Monday, January 18, 2010

On Not Trying for Perfection

I've been having difficulty writing my posts these days. It's hard to find the time to sit down and write some coherent thoughts. And when you've spent the day singing nursery rhymes and making googly faces, it's difficult to switch gears. When I sit down to write, I find my mind becoming vacant. I've tried to write in the past few days, and I write out a sentence or two and then peeter off. I've been thinking about this, and I am starting to wonder if it is partly because I find it difficult to write honestly without playing into some stereotyped role of motherhood.

As a new mom, I've had a lot of complicated and confused thoughts about the changes we've been experiencing since our little guy's arrival. I absolutely adore our little guy and feel so grateful that he's here with us. But with the bliss comes a host of changes, some of which I anticipated and others that I didn't -- and I find myself reacting to some of them with a lot of intense emotions and anxiety that seem to bubble up from a well I hadn't drawn from in years.

Writing about all of those, however, doesn't seem so easy. When I start writing about any of these topics, I feel compelled to start out with disclaimers about how much I love our little baby. Perhaps to fend off any criticism that I'm complaining, especially when we had been waiting for our little guy with such anticipation. Instead of writing, I've been mulling over these issues in my head, which tends to create a never-ending spiral of aimless thoughts that lead to loose associations that lead to more aimless thoughts. When I try to talk about it, I feel a little guilty, as if I'm failing to measure up. And I scrutinize the listener to try to measure whether she understands.

I'm now starting to understand how much social pressure women have as moms. To be loving. To be devoted. To be motherly. To live up to an image of motherhood that I can't seem to meet.

I'm realizing that being a mom is complicated business. Hormones have taken over my body, and I can't seem to shake them. Then there are all those other issues, running the gamut from life decisions to the mundane. Like whether I'd rather stay at home or work, how to be ok with being a slave to housework, how to stimulate the little guy just enough to help him with his development, but not too much as to overstimulate him and push him over the edge, how to schedule my days so that I don't feel overly disconnected from the world but still manage to get things done around the house, how to find some time for myself and still do all that I need to do for the baby, how not to feel guilty about everything, and a host of other concerns that I can't seem to keep track of in my head.

Just in the last few days, I discovered the general parenting forum on the Golden Gate Mom's Group's website, and I've been pouring over some of the topics. I had browsed other websites before, but they were mostly for topics related to the baby's well-being, like how often should he be pooping, how do you ensure he is napping enough, etc. Those topics are on this website too, but I'm also finding threads of conversations between moms about being women and mothers. And they are a godsend.

Thank goddness for the women who are honest on that site, even if they do it anonymously. When I read that some other mom worries about being selfish because she is thinking about going back to work or that another mom no longer feels like her confident self after having a baby, I want to call her up and ask her to meet up for lunch. To these posts, I write in my comments with effusive words of empathy. I want to give them a hug because we need each other.


  1. YES YES YES a thousand times yes! Believe me, whatever topic(s) your gut is wrenching about, it has been thought by every single mother out there. But usually they are too ashamed to admit it, and the mean ones will make you feel bad for it anyway.

    _That_ is why even innocuous-seeming ads or myths about "good" moms or "good" kids infuriate me so much, because no one is good 100% of the time. No one parents a certain way 100% of the time; life is about back and forth compromise and working with what you got. For example, the mother who let her kid wander around the restaurant? You don't know if she does that all the time or if she's just dang tired that day. I feel like moms judge other moms way too harshly, because they probably judge themselves just as harshly.

    Okay, off my soapbox. Take care of yourself.

  2. Have you looked into the Las Madres playgroups, or something similar? They are all over Silicon Valley, and if one of those isn't convenient for you I'm sure there's something similar in your area. A friend of mine in San Jose joined her local one after her baby was born, and she has found it to be an amazing source of support, community, fun, etc (and she was a true rookie when she started - she had never held a baby before she held her own). They are organized by birthyear and geography, so all the moms with babies born in 2009 in a given area attend the same group. It might be another good way to get regular contact with other moms whose babies are close to T's age.

    You're doing great - and he's so very darling. Enjoy!

  3. I can relate to this post a lot. It's so hard to be 100% honest and not be judged or worry about being judged. I've been burned a couple of times by readers (see circumcision post on kimchi mamas) and it really does hinder me from being able to post things freely, although I try not to let it.

    Anyway, I also found the Berkeley Parents Network website pretty useful. People ask for all KINDS of advice on all kinds of topics on there. One person offered to give away their queen comforter because she was buying a king comforter for her marriage sake. LOL. I tried to picture a couple fighting over a blanket in bed and asked myself if we needed a king size blanket too.

    Anyway, there is no such thing as a perfect mother or father. It's difficult enough trying to find a good balance between what my husband and I think is the best way to parent, nevermind the billion other parents out there.

  4. Totally agree with Mary's last paragraph.
    When you delve too deeply you'll find too much conflicting advice and the walls can fall in on top of you.That is overload.
    Listen to those you know, trust and who are around you, then taking some of it on board, you can only do what fits with you.
    I now think I overloaded myself and the children at times. A baby/child needs to feel secure in a relaxed, calm place. Enjoy all the special times in the nest you are creating.

  5. Wow, I'm struggling with the same thing. Thanks so much for posting your thoughts on this topic. I'm wondering in my case, if a lot of my thoughts are correlated with being an advanced aged mom. I joined a few mom groups and found it a bit lonely as I was the only one to share the struggles of being a first time parent, i.e., basically exhaustion from 24/ care-taking, housework etc. Sort of felt like a sorority where you had to follow their code in order to be accepted. Oh well.

  6. I second the Las Madres comment. Having a support group is hugely beneficial. Some hospitals also have post-birth groups, or check out the local parenting magazines for group ads.

    One note on Las Madres, though, is the neighborhood groups are top-heavy with Stay-At-Home moms. That is great if that is the direction you go in. If you are thinking of going back to work, check out the Working Moms chapter too. You'll have to commute farther, but you'll find support for a decision to return to work, and playgroup dates that accommodate a work schedule.

    Either choice (staying home or working) is a good one with pros and cons. Listen to what your family needs, not what anyone else says.

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