After we have a baby, Moms have a tendency to lose themselves in motherhood and they don’t realize that they can have a great marriage, take care of baby, AND continue to do the things that they love. We don’t have to sacrifice ourselves for motherhood.
While I’m away on my Epic Journey to Alaska, I’m having a few guest posters take over my blog to bring you some great ideas in my absence. Today, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Marissa from Mamas and Mini-Mes, who’s going to be tackling this idea that we can’t have it all.
The proverbial “They” say we can’t have it all. Personally, I take offense to this general statement and insist on taking it one step further in order to give it some context. I use my training in mental health to tell myself I can’t have it all, all at the same time.
That is, we can’t be the best of the best employees, spouses, moms, friends, sisters, daughters, book club members, parishioners, crafters, writers, or whatever-else-floats-our-boat-ers all at the same time.
I don’t know about you, but there are only 24 hours in the day and I like to spend at least 7 of them sleeping. This means that I just simply do not have the time to put forth an equal amount of energy into each and every activity I want to.
Heck, with an almost one-year-old, I don’t even have the time nor energy for everything I need to do.
But as new mothers, this is exactly what we expect of ourselves. We do not take the time to honor the ways in which our lives have just changed.
Instead, we leave the hospital, return home, pick up our regular lives and expect to be able to handle anything and everything that comes our way with perfection.
This expectation is running rampant throughout modern motherhood culture and is knowingly contributing to heightened stress, postpartum mood disorders, and decreased marital satisfaction during the first postpartum year (source).
Frankly, we are investing in too many things and trying too hard to have Pinterest-Perfect lives that we are unable to rest, allow our bodies to recuperate, or acknowledge the beauty that is our new existence. This prevents us from finding a balance that nurtures our families and our souls.
In this post, I aim to keep unreasonable expectations in mind as I dive in to What it Means to Have it All: The Marriage, The Baby, and The Self.
So much happens to your marriage during the first year of your new baby’s life. It is absolutely true that everything changes once you birth your first child. Your marriage is no exception.
Aside from moving cross-country or the death of a loved one, having a baby is the most life-altering event you can possibly experience. Naturally there is an adjustment period; and, if you’re lucky, you and your spouse adjust in similar ways and at a similar speed.
However, this is unlikely when it comes to all aspects of forging a new family.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment a marriage goes through with a new baby is the shift in roles. In the first few months (if not longer) the mother’s primary focus is on the baby.
This leaves a lot of slack for dad to pick up. He may have never grocery shopped for the household or budgeted for the month’s expenses and suddenly find himself responsible for both on top of his existing duties.
Though this shift is natural and necessary, it can cause conflict when a couple harbors different expectations or does not communicate about the changes.
Speaking of conflict, sparse sleep and increased stress/anxiety tend to intensify martial conflicts over the postpartum year. If you and your hubby typically disagreed over something like your social life before baby, you can expect the problem to intensify while in the throws of new-parent adjustment.
Lastly, a couple’s communication changes drastically once baby arrives. It is less likely there is time or energy for those long, listless conversations of far-off travel.
Instead, you and hubby will most likely discuss the next day’s logistics while trying desperately to keep your eyelids open. Falling into a communication rut, is an early precursor to marital dissatisfaction. In order to keep up healthy communication patterns and dissolve conflicts quickly, check out my FREE Complete Couples’ Communication Coursebook here.
If you think your marriage changes during the postpartum year, you’ll be blown away by the changes your baby – and your role as a mother – will undergo in 12 months.
Think of your baby physically. He will go from a potato-looking ball of demands to a babbling (if not talking) cruising (if not walking) ball of energy by his first birthday. Though drastic, those changes are outward and do not compare to the ways your baby will develop mentally or emotionally.
His needs will have changed countless times over as will his ways of communicating them. Just when you feel like you’re getting the hang of how to please and pacify him, he will go ahead and flip the script on you and no skill you’ve honed over the last couple of weeks will do anything. This is especially difficult if you have an overstimulated or temperamental baby. You can read more about how to deal with these issues here and here.
