By: Prianca Naik
“It’s really hard,” she said, with a look of deep concern and furrowed brows. Motherhood, that is. That was the first time I was “mom shamed.” Yes, that’s a thing apparently. Of course, I had pretty much not a clue about this concept until seven months ago when I gave birth to the greatest, most challenging gift of my life.
After having my son, S, I found myself suddenly juggling a million things at once. Now, mind you, as a physician wife, I had felt that way before, but life pretty much exploded in March 2018. Maintaining order along with a third human being’s schedule was a more complex new normal in which I felt eternally incapable.
The epitome of multitasking erupted in a Mount Vesuvius-like fashion when I got pulled over (and earned a big fat ticket) last week for texting while driving. To set the record straight, I was not actually texting. In fact, I was looking up a Martha Stewart recipe for my upcoming ugly sweater party while pumping, (yes pumping breastmilk), and driving from one hospital to the next on a Saturday. Well, that most certainly gave me pause. I need to stop doing ten things at once. Yes, I need to stop doing that, but how will I get there and simultaneously get it all done?
No one really told me how hard this was going to be. When I was pregnant, people would help me add useful items to my registry. After I had the baby, people would say, “It will get easier everyday,” which it did. And then pretty much not a whole lot else to follow that statement. Where were those kind people who bought me the expensive bouncy chair and attended my baby shower when I was waking up at 3:36 am to get peed on?
Baby poo stains now adorn the newly painted nursery walls. Spit up has made its way onto the brand new rug that has recently made our family room more homey. There is stuff everywhere! So much for the Konmari clearing method. Everything once orderly is now in disarray. Parenthood is inherently synonymous with imperfection. Everyday, I force myself to roll around in that, to really dive into that deeply and attempt to get comfortable. That, of course, is no easy feat.
In a society which embodies the idea of having it all, it is so difficult to accept anything but the best from oneself. A woman can now have a career, a husband, children, a spotless house, a rock hard body, and the ability to be the life of the party. This is a ridiculous standard to live up to. Yet it is everywhere-on social media, on reality television, across the street.
I talk to other new mothers at work and in my circle of friends. Upon closer inspection, it appears that everyone is in the same boat struggling. However, only sometimes do women admit they are having a tough time. We need to be able to express this. This does not make us weak! My loving husband very openly admits he would never be able to balance the household and his career the way I do. We women are extremely strong.
I have learned it takes a village to cope. I probably have at least eight good college friends with whom I am close and two or three from medical school. Yet, when I was truly struggling, I felt really alone. Luckily, I had one friend, who, when I was in the depths of despair, convinced me to cut out my middle of the night pump to get more sleep. I did and finally had a turning point. I no longer felt like I was drowning and was able to come up for air.
New motherhood has forced me to examine the notion of vulnerability. As Brene Brown puts it: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” It really is okay if you are not doing everything the way it should be done. Whatever that means. Frankly, I loathe the goal of perfection because, for humans, it is innately unattainable. “To err is human.” Why set an unachievable goal? It’s insanity!
I am not perfect nor will I ever be. I am in the trenches trying to live my best life. I make mistakes, I apologize, and I get loud and angry at times. In my thirties, I have finally learned the art of self-care and forgiveness. If you aren’t nice to yourself, who will be? Mothers, speak your truth. Fathers and significant others, support this process. I am still in search of my tribe. Please reach out to me if you are too.