Motherhood/Martyrdom: A dangerous synonymy.

33.5years Before Child. Or, at least, the few years before I became pregnant…

Work, moaning about work (see previous post about perfectionism), numerous daily cups of tea, driving whilst listening to Radio 2, wine, Prosecco or gin (all three if it was a weekend), dining out at least once a week, the cinema, reading a decent book, chilling with a magazine, social media, buying things for myself, seeing friends, spending quality time with the hubby. In short, whatever I felt like doing at any given time.

Generally, I was self-centred. I don’t mean that in a negative way – there were plenty of selfless moments but, generally speaking, before children, we only have to consider ourselves. We think about friends, partners and family but, unless someone is sick, they can take care of themselves. We’re programmed to look after number one, for survival.

Pregnancy.

Well, I thought, I’m growing a whole other person. Time to cut myself some slack, develop a better work/life balance and be kind to myself. I had easy pregnancy – no sickness, sore hips only in the last few months; I looked and felt healthy throughout. I was lucky, for sure. My second and third trimesters looked like this:

Work, Not moaning about work (because I stopped taking work home and expected my students to be more independent in their learning), cinema trips, shopping (mainly for the baby), nice food, ice cream almost every day, the occasional glass of wine, social media, seeing friends, reading, reflexology, massage, chiropractor (for my hips in the last few months), pregnancy modelling, hypnobirth classes and spending time with hubby, preparing for the arrival of the Tiny Stranger.

So, by the time 40+3 weeks rolled around and I went into labour, I can wholeheartedly say I was relaxed and prepared. I wasn’t fearful. I enjoyed my labour and felt empowered. Being kind to myself physically and mentally meant that my brain and body were in the best possible place for what I was about to do.

So why is it, then, that as soon as she arrived, things looked like this?

Feelings of abject guilt if I actually took five minutes for myself, despite the fact that our baby was, somehow, incredibly content. ‘Relaxing’ roughly translated into sitting feeling like I should be doing something worthwhile because, apparently, sustaining the life of the Tiny Stranger I’d grown and birthed wasn’t worthwhile enough(!)– Despite him in no way whatsoever making me feel like I should be doing anything other than exactly what I was doing, I apologised frequently to hubby for the lack of ‘housewifing’. Shouldn’t I be cooking, cleaning and generally running the household? Even though we’d always split housework, laundry and cooking fairly evenly between us, I suddenly thought it was MY role, MY duty.

I took occasional trips to the chiropractor, but only if my back was really painful, rather than as a preventative measure. I watched a thousand cups of tea go cold, beat myself up about things that weren’t getting done and told myself that this was the lot of ‘The Mother’. I should get used to it.

Throughout my pregnancy, I knew that taking care of myself was of paramount importance because I was incubating a baby. Why is it then, that when that same baby was on the other side, meaning I needed to be kind to myself more than ever, I decided that taking care of myself was no longer a priority?

‘Tis a slippery slope…

On Sunday, we’ll be bringing you our top tips on self care, to help tackle this tendency.

Jo, The Mother Side xx

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