Must Motherhood Be All About Sacrifice?
Sleep? Maybe in a year. Eating hot food? On occasion. Taking a shower? Who knows?
Must Motherhood Be All About Sacrifice
Jane Greer answers listeners call-in questions, dealing with relationships, intimacy, family, and friendships on her “Let’s Talk Sex” radio show, which streams live on HealthyLife.net every last Tuesday of the month at 2 PM EST, 11 AM Pacific.
There aren’t too many transitions in life quite like becoming a mother. One minute it is just you and your needs, and the next, literally, you have to take care of a completely helpless human being. Even your own basic necessities go out the window.
When you become a mother, your entire focus and identity shift. The challenge is to be able to integrate your old self with the new. Instead of seeing it as your new baby is here and life as you know it is over, slowly try to find time to still do what you have always enjoyed. It might be when the baby is sleeping, or if you can find a few hours of childcare here or there, or sometimes it takes getting creative. For example, when my patient Lydia’s baby arrived, she told me she dreamt about her pre-motherhood morning commutes to work. She had a thirty minute drive during which she could think and listen to music. She missed it terribly and craved the solitude. That one was an easy fix. I suggested she put the baby in the car and drive around. Her baby was soothed by the motion and slept, allowing Lydia to enjoy the ride. Of course, as with so many choices, that brought a little guilt. Shouldn’t her baby be sleeping in his crib? Should she be getting him on a regular schedule?
There are some mothers who try to do everything by the book, never leave the house when the baby is sleeping, and often completely negate all their needs for their offspring. But that isn’t everybody and, in fact, that isn’t always healthy. The best way to offset the guilt is to accept that it’s essential to recharge yourself to replenish your energy in order to do whatever you are doing well. If anything, it will sap your resources and make parenting harder.
If you are depleted and sleep deprived and haven’t had a single minute to read that book you were halfway through when your daughter was born, you are going to start to feel pretty cranky and irritable. That isn’t going to make you a better parent.
That guilt Lydia felt about where her baby was sleeping doesn’t pertain only to moms with infants. How much time you spend with your child and questioning whether it’s enough is something that spans the entire gamut of the parent/child relationship. There are certain instances that are cleanly defined that you are going to make a sacrifice and give up something. If a child is sick then your needs are put on hold for that period of time. If there is a big game or an important concert, you might miss that work meeting. But what about the more obscure, smaller decisions in everyday life? Your daughter wants you to take her shopping, but you have an important deadline for work. Or your son wants you to make dinner for him and his friends, but you have a social commitment that you’ve been looking forward to. The heart of the issue for many moms translates into how much time they are or are not spending with their kids. Making the decision to recruit support so you can take ten minutes or an hour for yourself to read your emails or go to the dentist, will allow you to take care of your needs in tandem with your child’s and will help you manage and minimize the guilt.
I have another patient named Debbie. She has triplet sons. She wanted children as much as anyone I’ve ever met, but when they were born it was a difficult time. It’s hard enough caring for one newborn, three can throw you over the edge.
Must Motherhood Be All About Sacrifice newborn
She felt resentful, but
was reluctant to admit it.
One morning when they
were about five months old
she came into my office
looking terrible. She said,
“The way I see it my life is
pretty much over.” It was a
low point to say the least.
She had ambitions and was a working person right up until the time they were born. She was also a competitive swimmer. But she just couldn’t picture getting back to any of that. The good news is, she has. We talked about at least keeping an hour a week alive for her own physical and emotional well-being. When she understood how important that was she started to ask her parents to watch the kids so she could swim. It gave her a new lease on life and on parenthood. She was able to appreciate that while she couldn’t do everything she wanted, she began to understand that holding onto a little bit of what was essential to her made all the difference in the quality of the way she was able to be there for her kids.
Lots of times moms’ knee-jerk reaction is to think in terms of all or nothing of what they have to sacrifice. But the real key is to know you have to give up some things, but work to keep a little bit of what is important to you in place. By doing so, it makes you a better mother.
Why Must Motherhood Be All About Sacrifice?