We often talk about pressure, mainly how much pressure we feel in our jobs. Burn out is something that slowly but surely gets taken seriously. And looking at what’s actually going on in our lives nowadays it’s not wonder that we feel more and more pressure on us.
I often talk about how much easier it was in a certain way years ago before email and mobile phones existed. You corresponded by letters or maybe over the phone and then maybe by telex and eventually by fax. But you had time. You had time to read, time to decide, time to think of an answer, the best way to react. Now you no longer have that luxury.
We demand answers right away. If an email doesn’t get a respond the same day or at least the next morning, it’s already considered an issue. If you don’t answer your phone, you get in trouble. What are we doing to ourselves? The pressure is on in the workplace. But the pressure is on in our private life too. Especially when you have children.
I could go on and on about the pressure we face related to our jobs but I would much rather like to spread some light on our private world. Especially the world of us, the moms. I think there is so much pressure on us. From the very moment we realize that there is a little life developing in our womb. All the influences from the outside, the fact that we face something that you honestly have to go through to grasp what it really means. You can read as many books and watch as many documentaries as you want, nothing can really prepare you for what you will go through. Because we are all different and we all handle it in our own way.
It starts with the fact that we, of course, will get bigger over the time of the pregnancy. That is a fact, nothing we can change. And we might face cravings. So maybe we aren’t disciplined enough to resist those cravings and gain extra weight. Only to be told by the outside world that we shouldn’t. Heaps changes, our body, our energy level and the hormones they just go crazy. And still we have to look our best. We need to, and maybe want to, keep doing what we used to do.
But most of all: We want to be the best mom ever. Give our baby the best possible start into this world. Eat healthy and make sure that our son or daughter is as healthy as possible.
Then the baby arrives and life changes so abruptly. Nothing is the same anymore. The relationship gets tested. Everyone’s does to a certain point because suddenly you are no longer just a couple. There is someone new in the relationship, someone who clearly needs all of the attention. And there is this lack of sleep. The hormones are still running wild.
And yet we think that our body needs to be back to what it was prior to the pregnancy. We think that the baby should sleep through much sooner and that those little issues with breast feeding are bothering you because it makes you question how good of a mother you are.
There are moments where you are close to losing it. Just because you are super tired and you feel like you need to bend and stretch in all directions just to fulfill everyone’s needs and desires. After all you want to be a good mother, a good wife, a good partner a good friend, a good daughter and just a good person in general.
Your house is a mess, your hair has not been washed for days and the laundry is piling up. Everything that you handled in a heartbeat prior to having a baby suddenly turned into a huge task. And you struggle to understand how. After all you had a plan. You would not get there. You would not turn into one of those moms that “let themselves go”. You thought it would be easy. Just take that short amount of time, maybe when the baby sleeps or then let it cry for a little bit. Take that shower, wash your hair, clean the house. Just do what you always did.
Now you realize that it’s not that easy. It’s not working the way you’ve planned it. And you feel bad about it. Because you see others. You meet them in your mother’s group and they always look so nice. They tell you that their babies sleep through for weeks already. They tell you about the lunch they had with their friend and that they are in training for running a marathon. And while you are listening you can feel your stitches and only the idea of running a couple of meters makes you feel sore in places you never thought you would feel sore. At least not from running…
And you feel like a loser. How can they be there already? You thought your baby was actually easy but now, listening to them, it seems like they won and you lost. How can they manage to shower, put make up on and dress nicely, not to speak about getting back to exercise on a regular base and going out? What are you doing wrong?
Maybe you decide to just deal with it. After all you have your friends. The friends that you always had lunch with, always went out. And you start to think about when was the last time you had a proper conversation with them. Then you realize that it has been a long time. You decide to go back home and call them. But the conversation ends up being so different to what it used to be. They talk about all that stuff that no longer seems important to you. Shopping, the newest fashion, work, maybe their new boyfriend. But they really don’t understand your struggles with using the bathroom in piece. The struggle of being able to actually take your time if you need to go. “Just let your baby cry” they say. They don’t understand that a crying baby can be a huge challenge. That it can push you to the point where you think you’re going to lose it. After all it’s “just” a baby. They don’t know what it can do to you. They don’t know how close to a burn out you are at the moment. And they would never understand it, if you would mention it to them.
It’s been weeks since the baby was born. You feel it’s finally time to entertain some friends at your house again. It will be fine. You found some cloths that actually look okay although your tummy still looks like a pregnant belly. But you found something you can sort of hide it. The baby is at a point where you can feed it and then let it sleep for a couple of hours. That would give you time to prepare dinner, feed the baby, make sure the baby sleeps before everyone arrives and then actually sit down and enjoy a nice evening with your friends.
So you clean the house to a point where you think it’s fine. It hasn’t looked as neat for weeks. You juggle the baby and preparing nibbles and dinner almost like a superwoman. You actually manage to ignore the crying while you dress up and put make up on. Put you cut some corners. At least your hair is washed today.
