The Myth of The Calm Mother
Sometimes I look back at my days after giving birth and I do have regret.
I wish I hadn’t of been so stressed out. I wish anxiety hadn’t robbed me of some of the joys I fantasized that I should have been experiencing.
I wish the fantasy of being a calm mother hadn’t plagued me so much.
I often wondered if all moms were like I was after giving birth. The constant worry and mind-bending frustration. I looked at some moms and I would see them laughing and talking with their babies, carrying them around as if on a cloud. Were they really that comfortable and carefree?
Oh, how I longed to be like that.
I wondered if perhaps some women were just more serene and naturally non-plussed than others having kids? Is it just our individual personalities, or does having a baby just suit some women more than others?
Don’t get me wrong, as a newborn, my baby was beautiful and healthy. The only problem was, I was a wreck. My baby almost never slept and was very active. As an “older” mom of 35, I could barely keep up.
Breastfeeding was incredibly challenging for me. I was so stubborn and afraid of switching to formula that I continued to try even after I had become depleted and raw with exhaustion. My baby needed more, and I eventually gave in the supplementing with formula. For a long time, I felt like a failure.
Did I need to go through all of these personal trials in order to figure out that worrying so much wouldn’t really help me? That worrying about every, tiny, little detail really did more damage than not? That my baby wouldn’t know the difference if I had actually taken help and napped for 2 hours instead of being so rock-hard stubborn that I dismissed sleep?
But I’ve come to realize that having a baby later in life after being a single, working woman for so many years was quite a shock to the system. I realize now that most of the fretting I did was because I was shedding my old skin.
The transformation that occurs when you go from only caring about yourself to having a tiny person to worry about 24/7 is indeed a revelation. I don’t know if it has to do with the age I was when I got pregnant, or the lifestyle I had previously, but motherhood made me more anxious than ever.
I ended up falling down the rabbit hole of not taking care of myself at all. By worrying so much about my performance as a mother I still didn’t comprehend that my child simply needed me whether I was the “perfect” mother or not. The anxiety was a symptom of my perfectionism about being the best mother in the world.
Motherhood is not easy and new moms should know that it’s not easy. Trying to be some idea of perfect as a mother is a sickness and it can damage you.
The fantasy of being a carefree, worry-free mother still exists in my mind, but I’ve come to realize that all moms are worried about something. It may not be the same things I worry about, but it’s certainly whatever lies in the path toward their own journey of self-discovery as a mother.
The myth of some calm, anxiety-free mother is just that. A myth. Some women just adapt at a more balanced pace based on their own experiences and personalities. It’s nothing to do with being better or more calm.
Anxiety can ruin lives. It can cause more pain than is needed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed — get help. Tell someone.
It’s vital to know that no person or mother is perfect and we all have our demons to work through. Know that your child doesn’t want you to be perfect. They just want you.
More from Michelle: I know Why You Are Exhausted