Holly here, mother of a darling dragon child and creative business brains at ROHO Heritage. As a working mother, juggling motherhood, a career, and ‘me’ time (and as I am always reminded husband time too) is a constant battle… in fact, if you think about it, becoming a mother is a lot like going into battle... unprepared!
Preparing for Motherhood… not!There’s no training for this life-changing event, bar nine months of unsolicited and contradictory advice from well-meaning experienced mothers and relatives. Not to mention the information that is spewed into your peripheral unknowingly at the time from social media.
Instead, overnight, you’re thrown into the role that you have always dreamed of, and it’s a rude awakening when you realise that your dreams were just that and, in reality, you’re completely unprepared.
That’s the thing…you read all those books, you listened to the unsolicited advice when it made sense to you and, yet, it didn’t provide the training you thought it had, and you feel untrusting of your Mom-intuition. Even if you read 100 books about breastfeeding, parenting styles, and how to get a baby to sleep (or in our case, not sleep), there is no real-life preparation for the battle ahead.
You have no choice but to keep paddling, keep your head above water, and survive! In those first few months of motherhood, everything is about the baby: taking care of the baby, feeding the sweet little dragon child, and changing nappies… so many nappies!
And you? Well, you wander around in a daze, wearing two-day old pyjama’s stained with baby vomit, milk, eating the dried toast with one hand that you made for breakfast in the late afternoon. Battle weary, with tender boobies and raw nipples – not what you thought you signed up for!
The Mama Warrior and her Battle Wounds
Wound 1: Seemingly forgotten
Without a doubt, the birth of your baby is one of the best things that has ever happened to you but, it seems, your identity has changed completely. Your inner goddess is nowhere to be found, and although you know she’s in there somewhere, you don’t have the energy to look for her.
Friends, family, and even strangers, fuss over the baby. No-one asks how you feel, or how you’re coping on two hours of sleep a day. Suddenly, all your pre-baby accomplishments are forgotten, and your brilliant, creative mind, everyone once respected fades into obscurity as you answer questions about the baby (and, the answers require no more than the IQ of bath water).
Inside, you fight desperately not to disappear as you grow into your new identity as a mother. You know you’re still cool, you know you’re still relevant, and you know that you’re so much more than what the world sees you as now: ‘just a mother’. There’s also a strangely inconsistent expectation that you have nothing to do all day except look after your baby (and, really, how much time can that take?! (if I had a font for sarcasm, I’d have used it in caps here!), so you’re expected to juggle motherhood, running a home, create a postpartum career and earn some cash (because you gave up your lucrative career travelling the world to have kids, and what even is paid maternity leave in South Africa?), and still find that inner goddess (lol) every night when you climb into bed… exhausting!
Sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, you must be the baby’s entertainment, nurse, comforter, and protector… 24/7! And, on the rare occasion you think you’ve got it all under control and settle down to eat a real meal, with cutlery, your baby cries… it’s an easy choice: you put the cutlery down, and you are the mother you dreamed you’d be. Albeit with a large dose of anxiety and postpartum depression on the side.
Wound 2: The judgement of Society
The one consistency society offers without any prompt, is judgement. Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, there is always a judgemental comment from someone who thinks they know better. Surely, in the grander theme of child-rearing, the focus should be on baby being fed and loved, and in a loving and healthy environment, not how it’s done… just saying, new mommies have enough self-doubt as they battle to adapt and could really do without critical judgement.
Whatever happened to the village mentality? Where are the villagers helping us to raise our children? We’re all in this together, aren’t we? Let’s all jump in without judgement and lend a hand, even if that hand is merely a kind word that says, “Hey mama, I see you”. Or to tell us that we are doing a good job.
We don’t have the time to wallow in frustration at the lack of support, because our battle wages on. You want to stay home to care for you little darling, and everyone is asking why aren’t you at work? If you go back to work, everyone asks how you can bear to leave your baby behind every day, raises an eyebrow, or murmurs judgmentally about your choices. And, if you attempt to strike a balance working from home, get used to your client’s horrified faces when they witness the sheer magnitude of your precious babie’s projectile vomiting all over the office area.
Last, but certainly not least, the double-standard judgement: leaving the house on your own, without baby attached? How dare you! And yet, when fathers leave on Saturday morning to play golf, cycle in the middle of the road around Cape Town, or nip out for a couple of drinks with their mates, no one bats an eyelid. For a modern society, a rather archaic attitude, wouldn’t you say?
Oh, mama! How you deserve your very own medal.
You deserve something to acknowledge all your sacrifices: all the late-night feeds, the stretch-marks, the wear-and-tear on those once pert, rather magnificent boobies, and (don’t forget) the care-free woman you lost when you gave up everything to become a mother and, in so doing, inexplicably started putting everyone else, not just baby, before you.
It's time to put yourself first, before you forget who you were, who you are, and who you can be. You are glorious, and you deserve to feel accomplished, smart, sexy, and valued. Of course, I feel all those things as I wade through the postpartum fog, but I really wanted a medal… a proper medal. Something to signify this life changing period. So I made a wax mould of my darling dragon child’s fingerprint, and Lindi transformed it into a fingerprint impression pendant that I wear around my neck, close to my heart. It’s a tangible medal that reminds me of how strong I am; and, it’s a fidget-comfort when the dragon child isn’t near me, magically making me forget how she pushes my buttons and drives me to the edge.
Don’t forget yourself! You are the example your baby will learn and grow by – make sure it’s an example that breeds self-love and kindness, especially to one’s self. If you are always neglecting yourself and allow yourself to become a shadow, so too will your baby. Leave your baby the legacy of your intrepid life, your fearless approach, and your bravery. And, if you happen to have a real medal, too, add that to the treasure-box of love you give her.
“You are a true warrior, you are a fighter, and you are a survivor of every battle wound you’ve sustained”. – Holly, Mama Warrior, Wounded in Battle, Surviving
Lindi and I would love to hear your war stories, so please comment in the link below.
Until next time,