“A baby changes everything.” That is a loaded statement, and one many of us have heard our entire lives. I remember hearing my mom say that before I was even 10 years old. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what the implication really was. I was still playing with dolls, and running around with reckless abandon.
Fast forward 20 years, and I was the one holding the newborn and thinking, “Now what?” Motherhood had changed everything, and then some.
We tried for several years to conceive, and my pregnancy was a bit scary (early labor at 27 weeks), but in the end it all worked out from a physical standpoint. Emotionally? I was a disaster. It took a few months, but by the time our daughter was 3 months old, I was falling into the abyss of postpartum depression . I did my best to press on, to be a great mom, and to love motherhood like so many of my friends and books shared. I was in struggle, and going back to work when our daughter was 5 months old only exacerbated my mental state.
Our daughter is 13 now, but I can still feel the overwhelm and guilt of being both a mom and a working professional. I remember those mornings driving to the office in complete exhaustion. There was one particular morning, near Christmas, that still stands out. It was pouring rain, fairly dark, and the windshield wipers were thumping as I made my way to the office. I remember Christmas music playing, but more than that, I remember the darkness and the tears. I remember a complete lack of any holiday spirit, and the thought that I just couldn’t do it. It was one of my darkest moments, and one I can still tap into to this day. It is that memory of me in the car, in the rain on that dark morning, in complete overwhelm that so ferociously drives my support of new moms coming back to the workplace.
I watched Working Mom Gets Emotional Surprise In Job Performance Review the other day, and I was moved to tears. The video frames up a new mom returning to the workforce with all the pressures to perform both at home and at the office. She describes her mixed emotions, feelings of being pulled in different directions, not contributing enough, and general sense of less than. And then the video shifts to friends, family and co-workers providing feedback about her performance at work and on being a mom. It is truly priceless, and an incredible demonstration of the impossible standards so many new moms hold themselves to against the reality of what is really happening.
If you are a new mom, know that you are not alone. If you are a veteran mom, take the time to reach out to new moms to offer support. Allow yourself to admit the motherhood journey can be hard, and sometimes it truly does take a village. Let go of perfection, and the need to portray having it all together, and allow yourself the helping hand or listening ear you deserve. Whether you are new to parenting, or well on your way to being an empty-nester, we all deserve understanding and compassion. Receive the gift when it is presented to you, and give the gift when it is needed by others.
Allow yourself a soft place to fall.