My previous blog posts have briefly talked about the pressure we as mothers tend to pile onto ourselves every day; sometimes subconsciously. A behaviour becomes a part of your subconscious when a certain pattern has been formed over time. This pressure is either formed by patterns created by ourselves, or based on what we have seen others do and how they behave, thereby creating expectations and a different standard to what has been followed till now. More importantly, a standard that may be ideal for the other person but not ourselves.
To be completely honest, I was inclined to write this post to reassure and prepare myself for my second child who is about to arrive any time now. The pressure points I am going to talk about are all things that I have experienced earlier as a new mother. So here goes - how can we as mothers, relieve ourselves of the pressure points created either by ourselves or other people, and make our lives just a little bit easier?
1. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
We all have FOMO at one point or the other; FOMO on dinner plans with friends, a gathering of schools mothers, or your child missing out on a playdate and so on. There is a constant expectation that mothers place on themselves to ensure that their child is entertained and kept busy from morning to night, especially around the holiday season when schools are out. I am already looking for a summer camp for my son and we are only in March. But having said that, I know that it is ok for him to get bored and entertain himself from time to time. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, many mothers do not want to be perceived as having no life beyond their children. They don't want others to say "oh she never comes out" or "she never brings her child for any of the planned playdates." So instead of balancing out mommy time with social plans and taking some 'me time' when exhausted beyond belief, many mothers tend to push and push due to FOMO and what other people might say. My reaction to that - each mother's situation and life at home is different. Do what your body and mind tell you and not what others tell you.When you can make things easier for yourself, why not do it?
2. School before drool
My two sisters live in the U.S. My nieces and nephew were born and raised there so I have seen firsthand what the school application processes are like. Boy, it has to be easier running for President!! Detailed applications, standardized tests, essays, parent interviews, behavioural observations etc are all a part of the pre-school application process! So when my sisters used to tell me what they were doing, my mouth fell open in disbelief. But they were doing what is mandated there, so they complete what they are supposed to do and then sit back and wait for decisions. I used to say, "thank god the entire school process in India is not as complicated," which is true to a certain extent. However, the school selection process is not as easy due to a lack of options in some cities.
There are schools which require mothers to apply for their child while the child is still in the womb, sometimes not allowing the comfort or option of time to really think about what kind of school would suit their child; after all how would you know that, before the child is born and becomes a little older? So mothers make their selection and send in the application(s). But does it end there? I am afraid not. Many mothers now take it a step further and start comparing, which is where the pressure starts to build. "Which school have you registered your child in?", "I think school abc where I have registered by son has better reviews than the school you are thinking about","the crowd in school xyz is not upper class so aren't you worried about the crowd your child will mix with?","I heard that school xxx focuses on academics and zero extra-curricular activities.What do you think is best?" Exchanging notes with fellow mothers is one thing; we all want to know where each other's children are going to be attending school. However, the pressure and doubts start building up when mothers start second guessing themselves about the decisions they have made. School is a critical part of a child's life, but definitely not a life or death matter when they are tiny. So moms - relax a little when it comes to school selection and trust your instinct and judgment. There are a million challenges when it comes to motherhood as it is a huge transformation - let's not try and add to it!
3. Motherhood myths
Myths are traditional beliefs and stories that each and every one of us have heard. Most mothers raise their children with the help of the internet. Along the way, there are countless websites which talk about all the various motherhood myths out there which you should/should not pay any attention to. Unfortunately, it is does not stop there for us mothers. Everywhere you go, there are people who come up with different versions of various myths they have heard about pregnancy and delivery. On one level we listen when it comes from our parents or someone close to us out of obligation, but it doesn't stop there. There are always acquaintances, colleagues, family friends etc who take the liberty of divulging the myths they believe in, not considering for a second that the mother probably does not want to hear it, and makes the concept of having a child that much more difficult.
The two 'myths' listed below are not the usual run-of-the-mill ones we all laugh about, are not deeply rooted in Indian culture, but are ones that struck a deep cord within me. I guess you can say that they are myths from my view:
"If your children make bad decisions while they are growing up, it reflects poorly on your parenting style. So be careful how you raise them. Read lots of books"
"There is a right and wrong way of parenting."
Buying into many of these myths are the real reason for the frustrations mothers feel and it takes strength to untangle yourself from them. But once you do so, the benefits are great!
4. Doctors without borderlines
You would never think of your child's paediatrician as being a pressure point. But you will be surprised at how many are and it takes mothers a long time to realise it. Whether it is views on breastfeeding and as a mother you are not able to/not comfortable with feeding, your child not eating well the first few months after starting solids, or the medicines you want to/don't want to give your child, there are paediatricians who push and make you think it is their way or the highway. Period. Example - Breastfeeding vs. formula has always been a controversial topic among mothers and rightly so, each mother has her own belief and opinion. But at the end of the day it is the mother's choice. I was unable to directly feed my son. It is a mother's instinct and I knew from day 1 that this was not going to work. As a mother, you are better equipped than anyone else to understand the uniqueness of your child's wants and needs. If I had listened to my gut and fed my son formula right from the beginning, my first month as a mother would have been very different, and a happy one. My son's paediatrician at the time refused to acknowledge the 'not being able to feed' aspect and pushed me to such an extent which led to unhappiness and discontent. The pressure I felt from the paediatrician on this particular issue didn't make adapting to motherhood any easier. In the end, it turned out that mommy really did know best!
When you have a baby, people always talk about feelings such as happiness, pride, joy, fear etc. But there are some feelings which we never talk about aloud - a sense of loss of identity, loss of a sense of self and in general a transformation of who you are. You lose your way for a while till things settle down and fall into place. Each day, we try and find new ways to create more hallmark moments as a mother. Being aware of various 'pressure points', makes taking the leap into motherhood just a little bit easier.