The fact that you are constantly playing catch up with your baby as she develops her own personality and way of being will challenge your confidence as a mother. I swear, the day I actually said “hey, I’m getting kinda good at this,” out loud is the day my daughter got her first black eye.
Nothing is as nerve-wracking, heart-wrenching, or tear-jerking as being a mother. It will shatter you and rebuild you over and over again. You’re going to feel like a failure, you’re going to want to go back in time. But at some point, there will come a day, or a moment, where you realize its all gonna work out and be ok.
You will never be so quick to put yourself last as you will the moment you become a mother.
That moment is defined personally. Some women become mothers the moment the get a positive pregnancy test, some the moment their baby is born, and others many, many moments later. Regardless of when it hits you, it will hit you and you’ll never consider yourself a top priority again.
I hope to challenge you on this notion.
More and more research is coming out about the importance of self-care. We’ve known for a long time the ways that stress negatively impacts the body, mind, and spirit. However, current motherhood culture does not always allow for the pursuit of stress relief.
This needs to change.
One of the greatest factors in developing postpartum mood disorders is chronic stress. Ongoing stress only compounds the adjustment period after baby and without continuous and conscious effort to relax and enjoy your new life, you’ll likely want to run away from it.
Avoidance like this has all kinds of negative implications for bonding with baby which only makes the cycle worse. Therefore, its imperative you learn and adopt some skills to take care of you once in a while.
We all know, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
For tips on incorporating self-care as a new mom check this out
The Spirit of Having it All
If we go back to the concept of “having it all,” we have to recognize our limits.
In order to have everything we want, we have to understand in what capacity we can have it. If we think of ourselves as an empty vessel, we can only be filled 100%. The way we divvy up this 100% is up to us.
In this sense, we must choose how we want our lives to look as wives, mothers, and women.
Hence the power of choice
Too often, we sit back and let others make our choices for us. Even if this is subconscious, when you think about it, you can see just how your husband’s, mother-in-law’s, and best friend’s opinions shape your own. Do they feel you should be 100% wife, 100% daughter, and 100% friend?
I’m no genius, but even I know trying to fill something to 300% of its capacity isn’t gonna be pretty. Therefore, it is your choice how you fill yourself.
Time for some priorities
If you want to have it all, you have to define what your “all” is.
To some it may seem like it takes 15 separate identities to feel like one whole person. Honestly, there is NO way to take on this many challenges and to be successful in each.
Three of four is much more realistic and much more manageable. But in a society that places so many demands on women/mothers, it is excruciatingly difficult to pare down our obligations.
Now that you know just how powerful your choices can be, it’s time to implement them and prioritize.
Are you going to be filled 85% of the way with junk that really doesn’t matter at the end of the day, or do you want that 85% to consist of relationships with loved ones?
Your priorities are up to you.
Be kind to yourself
You’re not going to have all of your balls in the air at the same time every day. Inevitably, you’ll drop one, if not all. In the same day you can feel like the best mother and the worst wife.
When this happens, I ask you to extend yourself some kindness. There are enough negative messages floating around about moms these days. You don’t need to add to them.
I encourage you to take some time to define what your “all” is as a wife, mother, and woman.
If you keep in mind that you only have 100% of yourself to give, exercise your power of choice to prioritize the ways in which you give it, and be kind to yourself when you’re feeling over-filled, you certainly can have it all.
Also, DON’T FORGET to grab your FREE Complete Couples’ Communication Coursebook so you can hone your marital skillzzzzz!!
What do you think of the idea of having it all in marriage and motherhood? Which areas do you struggle with most? Comment and let us know!
Marissa is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specialized in couples counseling and child development before starting her own family. She has been published in many academic journals and most recently in Family Therapy Magazine. When she’s not writing, you can find her developing awesome products for her followers, enjoying her baby girl or loving her fabulous husband.
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