Our modern culture is very focused on mothers ‘getting back to normal’ following the birth of their babies. We are socially pressured to return to work, regain our pre-baby figures and social lives, continue to focus all of the energy we once did on various aspects of our lives as well as our new babies, and to keep a smile on our faces throughout.
But what is normal? Surely our lives are supposed to change forever and beyond recognition when we have our babies?
These social expectations of mothers nowadays are dangerous and downright unhelpful. Here I am going to discuss a few of the more common expectations and why they are so damaging to women, their families and their children.
Losing the Baby-Weight
This is one of the biggest concerns amongst mothers, and there is good reason for this. We are used to our bodies being a certain way, and then all of a sudden they are taken over by a rapidly-growing little person. We develop stretch marks, flabby bits where there weren’t any before, and certain parts of our body start to head in a more southern direction. It is normal and natural to be concerned about this, and to want to try to regain your pre-baby figure.
It’s important to remember that it took 9 months for you to gain that weight, and it should take the same amount of time (if not a little longer) for it to come off. You may find though, even when the extra weight has been shed, that your body is still very different to how it was before. Accepting this is hard, but it’s essential if you want to be confident and happy in yourself. There’s nothing you can do about your stretch marks, your c-section scar (if you have one) or the fact that your hips are wider set since giving birth. These are all badges of honour of having brought a human life into the world.
Most women I know, including myself, are fairly accepting of their new bodies — or at least we would be if the world would stop banging on about various celebrities losing the baby weight within 2 weeks, or advertising campaigns subconsciously encouraging us to hate the marks on our body so we buy their Special Magic Creams (they don’t work, by the way) in order to ‘fix’ them. Try to remember that the vast majority of women won’t ever look like they used to, and that’s okay. Time spent fretting about the size of your bottom is time better spent gazing into your baby’s beautiful eyes and marvelling over just how fantastic your body is for having created that superb little person.
Getting Your Life Back
Now your baby is here, your life won’t ever be like it was. However, soon you won’t be able to ever imagine a time when your little one wasn’t around! Forging a new kind of life is a little scary sometimes, especially when you are lacking in confidence, but don’t allow yourself to be pressured into moving too fast. Society seems to expect us to focus exactly the same amount of energy into various aspects of our lives — housework, employment, social life, etc — as well as somehow finding energy and time to spend on our babies. Take each thing as it comes, and prioritise as you see fit. Your number one priority should be keeping yourself and your little babe happy, and everything else can wait until you’re ready.
Going Back to Work
It really concerns me how mothers are pressured to return to employment. Even in a country like the UK where we are legally entitled to a year off work, those of us who choose to stay home with our babies past that time are usually deemed lazy by the rest of the working world. Being a stay at home mum is not an easy option; it can be isolating, lacking in stimulation and exhausting. However, it is also fulfilling and wonderful to be able to raise your kids entirely yourself, rather than having to rely on childcare providers to do the job whist you are at work. The choice is a very personal one, and for some the choice is not even there — after all, with the cost of living gradually getting higher and higher it is becoming very difficult to have one parent stay home full time with the kids.
If you do choose to be a full-time stay at home parent, don’t allow yourself to be made to feel like a second-class citizen for doing so. The job you are doing is the hardest in the world; you are on-call 24 hours a day, you don’t get paid, and you certainly can’t resign if you have had enough! And if you decide to go back to work, try to return when you feel completely ready to, not because you feel pressured.