Everything goes according to plan. Your husband arrives home from work early enough to actually help you out with setting the table, putting on some music and lighting some candles. You feed the baby as it’s time now. Of course it takes longer than usual and right when the doorbell rings your darling surprises you with vomiting all over you. Too late, your guest are here. The pressure is on. You open the door and although they try not to you can feel how they stare at the mess covering your new blouse.
You apologize and let your hubby in charge of drinks and nibbles. You just quickly put the baby down and change and you will be right with them. At least that’s what you thought. Usually your baby falls asleep in no time. But not today. It takes forever and right when those eyes are finally closed and the breathing is finally even the loud laughter of your friends wakes your darling up again.
Your husband opens the door and slightly irritated asks when you will finally join them. You could kill him. Just start with dinner and leave me alone, you think. You can hear how he apologizes and you hate him for this. And you hate the fact that you are with your crying baby, still covered in vomit. You hate to hear your friends laugh and the clink of the glasses. Oh how much you would love to drink a glass of wine. Actually empty an entire bottle right now. But you are a good mom and a good mom doesn’t drink while she breastfeeds.
You manage to put the baby back to bed and finally those eyes close again. By now you feel exhausted. It’s been months since you’ve properly slept. Just five minutes, you think and you sit down and take a deep breath. You wake up when the door opens again and your husband whispers that it might be nice of you to quickly come downstairs to say goodbye to everyone. You can’t believe you did this! You get up and get back to your guests just in time to say goodbye, still wearing the blouse covered in now dry vomit. You don’t care anymore.
You failed. You failed being a perfect mom. Your child doesn’t sleep when you want your baby to. You failed as you can’t entertain and be a mom. You failed as although it’s been weeks since birth you still have a huge tummy. You failed because dinner burned while you were with the baby. You failed as a friend. You failed because you just realized that there was still a diaper from the last change sitting on the coffee table… And you know you will fail again when going back to bed because you will be too exhausted to even look at your husband and say good night, not mentioning being in the mood for anything more. It’s been weeks since the birth and you don’t feel even slightly close to being in the mood for sex.
You failed. As a mom, as a friend, as a housewife, as an entertainer, as a cleaner, as a woman and as a wife. The pressure on your shoulders feels unbearable. It pushes you down. You feel the tears fill your eyes. You feel the frustration inside of you grow. How can you let yourself go like this?
You are about to lose it. That’s it. You feel like you can’t go on anymore. Your body feels heavy, your energy is nowhere to be found. You consider locking yourself into the bathroom and never come out again. You manage to clean yourself up and put your pj’s on and while your husband cleans up downstairs you disappear into the bedroom and hide below your blanket. You never thought that being a mom would mean so much pressure. It all seemed so easy. It will never end, you think. I will never be able to sleep again. You check the time and you know that you have three hours if your lucky. Three hours. You question your decision to breastfeed. They said it would be easy. They said it would be the right thing to do for the baby. What about you? All the babies that sleep through are bottle fed. Why are you doing this to yourself. If you would bottle feed your baby, your husband could do a feed every now and then. That would give you some time to just do what you need to do. But breastfeeding is better for the baby. And it will help your body heal and get back to normal. If it will ever get back to normal again…
All those diapers. The vomit. The routine you so want your baby to have. All the advice they give you. And most of it doesn’t work for you and your baby. Why? Why is there no manual? You thought it would be easy. Just stick to your routine. Just breastfeed. Just…
Then the door opens. Your husband comes in and sits down on your side of the bed. Your body tightens. Please, you think, please don’t make me disappoint you. Please don’t make me say no to sex again. You know you couldn’t handle this tonight…
Softly he pulls the blanket back and kisses you on your cheek.
“I’m so happy to be your husband. You are such a wonderful person. I’m so lucky to have you. You are such a great mom.”
Tears run down your cheek. How can he say this?
“It’s crazy what you do all day. I don’t know how you handle it. You’re such a strong person, such a lovely mom, such a beautiful woman. Look at our baby. Look at what you give our darling. All the love. All your time. Thank you so much for being such a great mom. Now sleep. I just wanted to say thank you. You need your rest. I clean up the rest and tomorrow I’ll take care of the laundry. I love you.”
He gives you another kiss and goes back downstairs. Although you still feel the pressure and the tears still run down your cheek, you know again what it’s all for. You look at your baby sleeping in the crib next to you and you understand why you do it. You listen to the breathing and you know that you would never ever want to go back to the time before you got pregnant. You know that handling pressure in your job would most probably be the easier option and you are aware that it’s only the beginning but you know that it will always be worth it.
It’s the moment you realize that from now on pressure has reached an entirely new level. The responsibility of being a mom, a parent has catapulted you into another league and you know that you will never ever want to settle for the second best or agree on a compromise when it comes down to the well being of your baby.
You wipe your tears off your face and suddenly, instead of pressure, you feel pride. You feel strong. Although you know that you will most probably have a mom’s burn out moment again, you realize that you can handle it. That you will get up again and keep going. That it will actually make you stronger and more determined to do it your way.
It’s the moment your life changes again because from being a scared cat you now turned into a strong lioness. Ready to give everything for your baby. Ready to take on the world as a mom.