I desperately need a haircut. I have for at least three weeks. I have made (and cancelled) at least two appointments already. Because it's summer, I fool myself into thinking the pony tail holder is okay.
But glamorous, it is not.
This is one of the awful truths of my life, and maybe, of any Mom's life... We are constantly making time for everyone else's priorities, but when it comes to taking care of *ourselves*, we are pitiful.
I know a woman who folds everyone else's clothes, but dresses herself out of a basketful of clean laundry.
I know a woman who paints her daughters' toenails on a weekly basis, but when I gave her a gift certificate to go get a pedicure, it took her a whole year to use it.
And then there's me... with my quarterly haircut.
Lately, I've been asked for advice from three new moms I know. All are about 6 months in to first-time mothering. And all are at their wits end. They fret about fussiness and fevers, they wonder if they should worry about their child's weight, teething, which foods are best, how much formula to give. And of course, there are the diapers.
I've told each of them the same things.
1) Every first-time mom worries about exactly the same things you are. When we say, "Relax! Take time for yourself!" Don't believe that we're taking our own advice. Because the only way any of us learned what to worry about and not to worry about was to worry about everything in the beginning. If there is a brand new mom who is not asking the questions you are, guess what? They are not as good a mom as they imagine.
2) With that said, "Relax! Take time for yourself!" Ha.
No, seriously. I think one of the best things I ever found was that if I could take even 15 minutes to do something independent -- that made me feel like the strong woman I was before "the transformation," I felt so much better about life in general. For every person, this is a different thing.
For my own mother, it was a hot bath. I remember once or twice a week, her locking herself in the upstairs bathroom and coming out with a face as red as cooked lobster and smelling like perfume. Afterward, there was nothing that we six (yes, I said six) children could do that could bother her. She was restored.
For me, it is the time I take in my garden. You may wonder how weeding or planting or watering can help me... I'll tell you. It is the silence of it. My children are all of the age where they can play in the yard while I work. But, spending time in the garden a few times each week can bring me back from the edge. I like tending something living, solving solvable problems, and enjoying the benefits of growing something truly beautiful. There are no lasting consequences there, and I like that.
So, when I say "Relax! Take time for yourself!" understand that it may only be 5 or 10 minutes a day at first. People don't understand that a new mom has to remind herself to shower and dress in the morning. Do it, and do it faithfully.
3.) You will make mistakes. Be sure to be as gentle and forgiving with yourself as you plan to be with your child.
Every mom I know has had times when she thought she was the worst mother in the world. I remember, when my oldest was about three months old, I nicked his finger while cutting his nails. I tell you, there is nothing scarier than drawing blood on your own child. I distinctly remember calling my mother in tears, and going over everything that had happened, including my use of every disinfecting agent and ointment in the first aid kit. "Can I use a band aid on his finger? Will he eat it and choke?" I asked, frantic. It was at that moment that I realized I could never be a trauma nurse. I think, in terms of baby-care, it was my all-time low.
The good news is that babies have little or no long-term memory. So, as long as you can keep away from psychologically scarring abuse, you're good. So, abandonment is out --and No, that doesn't include letting him sit in his bouncy seat fussing for a few minutes so you can go into the bathroom by yourself. Come on.
4) Finally, I tell them that the best response to the almost soul-crushing frustration that a new mom feels is...
(drum roll, please...)
A good nap.
When you are well-rested, your perspective will magically return. It has worked for me and for countless thousands of other moms.
Which brings me to this: becoming a first time mom brings you into one of the toughest sisterhoods on the planet. All the logic and reasoning you learned to succeed on your own in the world will be turned on its head when you become a Mom. But the good news is: You are not alone! One of the best things I did as a first-time mom was to find a group of other moms. We met once a week, at each others' houses, under the pretense of a "playgroup". It was more of a "roll on the floor and drool group", but playgroup sounds better. That group helped me so much in ways I cannot even explain, but the greatest way was just getting rid of the isolation I felt.
I live in a new town now, but have found that the Sisterhood of Moms does, indeed, have a local chapter! We find ways to support each other, laugh together, cry together, and share our lives in the best times and the most difficult circumstances.
So, to my new mom friends, Welcome to the Sisterhood.
... will one of you babysit so I can go get my hair cut?