Welcome to the Mothers Club!
There are so many fantastic things about being a Mum. Nothing can compare to the feelings of love, joy and satisfaction motherhood can bring. But some aspects can also be really hard. And whilst its easy to share our happiness with other people, it is often not as easy to share our frustrations and disappointments.
They say that "it takes a village to raise a child". In other cultures, and in our own culture in the past, people lived in extended families with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins living close by. Families shared the responsibilities of rearing children. Most women went into motherhood with realistic expectations of what life with a baby would be like and a lot of practical support to help them. These days we live in isolation, often far away from parents, siblings and friends.
And whilst everyone is keen to give you advice (have you noticed?!) about how to avoid stretch marks, burp a baby or start them on solids, hardly anyone talks about stress management or how to adjust to new rhythms in life. This can mean that some of us go into motherhood with much less than the whole picture and as a result think there is something wrong with us, our partner or our baby, if our expectations are not met. But YOU ARE NOT ALONE...there are plenty of mothers out there who are sharing your experiences and others who are willing to support you through them.
Take the Mum Quiz below if you need a laugh, or use the menu (right) to find support for your stage of the journey. There are additional resources at the bottom of each section. You could even read ahead if you want to prepare yourself for the next stage. Often the most important support we need is information - so we can feel prepared, validated or have a better understanding of ourself, our partner or our little ones.
Your partner wants to try and change your 2 week old baby's nappy. You:a) Don't let him within 10 ft of the baby b) Let him have a go, see he's messing it up, and take over telling him he "doesn't do it right" c) Watch with amusement as he struggles with it, but know that he will improve with practice d) Say "Great, thanks" and leave him to it
Remember how you felt the first time you changed your baby's nappy - maybe a bit nervous and like you were all thumbs? It takes some time to learn any new skill, but the more practice you get the better you are. The same rules apply here. Let your partner help in any way they want - it is just as important for your baby to have day to day interaction with the both of you, it means that you get to finish that cup of tea you made an hour ago, and if you let your partner help you will feel grateful towards them, if you don't you might feel resentful - so C or D is best.
You can tell your partner is sick of eating spaghetti four nights in a row, but you just can't seem to find the time and energy to fix something different. He looks at the dinner table and raises an eyebrow in question. You:
a) Burst into tears and run out of the room
b) Ignore him & spend dinner in silence
c) Explain to him how little time you have & work out a couple of different ways you can get some food on the table quickly and easily
d) Throw the spaghetti at him
BC (Before Children) your partner's needs were probably just as important to you as your own (or depending on how you were raised, even more important). AD (After Delivery) however, your baby's needs all of a sudden are number one, and your partner's relegated to number two (or three if you are doing a really good job of looking after yourself). If you haven't discussed this at all, this can be a big adjustment for your partner, and leave them feeling a little left out, and dejected, especially if they don't know how long this new pecking order is going to last. Some partners can start to feel "used" at about this time - like they are only there to meet the needs of you and the baby, and no-one cares about them.
Talk about how the new status quo is going to affect your day to day lives. Remember that this is only a temporary situation - life with a new baby can be chaotic and it takes a while for things to settle down and the whole family to find their daily rhythm. Every time baby's sleep patterns change, the whole situation can be turned on its head again.
Try to communicate on a regular basis with your partner, it can be too easy just to let things build up and then explode. Take responsibility for your feelings and how you express them. By giving your partner a little at a time as the days go on, you avoid throwing the spaghetti! So, keep the lines of communication open and go for C.
You have just mastered breastfeeding your four week old baby and life feels like its getting back to some sort of normality. You plan on spending the next 6 months or so on redecorating the nursery now that you know the sex of your baby, continue breastfeeding, and spend as much spare time as you can reading books on the emotional development of toddlers. Your husband is starting to get nervous about the bills that have been mounting up since you left your job and starts making hints about you going back to work. You:
a) Scream hysterically "what are you talking about?!?!?"
b) Feel guilty about not earning any money and start thinking about weaning the baby and browsing the "Positions Vacant" ads about weaning the baby and browsing the "Positions Vacant ads
c) Calmly discuss the pros and cons of you looking for a part-time job
d) Tell him that whilst you understand his concerns, but that the baby is your priority at the moment, see if you can jointly find ways of saving money and re-evaluate your situation in six months time.
Very often we make assumptions about how our lives will be and assume that our partners will be in agreement with our decisions. This lack of communication can lead to unrealistic expectations, or expectations not being met resulting in anxiety and resentment. It's important that you discuss your expectations with your partner all along the way on this journey you have taken together, what you see your options as being and how you think it best to negotiate them. So C or D depending on how you feel about the situation, and what your plans are.
Your day started at 4.00 this morning with a hungry baby. You have been up twice since then because she hasn't settled. It's now 8.00 and you've had two attempts at making breakfast because every time you put the baby down, she cries. Feeding her is taking close to two hours at a time because she keeps falling asleep. It's 11.00 and you are still in your pyjamas. You're too afraid to have a shower in case you don't hear her crying. You're so stressed you've forgotten to eat lunch and the place is in a mess. The afternoon is a repeat performance of the morning and you haven't had time to fix dinner for tonight. Your partner gets home at 6.00 and makes a comment about having a hard day at work. You:
a) Go for the jugular
b) Slump your shoulders in defeat, feel incredibly depressed and think how lucky he is to leave the house every day, but say nothing
c) Burst into tears
d) Understand that you both have different but equally important pressures at the moment, and share a hug so you both feel better
Your partner has probably never spent a whole day looking after a small baby so they have no idea about the chaos and confusion and how you can spend a whole day working non-stop but appearing that you have achieved absolutely nothing. Looking after a small baby is like being thrown into the deep end - you suddenly have a job where you have responsibility for something very precious and demanding and unpredictable, but you have no training and no trial run. And in fact, you HAVE achieved a lot. If you have managed to cater to most of your baby's needs to be fed, clean and close to you for most of the day then you are doing your job BRILLIANTLY!! Remember though, this time is a period of adjustment for all three of you and your partner may need some reassurance just as much as you do.
You've just had your six week post-partum check up and the doctor says it's OK for you to have sex again. You:
a) Look sad and lie to your partner and say "The doctor says it's going to be at least 6 months before we can have sex again"
b) Look sad and lie to your partner and say "The doctor says it's going to be at least 12 months before we can have sex again"
c) Grit your teeth and hope for the best
d) Buy a bottle of wine, some candles and a new CD
Many, many women aren't very excited at the prospect of having sex EVER AGAIN after the birth of their gorgeous bundles, so don't feel inferior if this is the case for you. The reason for this is a mixture of hormones, sore internal and external bits, exhaustion and feeling that because you are currently somewhere between being a machine and a cow you're just not very sexy. The best thing you can do is discuss this with your partner, and let them know how you feel and that you would really appreciate their patience. The more patient and supportive they are, the more you will appreciate them and the more affectionate you will feel, and the more likely you will want to express your affection for them...