When my second child was about six weeks old, a friend’s mom made an offhand comment about how she raised her kids without any of “the help mom s have nowadays with daycare.” She failed to mention that she had her own mom down the street and several other family members only a two minute drive away. I am not saying it was easy for her, but she did have support. Instantly I was irritated.
A few days later another grandmother that I know said that she barely ever had a babysitter for her boys while they were growing up. She failed to mention that she had both sets of grandparents living in the same tiny town as her and they even lived with one set of grandparents for an extended time. Now I was infuriated. Both of these comments came as I was talking about sending my eldest son to daycare. Behind my anger, I felt ashamed and had thoughts like I was not doing a good enough job as a mom because of needing support in the form of daycare. This is the last thing that a mom needs at any time but especially when raising a newborn and a two year old with no family support. With my hormones still being a bit out of whack after birth and surviving on limited sleep, these messages were not received well. Raising young kids is a vulnerable time for moms. Messages like we are doing great, that parenting really is hard and that getting support is okay would be received more easily.
Subtle messages like those above can be dangerous for new moms who are already feeling a bit unsure of themselves. These can be perceived as suggesting that they are weak if they seek assistance, not capable as a mom, or not doing a good enough job. This can keep moms from asking for help, not prioritizing their own needs and feeling shame. These out-dated norms and expectations on moms have got to change and women need to be on the forefront of this change.
We cannot do it all, all the time, all by ourselves
I’m currently raising two little boys as the primary carer. We reside in Australia while all our family live three flights away in Canada. My husband is very supportive but works full time. It is a struggle. Ask anyone to spend every day with a newborn and toddler while also playing full time housekeeper, dry cleaner and chef. Forget about there being time to be a happy wife, supportive friend or career driven woman! It is insane to expect that is possible. The expectation that moms can do it all is a recipe for insanity.
This is why I get so angry when I hear other women subtly and maybe even unconsciously sending damaging message to new moms. I did it all by myself (so why can’t you?). Moms have it easy these days (not tough like we had it). It is totally invalidated and unhelpful.
Being selfless is overrated
Recently a friend posted on Facebook thanking his wife for how selfless she is and how she always puts everyone else first. Moms are expected to be selfless, be able to do it all on their own and not go completely crazy? Uh!
Being selfless is NOT a good thing. It irks me that this is a positive way to describe ‘good’ mothers. Like flight attendants tell us, ‘put your oxygen mask on before assisting others’, moms are no good to anyone else if we are exhausted, going a bit batty or resentful. That’s certainly not the recipe for being the kind, present and fun mom I want to be. How about you? Taking care of ourselves is essential so we can show up as the best version of ourselves and be the parent we want to be.
A very smart psychologist once told me that as a mom you have to be clear on your priorities of importance. First priority is yourself, second is your relationship with your partner and third is being a parent. She was adamant that this prioritizing was best for everyone involved, especially the kids. This does not condone neglect, but it does emphasize the importance of taking care of yourself. Healthy and happy parents who have a solid, supportive relationship with one another are able to show up for their children as the best parents they can be.
Get clear on what your needs are and prioritize them. It isn’t easy but being burnt out is even harder. Let’s stop trying to do it all ourselves! That isn’t how mothering is supposed to be.
Seeking help is a good thing
Women need to start being okay with and even proud of asking for help. We are not meant to do this parenting thing alone. That isn’t the way we evolved as a species. We lived in tribes or communities where we lived in close proximity to each other and supported others. This was how humans survived. In modern-day we all live in our own little boxes often far from our support networks.
I love the daycare my two-year-old son goes to a few days each week and so does he. We are all better for it. He has fun with three other children, learns new songs, paints, bakes, feeds the chickens and has developed a close attachment to another consistent, caring adult. I get a break to make food, write a little and spend one on one time with my new little guy. My baby gets more attention from mom and catches up on the sleep he misses out on when his older brother is home. My husband comes home to a happier, more emotionally stable wife, and if he’s lucky a yummy meal.
Moms need to be proud to ask for help. It is a sign of strength, not weakness. If we are open about getting support, then others will be less intimidated to do so too. And most importantly, let’s consider how our words may be affecting others. We are all doing the best we can. Let’s be understanding, kind and supportive of other moms and of ourselves.
So many of us are raising our kids far away from the support of our families. We are lacking the communities we need. And the entire mental and physical load is falling on the parents – especially the moms. Went I get a little break from my kids, I come back more relaxed, rejuvenated and excited to be with them. I’m a better parent for it.
What help do you get? Let’s change the conversation and make it normal to stop raising our kids all alone.
Personal letters from Dr Hilary Claire delivered right to your inbox to help you do the best for your little ones’ health without burning out.
For a regular dose of useful resources and articles from Dr Hilary Claire delivered straight to your inbox pop your details below.