Tips for New Moms: Three Steps for Sanity
To consistently perform to your ability, however, you must take care of yourself. And that's where most moms falter, because InStyle magazine does not interview a movie-star's nanny nor tell us about the manicure appointments the celeb goes to instead of taking "baby and me" classes at Gymboree.
The same way doctors cover up for celebrity patients, I had to learn to cover up for myself. Based on what society expected of me in what it deemed my most important role in life, I persuaded myself it was shameful to resent motherhood, shameful to want more from life than my beautiful husband and children. In my rush to provide for others the past five years, I denied myself personal pleasures: trips to the library in which I got to choose a book; massages and leisurely museum strolls; walks alone, and window-shopping; writing in my journal in a café, or sitting on a beach by myself.
Yet, I could not imagine embracing a life that openly allowed me these treats, when my kids spent half their weekdays with a caretaker. So I created my "secret life" tunnels and hideaways into which my soul could duck and cover for a furtive half-hour, three hours, or an entire weekend. I didn't ask permission to spend money or take the time. I didn't tell anyone where I'd been or what I'd done. I just went somewhere my heart desired, took in something that I would appreciate more than anyone, and stashed the pleasure away like a ring from a boyfriend who comes from the wrong side of the tracks. In secret I can feel the weight and giggly expanse of it, the fullest measure of pleasure, without worrying what anyone else will think.
It's really sad that moms feel they must go underground to care for themselves. It's unconscionable that our society should expect us to march our progeny into good citizenship, without regard for our own health and sustenance. But most moms I know don't have the wherewithal to defend their needs at the same time they're working full-time, getting kids to school, supporting their husbands' careers, caring for aging parents, providing snacks for sports and extracurricular activities, volunteering, and fund-raising for their children's schools or organizations.
So we have to have top-quality chocolate stashed somewhere only we know about. A book of sonnets in the bathroom. A massage therapist or make-up counter on speed dial. Or, a list of "favorite places I never get to go" folded and pressed into the glove compartment.
Believe me, you never want to go to the well and hear the bucket scraping rock on the bottom. You never want to feel, as I did once, that you and your family are hanging by this rope, coming up plaited with despair and dry as a bone. You have to find a way to keep your spirit moist and alive, both for yourself and for the sake of your family.
More on: Adjusting to New Motherhood
From What No One Tells the Mom by Marg Stark. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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