kind of self-nurturing activities that keep you glued together?
It can be argued that we know what we were getting ourselves into when we get pregnant. We know the kind of self-sacrifice that will be required from us, don’t we? We know that it will indeed “be all about the baby.” And we’re willing to make that sacrifice to have and raise this beautiful bundle of joy (or bundles, in my case.) We know it, and we accept it, because we’re women. We can do it. We’re hard-wired for it. We can give birth to and raise babies with one hand tied around our back. We can even do it alone if we must. Or, so we tell ourselves.
That’s what I told myself. And I did it – mostly by myself, as my hubby worked 12 hours a day. (Although to be fair, he did wake up with me and help with those 2:00 AM feedings.) And I loved it… in the beginning. Then, slowly, incrementally, my patience became stretched thin. I witnessed myself getting irritated easily. I found it difficult to be fully present with my babies. I started to feel…what’s the word?…trapped. Depriving myself of all self-nurturing activities, or actually any activity other than taking care of two babies, made the challenges of motherhood that much more difficult. Eventually, to maintain to my wits, I had to find a way to incorporate back into my life some of my pre-baby activities – admittedly, a bit pared down.
Denise Theberge, Ph.D. mother of two and clinical psychologist in private practice in Santa Clarita, California says, “I see a lot of moms who feel guilty if they try to take some time for themselves, but if a new mother doesn’t do just that, she’ll become easily frustrated, exhausted and possibly even depressed.”
It makes sense that if a new mom is frustrated, exhausted or not thinking clearly, her parenting skills will suffer. So will the rest of her life. Therefore, it’s essential that a new mom make it a priority to do some personal activity (or inactivity) that keeps her centered, so that the challenge of motherhood doesn’t feel overwhelming.
The good news is that a large chunk of time is not required. Just fifteen minutes of exercise, or thirty minutes of rest a day can help you feel refreshed, renewed and ready to return to the demands of motherhood. “Even having the time to take a shower undisturbed and put on make-up in the morning can help you feel ready to face the day,” says Theberge.
In my follow-up article I’ll share eight tips on how to bring some balance back into your life now.
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