Before my first bundle of baby boy joy arrived on the scene I was a Yoga teacher, a world traveler, a devout vegetarian, and a woman full of idealism.
My children will never play with any crappy, plastic Chinese toys. They’ll love fine culinary creations and prefer listening to music over mindless, inextricably fascinating youtube videos of adult hands opening toy eggs. They’ll be emotionally advanced, culturally sensitive, empathetic powerhouses… no, wait, power-free houses since power is somehow a dirty word.
And then it happens. A baby arrives. The expectations and musings and even the time to reflect on occasion about how it’s all going seem to vanish. You’re just in it. That process in and of itself is an expectation defier. Let’s just say it was not the goddess awakening experience of my dreams, and yes, you’ll probably poop on the table. But that moment signals the way that someone else’s bodily functions will dominate the next few years of your life. I was overjoyed and still am to become a mother but as with any beginning, there is an inevitable ending that is grieved. I no longer belong to myself. My body is a vehicle for keeping someone else alive and even after the infant days are gone, my main objective is to provide enough for them. And much of what is provided and sought after by the spawn will be in direct opposition to all those ideals. Getting to a place of “okay with that” has been an evolving process.
I realized as the mommy guilt set in after the first one that my expectations may have been a little unrealistic. I found that there were a handful of necessary things to accomplish for everyone’s survival in those early days of trying to figure out what the hell I was doing as a parent.
It really came down just about to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Motivation but all the emphasis was on the survival aspects. Eating and feeding was number one. There was only time for three more on any given day so I had to choose- was it sleep? Cleaning? Exercising? Bathing myself? Or giving undivided attention to my baby? Whatever I chose there was one that would inevitably be pushed out of the rotation. I made peace with this by not cleaning or exercising every day but inevitably some days one or four of the others went by the wayside.
Now my boys are little older, I’m done breastfeeding and my body is slowly becoming my own again. I take on more but I also feel less accomplished than in those early days. When expectations are low, just getting out of your pajamas before five o’clock can feel like a masters thesis.
And to those women who did the four things with a new baby AND got their master’s, well done. Please tell me that your thesis was how to refine, bottle and distribute your energy to other new mothers. Maybe we can bump accomplishments up to even flossing once a day.