As a new mom society constantly tells me that I have to give up everything — including my bodily autonomy, my bed, my identity, and anything resembling sleep — to be a "good mom." I say false. And no. I actually think being a good mom is impossible if I don't take care of myself first. Motherhood doesn't have to mean martyrdom, and contrary to popular belief there are quite a few things you don't have to sacrifice when you're a new mom. Seriously, you really don't.
If you don't put on your proverbial own oxygen mask first, how can you take care of your baby, right? Growing and birthing a human is a huge ordeal, and after it's over you don't go back to feeling "normal" right away (or ever, if I feel like being super honest right now.). So while you recover postpartum, and long after, you don't have to be a hero or sacrifice your mental health, your body, or who you are, all in the name of motherhood and some ridiculous standard society seems hellbent and trying to convince us moms to live up to.
The way I see it, I'm not going to win any awards for losing myself to motherhood. My kids deserve a happy, well-rested, healthy mom, and I deserve to have my own hobbies, my own space, and my own freaking body. So I ask for what I need, force myself to do self care (and I say "force" because I am seriously terrible at it), and try to find ways to invest in my health and my happiness every single day.
I'm done trying to be a "perfect" mother. It's not really possible, and I will never measure up. So for now I'm going to focus on being me, and that means staying in touch with who I am and what I value and realizing that there are things I don't have to give up, including the following:
After my first two kids were born I started losing a significant amount of sleep. It really took its toll on my health and sanity. Don't get me wrong, most new moms will miss out on some sleep and at least in the beginning (the struggle is real). If you plan things right, however, you don't have to lose sleep forever. My husband and I share night feedings, take shifts when the baby is fussy and doesn't want to sleep, and even let each other nap once in a while. Sleep is life.
I had to learn the hard way not to lose myself to motherhood. So I started prioritizing things that were just for me, and not for my husband or my kids. I have trained for and run half and full marathons, completed yoga teacher training, perfected my pie-crust recipe, and changed careers, all while being a mom.
No one ever asks dads if they plan on returning to work after their babies are born or if they are "trying to have it all" by having kids and a career. You don't have to give up your career when you become a new mom. Unless you want to, of course. It's totally up to you, not society, to decide what's right for you and your family.
This one was a hard one for me to learn. mostly because for the longest time so much of my self-worth was wrapped up in my ability to lactate. I mean, the pressure to breastfeed was intense.
I will tell you a secret, though: you don't have to breastfeed to be a good mother. If you are breastfeeding and want to stop — to get your boobs back or because you think it totally sucks or for any other reason — that's fine, too. They are your boobs.
If anything, having children has made me even more motivated to try to change the world. Not because I want a better life for myself, but because I want my kids to live in a world where everyone has enough to eat, access to heath care, a safe place to live, clean air and water, and a living wage. While being a mom means I can't always attend protests or testify in front of Congress, I spend some time every day on my phone or at my computer advocating for a better future.
Recovering from childbirth was really hard on both my physical and mental health. Honestly, I was a complete train wreck. I seriously needed to learn to take care of myself in order for my body and my mind to heal. My life as a new mom is so much better now that I am making an effort to take care of my health by eating well, getting exercise, staying hydrated, and taking my damn anti-depressant every day.
I am so freaking tired of society shaming mothers who embrace their sexuality, dress how they want, or admit to having and liking frequent sex. It's so messed up. You don't have to stop wanting to feel sexy or wanting to have sex just because you are now "somebody's mother." No one ever shames sexy dads. It's such a double standard, and it's time that it stops.
When you are pregnant it can sometimes feel like your body is not yours anymore, and that feeling doesn't always go away once your baby is born (especially after being touched all day long). I try hard to remember that my body is still me, even if it is shaped differently and I don't always love the way it looks or feels. So I find ways to give that incredible body of mine a little love every day, usually by going a walk, shaving my legs, putting on lipstick, or spending some quality alone time with a vibrator.