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Guilt and the Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Finding the balance between taking care of our families and ourselves is a challenge. Unrealistic expectations of yourself may be causing unnecessary guilt.

Motherhood is a war waged on our identity, fortitude and health. Silently and slowly it changes us and the responsibility can be overwhelming. Women go from working an eight hour day to being responsible for another human being for 24/7. This responsibility remolds us, tires us and compromises us. The expectations are invisible and unsaid, but ultimately imposed. This of course does not diminish motherhood, or the joy and love it brings. However, women can arm themselves with knowledge, understanding and a support system in order to keep their identity, health and sanity intact.

We catch ourselves waking up, irrationally, just to check for breathing. The first battle lost is sleep deprivation. Mothers, waking up in the middle of the night for feedings, diaper changes, colic all interrupt sleep. Then the following day, waking up to face another day of expectations, regardless of the deprivation.

As a first time mom, nerves stunted my lactation production. Of course the pressure to breast feed was overwhelming, although that was always my intention. The lactation consultants at the hospital got me through this first hurdle, all with different personalities. The kindest and most understanding consultant told me to eat whatever I wanted (especially my favorite food, no matter how fattening) and sleep as much as possible, coinciding with the baby's schedule. All of this to regain my strength and catch up on my sleep. Another consultant was adamant about not using formula supplements and imposed her expectations on me. The last, gave me tips on how to make homemade baby food, cutting sweet potatoes to aid in my child's motor functions, and other helpful tips.

Breastfeeding advocates can impose their beliefs and expectations on new moms, challenging your personal choices. The battle of choice and personal preference are another aspect to this silent war. Everyone with an ovary and even without, offering their opinion on your choices.

One of the best ways to maintain a healthy perspective is to make time for yourself. Childcare is a valuable asset during motherhood. If the grandparents or family members are not available, then   in University City can help. I used them when I first went back to work as a  new mom. They help unite families and caregivers; finding baby nurses, nannies, babysitters, tutors and pet and house sitters. A plus is that these caregivers come to your home. If you feel more comfortable taking  your child to a daycare, then , whose focus is diversity and literacy, is available for children six weeks to six years of age .

The expectations we have of ourselves can be unrealistic. The women's revolution was not about allowing women into the workforce so they could do two jobs. The revolution was not to create dissension between working moms and stay at home moms. It is a matter of choice requiring no guilt for your personal choice.  Creating a community among a group of moms for support can help ten-fold.

When I gave birth to my first child I had an email support group with friends from around the country; we discussed milestones, problems and triumphs. This simple support system changed this time of my life for the better. Having women in your life from your community, for play-dates, a babysitting exchange, or just for emotional support is invaluable. Being honest, kind and supportive toward fellow moms and especially to yourself will greatly change your state of mind.

The feelings of inadequacy and fatigue begin subtly, pushing their way in until they become constant residents. I think it is important to take care of yourself and treat yourself with the kindness and consideration you would show your child.

Sometimes we put ourselves in situations you would never tolerate for your child or other family member. It is like riding on a plane, when the oxygen masks  drop  you put yours on first, so you can take care of your child. When you indulge in kindness to yourself, it gives you the freedom and perspective to enjoy motherhood that much more.

monifa Brown April 18, 2011 at 05:46 PM
A great reminder of the gentle balance we all have to walk and the importance of self preservation. You are no good to anyone unless you are good to yourself! Well written piece and a nice tribute to all of the warrior moms out there. Thanks! Monifa
Natalia Motola April 19, 2011 at 09:26 PM
Thank you Monifa. Be good to yourself. My hat is off to you!

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