Wait- they’re not supposed to go in the car seat like this?!
Here is what I envisioned happening after I had a baby:
My mom or mother in law would come over the day we arrived home from the hospital. One of them might even plan to stay with us for that first crazy week or so! We would all sit around talking about how amazing motherhood is while drinking some tea. They would help out with cleaning or cooking or let me catch a few zzz’s. They would teach me all the ways of parenthood. Helping me with breastfeeding, bathing her, swaddling and how to get that munchkin to finally burp, you know, the basics.
Here is what actually happened:
My husband and I brought our sweet girl home to an empty house, minus the super excited doggies (yes we introduced them). I balled over EVERYTHING, everyday for quite possibly the first 3 months of her life. Breastfeeding was a nightmare (yay breast reduction!) which led to…you guessed it, more crying. I think my sister in law cooked us one meal, other than that I don’t recall eating the first week (who has time for that?)! Clearly I’m still kicking it so I somehow didn’t starve to death! We figured out how to swaddle correctly by watching YouTube videos and bathing took 3 people assisting in the kitchen sink. Thanks goodness for SIL’s! For the most part, we were ALONE and it was absolutely terrifying.
With the second baby, even worse, because my husband couldn’t stay home with me right away like the first pregnancy. I am still annoyed thinking about the time he wanted to go help a friend move furniture the day after we brought #2 home. “Why yes! Please leave me alone, bleeding, in pain, with a 14 month old and a newborn. That would be great!” Pretty sure he just wanted to get away from all of the screaming and crying (and the girls were pretty bad too…I joke!) and who can blame him. I didn’t shower for a day or two either those first couple weeks- but who’s counting right?
All About Expectations…
Needless to say, my expectations were maaaaybe a little out of whack with reality. The truth is, my mom still works as a full-time psych nurse. Adrian’s mom still works part-time and wrangles 3 (at the time) other grandchildren and other friends and family were working too. At least in my experience, grandparents of “gen x’ers” or “Xennials” as I like to refer to myself, want to have their own lives, not revolving around grandkids and babysitting.
My mom tells me that I parent much differently than she did and she considers me the quintessential “helicopter mom,” which could possibly be true. However, I believe that our generation is parenting in a whole new way than previous generations have seen. The vast majority of our friends have kids and I can tell you that our lives undoubtedly revolve around these sweet little tornadoes. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, but we also have this expectation that our parents should feel the same, which may not always be the case. My mom is divorced and looks forward to her free time reading, dating and taking care of her own father. There are just other priorities and I’ve had to learn to accept this.
There Goes the Village…
Shortly after my second daughter, Roslyn, was born, a friend posted an article online that talked about the loss of the “village,” as in the wonderful old proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This conjures images of Little House on the Prairie where the entire town comes to visit the freshly birthed babe. The women would share in the housework and the elders would spew their infinite wisdom. The truth is, we no longer live in a society where there is a “village.” You’re lucky if you don’t get a lawsuit slapped on you for correcting a child who isn’t yours and while everyone loves to give advice, a lot of new mothers and people in general get irritated constantly hearing it. Let’s face it, we’re pretty much all on our own…but maybe we’re actually part of the problem.
I remember telling mom that things had changed quite a bit in 34 years (back/side sleeping, elaborate car seats, sleeping with blankets and stuffed animals, adding rice to milk and so on) which I know led her to feel judged and inadequate around little Lana. I know I like my laundry done a certain way, dishwasher loaded to exact specifications and the couch cushions placed “just so.” Maybe I was too critical when my mom did come to visit and I certainly didn’t feel like I could ask my friends to wash my underwear.
Not only that, we read so many articles (at least I did) that say no to visitors at the hospital, not to allow house guests after bringing home the baby, and why you shouldn’t let anyone kiss your newborn. Clearly if you have or are getting a coldsore, you shouldn’t be holding, kissing or anywhere near a newborn. This seems like common sense. The articles do seem to have some good points, but I think we also have to keep this within reason.
What other choice do we have?
Bottom line is that our society is effectively telling mothers and new parents that we SHOULD be doing it alone but every instinct has us craving that social intimacy. That longing to share the adorable, sweet, newness laying in our arms with all of our favorite people (queue the 20K Facebook posts!).
Most of us have families that are spread out over multiple cities and states and certainly aren’t living next door (as was the case for me growing up- hi grandpa!). So while we are more distant to our tribe physically, we are more distant mentally as well. This leads us to believing that we can and should be going it alone. I think part of this loss is why we are hearing more about post-partum depression than ever before. We need someone there to cry with, laugh with, clean all.the.things. up with. Humans are social creatures and we literally do need each other to survive.
Believe it or not we do have choices here. We can stop being so nit picky and offended by every.little.thing. Let your people visit you, let them help you, ASK them for help (make that phone call!). I honestly know that my friends would wash my undies in a second if I asked. Let them hold your baby while you nap, let them feed the baby a bottle (gasp!) while you catch up on some soaps (oh man did those come back to me sitting at home all day!). We have to be willing to let our “helicopter” ways go for two seconds to realize that we absolutely can do it all, but we don’t have to. It’s so much less stress-inducing when you have your tribe with you.
A million photos like this…probably watching soaps.