I’ve seen it circulating social media, and I’m sure you have, too: “We expect women to work as if they don’t have children and raise children as if they do not work.” It really got me thinking about all the unrealistic expectations that are put on mothers and how I’ve dealt with them through my motherhood journey thus far.
Get back to work
Women are expected to go back to work only six to eight weeks after the delivery of their child; some women may even return sooner. You grew a child for the past 10 months, but yeah, head back to work before your body has healed and before you’ve bonded with your baby!
If you happen to have the baby blues that turn into a postpartum mood disorder, society still expects you to slap a smile on your face because “you just had a baby, and there’s nothing to be sad about.”
Solution: when it’s time to head back, make sure you are ready physically and mentally. Speak with your employer beforehand to see if you can come back at reduced hours initially or work from home. If you just aren’t feeling right, speak with your doctor and express your concerns, maybe even being screened for a postnatal mood disorder. Between the swing in hormones and a stressful life event, it is imperative to make your mental health a priority.
Breastfeed for at least a year
In a time where many are pushing “breast is best,” they forget the physical and mental tolls that are associated with it. As “natural” as breastfeeding is, it doesn’t always come naturally. Many mothers and babies struggle to make it work. Above all, it means you are the sole nurturer of the child.
Solution: if you will be pumping at work, schedule it into your day, just as you would schedule any other meeting. Invest in a hands-free pumping bra; it’s a lifesaver! Bring extra pump parts, so you don’t have to clean every time or invest in the quick sanitizing wipes, which are great for on-the-go.
However, if you and your baby struggle with breastfeeding, or it just isn’t your jam, don’t succumb to the pressures of society. Remember, you need to do what is best for you and your child, which is making sure they are fed whether it is with formula or breast milk.
Plan the meals
I am supposed to have nutritious meals and snacks for the kids, and along with these meals made from scratch, I should be making homemade baby foods. There are days we munch on fresh snacks all day and meals are homemade. While other days, take-out is picked up on the way home from work. There are days when the toddler will eat anything, and days I’m happy she eats anything at all.
Solution: at the end of the day, the most important thing is your family is fed. Don’t fret if every meal isn’t fresh or the cupboard is full of jarred baby food. When you can, do meal prep, so you can have meals and snacks ready for the week. Honestly though, I would much rather spend an extra hour of quality time with my family since that’s what recharges and fuels my soul, not trying to see how many home-cooked meals I can prepare for the week.
Monitor screen time
“Don’t let your kids turn into YouTube zombies.” We’ve all heard someone say this before. There are articles saying if your kid uses a tablet or watches television, it’s going to stunt their development. While I am all for my children reading, playing with blocks, puzzles, and more, many of these activities require me.
So, when I need to make a phone call, pay pills, or make dinner, the television will be turned on. In a world full of electronics, I am not going to be able to keep them out of our lives all the time, so why not take the help when I can? I’ve learned to embrace the technological world we live in.
Manage the household
Moms are typically the managers of the home. We schedule the doctor appointments, pay the bills, run errands, and make sure there are clean clothes. The meal planning and grocery store run with two kids in tow? That’s often you, too. On top of those responsibilities, we take care of the boo-boos; we know when diapers and wipes are low and when we need to size up the kids’ clothes.
Solution? I’ve learned that I can’t do it all on my own. Laundry is divvied up, and I am not the one doing the dishes. At this point, I’ve given up on the “Pinterest-worthy” home because I want a home that is lived in, not lived around. I have lists galore, a physical planner, and we share a calendar on our phones, so we both know each other’s schedules. Reach out for help and delegate; you cannot do it all on your own.
Get your body back
Get back to your “pre-baby body” as fast as you can even though it took our body 10 months to nourish and grow the child. We are expected to bounce right back into it when we really should be focusing on healing and doing what serves our mind and body.
Solution: after children, exercise has looked a lot different in my life. I am confined to the gym’s childcare hours and my children’s moods. I don’t have hours to spend like before. So now there are days where my workouts are long walks or bike rides through the neighborhood. Some days the baby is my weight for my work out.
Remember, the important things are to maintain your mental and physical health, which doesn’t mean the number on the scale.
The other thing we are told is to make sure we take time for ourselves. There goes another hour out of my day when I could be checking off multiple things on my endless lists. It’s not quite as easy for me to run to get a massage or quick mani/pedi. If my husband isn’t home, it requires finding a sitter for the kids, which is a whole task in itself. Sometimes the stress of planning self-care can be overwhelming, which leads me to canceling my plans all together.
Solution: today, self-care looks a whole lot different. It may be taking a bath with a glass of wine or heading to the bedroom 30 minutes early to read or catch up on a show I missed that week. Self-care doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; it just has to be something that refuels you.