Monday, November 30, 2009

Learning to Be a Mother

I've been surprised to find that I've been nagged by a strange sense of anxiety since becoming a mom. Not enough to take away from the doting moments I've been sharing with the little guy, but enough to make me wonder what the hell is going on. Hormones? Definitely. The control freak in me rearing its enormous head in the midst of all the changes? Probably. Some unexamined fear creeping out? Hmmm...

You'd think after all the waiting and anticipating, I should just sit back and enjoy motherhood. That's what I expected. And most of the time, that's how it is. I hold the little guy tight across my chest and soak him in. But at random times throughout the day, the anxiety seeps out. When I find myself unshowered and undressed at 11 in the morning. When the feeding has been going on for over an hour, and I haven't yet crossed off any of the items on my to do list. When I realize that I have just a couple of hours left before it is bedtime again.

I sometimes feel like I should be somewhere else. As if there should be two of me -- one running around as I am used to doing and the other cuddling with the baby. I feel somewhat desperate and unproductive. And almost always, like I'm trying to catch up.

The anxiety was the worst about a month after delivery. When my parents had already left and we were trying to handle our new life on our own. We were starting to settle into a routine that was meant to give us time to get some sleep, to do all the tasks that needed to be done, and also to find some time for each other and ourselves. And discovered in the process that there isn't time to fit them all in.

I generally have a lot of anxiety about time. Probably from watching my parents work away for decades doing meaningless, repetitive labor -- only for the sake of making a living for the family. And because I so fear that such a big chunk of their lives had been wasted, I feel like I have to have something to show for my day -- something concrete that I can point to and assure myself that the day had been productive.

Being a mother is forcing me to let go of my desperate hold on time. I feel like I have to take some lessons in Zen Buddhism -- and learn how to focus on the moment at hand instead of keeping a part of me always speeding ahead. And to be ok with not being able to account for it by the tenth of a billable hour. And letting some things go.

But that would mean giving up my sense of control. Another thing I like to latch onto.

One of these days, I will learn these lessons.


  1. Aw... I don't know how to help with the inner unease, but something my husband and I have done is hire a dogwalker 3x a week to take him to parks and beaches to play with other dogs. And when the construction is done, we are going to call in the house cleaners to come regularly at least until I can be more productive around the house.

    Right now, I care for the baby and try to do a load of laundry a day. If I have a spare moment, I load or unload the dishwasher. I've totally been incapable of doing anything more but I think as the baby finds more of a schedule, I'll be able to cook a couple of times a week. I've been vacuuming when the baby gets fussy and can't fall asleep.

    Friends have been bringing over food and I haven't refused a single thing. They have been amazing.

    Letting other people take care of the day to day things has let me focus on learning to be a good and happy mom. I know that at the end of the week, I'm not going to be thinking about how many times I cooked but how many smiles J gave me. :)

  2. Bonding with the baby and stimulating and soothing him are not things that have concrete results. Guess there's kind of a blind faith you need to employ to believe it's worth it.

  3. I've been following your blog for over a year now, and first let me say congratulations! I am so happy for you and your family. As a mom of a 9 month old who has *so* been where you are, my best advice (though I know it is not original!) is to try as hard as you can to let go of that anxiety and pressure to get things done. It is so cliche, but this time passes so quickly. Soon your little man will be a more efficient eater, you'll be more mobile, you'll get into a routine, and you'll be able to be productive again. But for now, just enjoy how utterly content and blissful he is cuddled in your arms, sleeping or eating, how he wants nothing more than for you to hold him. I wish I had been able to appreciate that more. Easy to say on this side of things, I know, but trust me, soon enough he will be going to bed by 7pm, consistently napping during the day, playing away happily for bit on his own and wiggling out of your arms when you just want to hold him for a few moments! As someone who loves to check things off the to do list I know how hard it can be, but do try to savor these fleeting days of his newborn-hood!

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  5. I recently read _Buddhism for Mothers_ by Sarah Napthali. I found it very helpful and I highly recommend it!

  6. I ALWAYS feel like I haven't done enough.. but then I sit on the couch to watch some t.v. or log on to FB or twitter. I am such a contradiction. haha

    Anyway, my solution is to cuddle the baby as I watch t.v... trying to turn his head my way so he's not watching t.v. since, you know, t.v. is supposed to be bad for infants and all.

    In all seriousness, I don't think there is anyone out there who is the perfect mother. We all do the best we can. And yeah, cut yourself some slack. It's OK if you don't get 1000 things done in a day. Working full time with two kids, I feel like my house is always a mess. but it's ok. =)

    Call those cleaners I gave you the # to!

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  8. Those times are far behind me, but I remember them distinctly. I remember feeling very busy, very tired, and very bored intellectually. Being productive in the electronic world, as eingy says, seems to help a lot of people with that. You are so driven and so goal-oriented (it seems) that perhaps you are frustrated with how boring it can be to have only the day-to-day repetitive tasks to attend to. That's how it was for me. I loved cuddling, I loved holding her, and nursing was pretty cool, especially when I realized, wow, she's 8 pounds heavier than when she was born, and it all came from ME! But whew! My mind was bored out of itself.

  9. One other thought: sometimes, when you have a clean house, then mess it up, then clean it again, you turn around and think, well, nothing happened here today. Nothing actually got "done". It's the same as when we started. But have you ever seen that show "Hoarders"? Have you ever seen what NOT cleaning up everyday can look like? Sometimes I think of that to make me realize/appreciate/see value in the work that has been done. I think, "The lack of stink is a tangible result." Okay, that sounds gross, but for those of us dealing with diapers, it's a daily reality. And a tangible result!

  10. Congrats on the baby! I have been following your post, since I read about you on abovethelaw (and it is wonderful post!)

    Take you time and enjoy the moment. I'm also an ex-biglawfirm-lawyer, and it is hard to downshift to being a new mom where your accomplishments are feeding the baby 6 times a day and maybe a dinner for you and your husband.

    And in regard to the Thanksgiving problem, I take one magnesium vitamin each day, you can get them at any vitamin store. Works like a charm to avoid this problem.