Today we were supposed to go to the museum with some friends and I cancelled those plans because I was feeling overwhelmed by my day. Nothing in particular was going wrong, just that overwhelmed feeling you get sometimes with a new baby. I’ve been Very. Slowly. reading the book Lying (someone recommended it to me after I posted this link about Santa by the same author to my Facebook), so when Peanut asked me why we weren’t going I decided to tell her the truth. My initial reaction was to lie, mostly because I didn’t want her to get upset with me for being the one who cancelled. She first asked me who cancelled and I said I did. Next she asked why and I said because I was feeling overwhelmed today. What came next was the surprise: she asked me if she can help me clean the house after quiet time.
First, I’m amazed that my child understands how much having a relatively tidy house is linked to my sanity (and I hadn’t even realized how much the house was bothering me until at that moment). Mostly, I’m amazed that she not only understood, but wanted to help. I didn’t expect her to understand what feeling overwhelmed even means, especially in the context of having a new baby. More than that though, I’ve just learned over the years to buck up and deal with life as a mother. Subliminally, I’ve learned that my needs come second and that no one needs to hear about my problems. This is absolutely wrong.
So often as mothers in our society, we are isolated. We are expected to go back to normal immediately after having a baby. We are expected to be able to care for that baby, any other children, our houses, our husbands, and ourselves within days of birth. This extends beyond the normal postpartum period though. We are expected to, or at least see ourselves as expected to, be a super mom. Be able to handle it all and never lose stride. Yes, a lot of this stems from society, but it’s also ourselves.
Mothers of the world (myself included): stop this behavior! When someone asks you if you need help, don’t immediately jump to “Oh no, I’m okay.” Accept the help graciously. If someone is asking you how you’re doing (in the sense of really wanting to know, not in the acquaintance passing on the street type of way), tell them the truth. When you are feeling overwhelmed with life, ask for help. Don’t bear it alone. And especially involve your children. It’s okay for them to know that their mother is not a superhero. And you have no idea how much they would love to help.