As a new mother, excited and nervous and happy and terrified about the prospect of being someone else's parent, I needed to hear a lot of things from friends and family members. I needed to hear that I could handle it. I needed to hear that I would be a good mom. I needed to hear how I could squeeze every second of potential sleep out of any given day, because the struggle was so very real. There were also things I didn't need to hear; things people need to stop saying to new moms; things that ended up creating unrealistic, unhealthy and unattainable expectations for and of myself.
While there's no arguing that motherhood presents a unique set of challenges to any woman who decides to experience it, easily one of the hardest parts of being a new mom is dealing with the social expectations of motherhood. Our culture thinks that a "good mom" is a mom that sacrifices every single aspect of her life and personality and humanity and time and, well, you name it, for the sake of her child. That expectation has fostered a lot of unnecessary commentary about motherhood in general, and so much of that commentary is regurgitated and retold and expressed directly, or indirectly, to new mothers. When I announced my pregnancy, and even though I was lucky enough to (for the most part) be supported in my choice to become a mom, so many people said the following things to and/or about me, and they were nothing short of hurtful.
Until the conversation and culture of motherhood alters significantly, and motherhood isn't synonymous with martyrdom, new moms are going to be told they need to act a certain way or do a certain thing or feel a certain type of emotion that somehow validates their choice to become a parent. I'm not about it, so in the name of change (even a tiny, little bit of it) here are a few things people need to stop saying to new moms, immediately. Like, yesterday, you guys.
"Well, Your Life Is Over"
I can't tell you how many times this over-played, completely false sentiment was projected onto me, especially after I announced my pregnancy to the Facebook masses. I get that having a baby is difficult (trust me) but the idea that a woman's life (essentially her humanity and her freedom and her overall existence as a viable, independent human being) is "over" the moment she procreates, just isn't true. Do things get harder? Sure. Do things get better? I would argue, yes.
"You'll Never Get Your Body Back..."
What does that even mean? I never lost my body, people. I know where it is at all times, in fact. While a woman's body definitely changes during pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum, it most certainly isn't "lost." Some of those changes are long-lasting, but many of them are not. Some of those changes can be difficult to get used to, but many of them are not. Just because a woman's body doesn't live up to unhealthy, unrealistic social expectations of "beauty," doesn't mean she has lost her body or that her body is no longer hers or that her body needs to be severely altered in order to be, once again, obtained. Get out of here, patriarchy.
"...And Your Vagina Will Never Be The Same."
Actually, it will. Vaginas are incredible, you guys. They're specifically designed to stretch and contract so that things can go in them (if a woman chooses) and things can go out of them (if, again, a woman chooses). Your vagina isn't "ruined," by childbirth. Will it be so horrifically sore afterwards? You freakin' bet. I didn't think I'd be able to pee like a normal human being, ever again. Until, one day, I did. Will it potentially tear and require stitches? Sometimes, but not always. I didn't tear when I brought my son into the world.
To me, the idea that a vagina is "ruined" by childbirth stems from the sexist notion that a woman is "ruined" the moment she has sex. It's indicitive of some clearly slut-shaming belief that a woman's worth is lost when she has had sex or, as a result, has had a baby. Yeah, no.
"So, You're Going To Quit Your Job, Right?"
If you wouldn't ask this to a soon-to-be or brand new father, why would you say this to a mother? Well, I know why, but the reason is depressing. It's no longer the '50s, my friends. Women work and reproduce. Like, it's absolutely possible for a woman to do both, if she chooses. Is there anything wrong with quitting your job and being a stay-at-home mom? Absolutely not. Is there anything wrong with making the choice to work after you've become a mom? You guessed it, absolutely not.
"Was Your Pregnancy Planned?"
We can end the need for this question by setting something straight, right here and now: every wanted pregnancy, is planned. Are some more planned and thought out and intentional than others? Yup. However, if a woman finds out she's pregnant and decides she wants to, can be and is willing to be a mother, her pregnancy is planned. Women have options. Abortions are a thing. No woman is forcefully (I freakin' hope, although I am well aware that not the ongoing battle for complete and shame-free reproductive rights leaves so many women at a disadvantage, unable to make their own decisions about their own bodies and, as a result, essentially being forced into motherhood) going through with a pregnancy because it "wasn't planned," and now, well, them's the breaks.
So, if a new mom is happy about her pregnancy and the baby that came as a result, her pregnancy was planned.
"I Would Absolutely Die If I Was Pregnant"
Well, you wouldn't, though. I get the sentiment, trust me. Not too long ago, I thought pregnancy would be the end of my world and, in so many ways, it would have been. Not every woman wants to be a mother, so even the threat of motherhood is viewed as life-ending.
However, while your feelings about any potential pregnancy you may or may not have are valid, they don't need to be projected onto a woman who is excited about her pregnancy and the prospect of motherhood.
"I Guess That's The End Of Your Social Life, Huh?"
Nope. It sure isn't. While time will be a little tight for a while and priorities will shift and how a new mom handles her schedule will, without a doubt, change; she isn't incapable of spending time with other adults. Mothers are capable of being active members of their communities and maintaining wonderful friendships and going out for a night on the town with the best of them.
"Enjoy Every Minute Of It, Because It Goes By So Fast"
Look, I get the sentiment and I agree; I've only been a mother for two years and, sometimes, it seems like two seconds. Other times, though, it seems like two freakin' centuries, because motherhood isn't all rainbows and butterflies, my friends. So when I'm experiencing one of the horrific days, when my kid won't sleep and is constantly throwing temper tantrums and I'm behind on work and I just don't want to mom anymore, please don't tell me to "enjoy" it. Not every single second of motherhood is enjoyable, and that's OK. I get to hate the parts that suck, and so does any other mother, and still love being a mom. Those two feelings are not mutually exclusive.
"Time To Lose That Baby Weight"
I did lose the baby weight, when a baby excited my body. Literally, the weight of my baby left, and I was without said baby weight. If you're referring to any other weight, well, then it's time you shut your face.
"You'll Have To Sacrifice Absolutely Everything"
This is easily the most dangerous thing new mothers hear on a daily basis, both consciously and subconsciously. In our society, you're only considered to be a "good mom" if you're constantly sacrificing every single little thing about who you are, what you want, your hopes, dreams, goals, career; you name it, you have to leave it behind in the name of procreation. In our society, you're only considered a "good mom" if you center your entire existence around your child.
False. This is not what motherhood should look like. Motherhood isn't the end-al-be-all of woman existence, and it most certainly isn't a reason for you to stop enjoying and expressing your full humanity. You're a complex, wonderfully complicated, multifaceted individual. Motherhood is just another, additional aspect of what now makes you, you.