Monday, April 08, 2013

On Working, Being a Mom, Having a Social Life, Nursing, Pumping, and Taking Care of One’s Self

Oh hey, have you heard the one about how moms are supposed to take care of themselves? About how that’s as important, if not more important, than taking care of everyone around you? Because if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re doing a disservice to the whole family.

Har har.

Good one.

I’m still a new mom to one wee babe, making me neither seasoned nor wise. And, as mom who is co-parenting with an involved and capable partner, who has solid financial resources, and who has a strong support network close by, in the grand scheme of moms everywhere, I actually have it pretty easy.

And yet, I seem to be stuck in a rut where my entire life seems to be crumbling down around me constantly.

I was under the impression that “having it all” was something that people who had careers that they cared about tried to do. And that’s not me. I go to work; I get shit done; I leave before 5pm; and I don’t waste another second of my brain space thinking about the office once I’m off the clock. As long as I didn’t care about climbing a corporate ladder, I figured that I wouldn’t get caught in the trap of "trying to have it all.”

But apparently, a more accurate description of “trying to have it all” is “attempting to function like an adult who wants to feel good mentally and physically and generally have a nice life while holding down a job and not completely missing out on everything her kid does.”

Oh hey. That looks a little more familiar. That right there is my dream--loosely.

It’s not about me wanting to have a fancy “career.” It’s about me trying to pick up where I left off pre-baby, only now I have this 18-pound sack of love firmly attached to my boob. In other words, what is now considered "trying to have it all," was previously known as "having a life."

I regularly lament to my friends about how I “can’t get it together,” and because of my failings as a human being and modern mother, I am doomed to be tired, unorganized, overweight, unhealthy, generally a mess both mentally and physically, and ultimately, unhappy. But what I seem to be unable to accept is that it’s not me who is failing, it’s the expectation that I can work a full-time job, exercise several times a week, get enough sleep, cook dinner every night, make my lunches every day, nurse my baby for a whole year, pump enough milk while I’m away, keep up with friends, say “yes” to social engagements, have date nights with the hubs, be active in our community, spend quality time as a family, meet other moms in my neighborhood, grocery shop, clean the house, do the laundry, continue to participate in hobbies I enjoy like blogging or gardening or running or reading, and still have time to watch the season premiere of Mad Men, which happens to be two hours long.

Something has to give. And regardless of the obvious varying importance of many of the above items, I don’t want to let any of them go. But I have to.

Maybe it’s time I accept that regular exercise isn’t going to be a part of my life again until I stop nursing, and maybe I’ll stop mentally beating myself up each week for only making it to the gym once or twice. Or maybe I need to stop pumping and wean Em before a year, and use that extra time and freedom to take care of myself a little better. Or maybe I need to be more serious about protecting my time on the weekends, say no to social events, and concentrate on making sure the errands are run, the groceries are bought and the house is clean. Or maybe there is a better work/life balance to be had.

I don’t have the answer. I don't actually have any answers. Not for myself, not for the larger question as to how we found ourselves in this social conundrum.


Lindy said...

Oooh. I feel super bad for just having emailed you about about meeting up for lunch and running a 5K. :O

But on the flip side, things will get easier! They'll be harder in other ways, but easier overall. I totally understand everything you've intimated here, and guess what? Your feelings are NORMAL! A year from now the complication of breastfeeding will be over with and things will clear up dramatically, and everything will be A-O.K. Mark my words!

GoddessLibrarian said...

My two cents? From a mama of 4... Don't worry about it "all" just about "enough". Instead of looking at each day and what you want to fill it with, look at the week or hell, even a month. And try to balance everything in that time frame, but not everything in one day. So, there are days that I am completely kid-focused and do no laundry/exercise and other days that the kids are "on their own" because I'm catching up with laundry and running and other stuff. You don't have to give anything up entirely, just rotate what you do give up!

And yes, breastfeeding doesn't last forever. Diapers don't last forever. This crazy juggling you feel doesn't last forever. Trust me. I drop balls all the time because I have so many of them up in the air. You just adapt. I wouldn't have had 4 if it didn't get better!

Angela said...

It's just so true. I recently experienced the relief of purchasing baby food so that at least I wouldn't have to spend precious weekend hours toiling in front of the food processor while Dad enjoys some more baby time. I feel like that decision was some progress, and I'm looking for other compromises I can make to simplify things. So far, I've come up with: 1) not excelling at my job 2) ignoring dirty floors 3) wearing clothes from the laundry hamper instead of the closet. I will keep you updated if these developments bring me any closer to to a full and satisfying life.