TITLE: Encouraging Mums: 31 Days of Hope. Day 1) The Dream Versus Reality Day 2) Unmet Expectations - 17th August 2016
By Nicki Jeffery
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Day 1) The Dream versus Reality
Cradling your baby in your arms. Relishing each moment. Pushing the pram around the shops as strangers coo at your little one. Enjoying steaming cuppas with friends. Perfect health for you and your baby.
I don’t know about you, but I thought life would be perfect when I had my baby. I would have achieved my dream. I would be living with my husband and my baby, at the beach, having already become a primary school teacher and an author. All my goals wrapped up in one complete package. Life would be bliss.
I married at the age of 28. My first live birth happened when I was 31 [I miscarried my first blighted ovum pregnancy]. The average age of a first time mother in Australia is currently 28.6 years.
I grew up dreaming of meeting my prince charming, marrying him, having babies and living happily ever after. Like many 21st century women, I had my career goals too. My steady diet of Disney movies, playing Barbies and long conversations with my mother about my plans, fed these desires.
What was your dream? Has it come true? Has reality distorted what you had in mind?
You may have dreamed of sons and had daughters. You may have dreamed of able bodied children and had a child with a mental or physical disability. You may have dreamed of giving birth to a tribe and found yourself with an only child. Or thought you would be raising your children with a loving partner, but found yourself a single mother.
Dreams can be dashed by reality. What can you do when this happens? Is there a way through the storm?
Day 2) Unmet Expectations
Do you expect a lot from yourself? Consider these areas of motherhood:
Working outside the home
I felt my throat constricting as I threw a spare bib into my nappy bag. “How do other mothers do it?” I moaned.
The nappy bag checklist was pinned to the cork board. My darting eyes scanned the list again. I added a yellow Baby Beehinds nappy cover to the bulging bag. Then I picked up my baby and he arched his back as I attempted to strap him into his pram.
Just a short walk down to the shops. Why so much organisation? For me, a messy person, I struggle with organisation. And I struggled with what I would face at the Plaza. The familiar angst over my monthly appointment with the child health nurse. She was a lovely lady, but I always felt like I was going for a test when I saw her, and failing each time.
“Is baby meeting his milestones?” Actually, no. “Is he in the healthy weight and height range for his age?” Perhaps not.
I religiously saw the child health nurse for my firstborn son. With my second, I stopped going after a couple of appointments. She sent me to the doctor with Ethan, claiming that my baby had uneven creases below his backside. My GP laughed when I mentioned the reason for our appointment with her.
You have enough doubts about motherhood without the pressure that comes from certain medical professionals. Yes, they mean well. They are doing their jobs. But you are in a fragile mental state as you start this new job you know little about.
I expected happiness but experienced sadness. I expected tears of joy but shed more tears of grief. I expected a community but experienced loneliness. I expected my maternal instinct to kick in but I floundered.
What I discovered over time was that I am a perfectionist. Not the kind of perfectionist whose house is spotless and who makes “to do” lists whose items actually get ticked off when completed. Not the kind of perfectionist whose outfits are colour coordinated down to matching shoes and scarves. Not the kind of perfectionist who is punctual with flawless makeup [I read on Instagram the other day, “Always remember, it’s better to arrive late than to arrive ugly.” @quotecatalogue].
The kind of perfectionist I am is the kind that expects much of herself. According to the Centre for Clinical Interventions, I set unrelenting high standards for myself [Perfectionism in Perspective].
You don’t need to try and be the perfect mother. The perfect mother does not exist. Be the “good enough” mother. Let yourself off the hook.
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