Tips for New Moms: Get Ready to Regress

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Prior to our quest to have families, most of us moms were headstrong women in a Western world that prizes independence, self-sufficiency, mastery, productivity, efficiency, and money. Ask a woman what she liked best about herself before she became a wife and mother and you're likely to hear: "I was on my own and made my own way in the world," "I was admired for my work," "I depended on myself for almost everything," or "I was free to pounce on opportunities."

Then plop this independent gal into motherhood and see how she flails. The masculine traits that served women well in career and life immediately clash with the requirements of mothering.

In Women's Moods: What Every Woman Must Know about Hormones, the Brain, and Emotional Health, Deborah Sichel, M.D., and Jeanne Watson Driscoll, M.S., R.N., C.S., say it well: "The postpartum period is an inherently regressive time, when a woman needs to depend on others for care, food and safety. She must be able to relinquish her assertive role and allow others to care for her so she is freed to care for her baby."

Indeed, this is a tall order. Drop that recordbreaking efficiency and your down-to-a-science multi-tasking, because your maximum speed will now be a snail-paced ten miles per hour. You must focus on each infinitesimally tiny miracle of your baby's first months and be present "in the moment," not distracted by the fourteen other tasks you're used to simultaneously managing. For the next year, you will accomplish absolutely nothing except for feeding and diapering. And, despite your usual comprehensive research and thoughtful planning, your child will prove so unpredictable that feeling good about your work, much less that you're on top of it, is out of the question.

In business jargon, Western moms go into parenting with an entirely different "skill set" than that which the job requires. Legend has it we're endowed with the right stuff for motherhood, except that most of us are rusty, having spent the last decade or two working in other arenas than babysitting. The adjustment is so abrupt and so dramatic that it paralyzes many moms, with the exception of a few women I met who had remained especially close to their extended families. These moms had realistic expectations of life with small children because of their longtime exposure to the little menaces.



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excerpted from:

From What No One Tells the Mom by Marg Stark. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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