The experience is almost universal – yet it catches many of us off guard. If we have been judging ourselves as a success or a failure at this mommy stuff, based on what we imagine motherhood to be like, let’s read on.
1. As a new mother, we are likely to be exhausted, stressed and experiencing emotional highs and lows.
The postpartum experience is one of peaks and valleys. As with any transition, there will be losses as well as gains. At times, we may question our ability to mother well. Our relationships with friends and significant others will likely change. We may feel very isolated and we may miss some aspects of life before baby’s arrival.
New mothers typically report experiencing a full range of emotions – from elation, joy, pride and a sense of spiritual expansion, to jealousy, anger, guilt, and frustration. A sense of ambivalence during the first months of a baby’s life is not a sign that we are poor or uncaring mothers. On the contrary, it’s a sign that we are deeply aware of the significance of this experience and that we are allowing our love for this child to change and deepen our sense of who we really are.
2. Expectations of motherhood may not match reality.
Media generated images we may hold of motherhood may have us believing that nearly every minute spent with our new bundle of joy should be peaceful, joyful, and fulfilling. Yet, caring for a child is difficult, emotionally demanding, and frequently boring work.
It’s likely to come as a shock when we find that we are ill-prepared for just how demanding this infant can be. We might find ourselves frustrated by the repetitive nature of the tasks (as soon as we diapered, clothed, and fed, it’s time to repeat the cycle). We may miss the social interaction that we enjoyed at the office or the intellectual stimulation of a job. No matter how much we love our child, it’s perfectly normal to admit that we aren’t necessarily enamored with the role of full-time mom.
3. We may be so enthralled with our little one that the love affair with baby begins to eclipse the previous love affair with hubby.
Many new moms find the need to be touched and adored is satisfied by interacting with baby. Yet, their husbands long for the intimacy they once enjoyed with their wives. It may seem as if finding time for adult conversation or romantic nights alone require too much effort and energy, but unless we puts forth a concerted effort to keep the romance alive, the arrival of a baby can mark the end of passion and the beginning of something more akin to a “sibling/best-friend” relationship.
One of the greatest gifts we give to our children is the model of a successful marriage – one in which both partners listen, respond to, and support one another. Although it might seem difficult to imagine now, it is really in our child’s best interest for us to set aside time without our child so that we can continue to nurture the marriage.
4. We have to work to stay connected to other aspects of our “person-hood.”
It’s so easy for a new mother to get swept away by this role losing herself (somewhat) in the process. Therefore, it’s essential that we carve out time for the activities that meant a lot to us prior to motherhood. By reserving a bit of time for enjoyable and rejuvenating activities, we will find the rest of the week easier.
One suggestion is to reserve one evening a week where one of the parents can have time for oneself. The other spouse is then responsible for all child and home care for a set amount of time, which provides each parent both with quality time with the child as well as some very vital personal time.
5. The best gift we can give to those around us (ie. children and spouse) is the gift of self-care.
Not only is self-care a gift to oneself– it’s an absolute necessity for the health and well-being of our loved ones. While most new mothers will stop at nothing to ensure that their children’s needs are met, these same women behave as if they can deny they own needs indefinitely. The reality of motherhood is that we can only share as much love and nurturing as we receive.
It’s essential that all mothers ask for help and support regularly, replenish self, and build reserves of energy and love. Once our needs are met we’ll have so much more to share.