If you haven’t watched Michelle Wolf’s stand up comedy special, Nice Lady, do so right now. Actually, wait until after you read my blog post. She does a bit about the expectations of mothers and the demands that are placed on them. She observes how mothers are encouraged to work but if they call out sick they won’t be seen as being dedicated enough to their jobs, she jokes about how mothers are told to breastfeed but then they must do so in a private space. She then comments about how a woman has to please her husband before he leaves her, and that woman are supposed to navigate these things all the while smiling (The skit is much funnier to watch). But seriously I have never heard anything so real in my life. My soul connected to that segment of her show because I feel the expectations that are placed on me now are higher than they have ever been. I want to think most of them are what I place on myself, but I’m not entirely sure. Here’s what a rundown of my day feels like: breastfeed, clean the house, find the burp cloth I left somewhere, make nutritious meals, workout (but make sure it’s a time when the baby is asleep or when I can feed her first), practice yoga and mindfulness, be environmentally conscious and use cloth diapers/ decomposable disposable diapers, change diapers, change baby’s outfit due to baby shitting up her entire back, do laundry, do more laundry, fold clothes, take my vitamins, play with the baby, but NO TV or electronics for baby, research vaccines, go to work, find time to finish paperwork, help others, pump while at work, carry pumping stuff to and from work, remember to eat, oops I lost the pacifier, where the HELL is the burp cloth, make time for friends, be a good wife, take care of myself. Sometimes I just want to explode.
Other days I feel super empowered and accomplished when I feel like I’ve done it all, and done it all well. My mood is so high and I feel like I can take on anything, and proud of myself for being able to accomplish so much.
On the days I forget something or feel I’m not doing my best, my mood plummets and I hit a low. I cried twice yesterday. When I’m overwhelmed, something as small as the paper towel roll not being replaced with a new paper towel spirals to the dark place in my mind where no one cares about me. Being a Mom also means a new level of guilt I have never experienced before. Even something as simple as making plans to celebrate a birthday escalates to having overwhelming guilt for wanting to be a role other than a parent and go out at night for the first time without my daughter. Having it all is not a set structure; it is a super delicate balancing act and one small move can make everything crumble.
On top of that, what’s been even more emotionally tolling is how I haven’t lost all of the baby weight yet. I am working out and eating healthy and expected that I should be back to my old size by now. Some women have boasted, oh just keep breastfeeding the weight will melt off. Well fuck them because it’s been almost three months since I had my baby and I’m still 15 pounds heavier than I was when I got pregnant. Which is another reason why there should be longer paid maternity leave in this country. No one talks about the distress of trying to fit back into your old work clothes only to find you are two inches from buttoning those pants.
And I don’t want to buy all new clothes (especially since I don’t have any money) when I plan to fit into my old clothes in just a few weeks (or so I have told myself).
All in all, you can probably see how I have or almost have a mild to severe mental breakdown almost daily. And despite my baby being the reason all of these things in my life have changed, looking at her and holding her makes all of the craziness go away, even if only for a few seconds. I have never experienced so much love and joy. I just have to turn some of that love towards myself and remind myself that I am absolutely doing the best I can, and that best is good enough. Also, please go find a mom and give her a big hug.