If you have recently become a mom, congratulations and welcome; you have landed in a new milky world that will change your life forever. If you are a thoroughly modern woman, the chances are this new world is about as foreign and familiar as the moon.
Luckily, when it comes to baby care, a fine selection of books, the internet, and sometimes even our parents bring us up to speed. Parenting has an extensive lexicon to help us find our way – attachment parenting, controlled crying, co-sleeping, baby wearing, helicopter parenting, potty training, weaning... no doubt you will soon become familiar with many of these terms.
But as we bounce our babies, we moms are also bouncing around in the new world, often without essential tools to describe our adventure. Motherhood, the classic untold herstory, is accompanied by a pitiful lexicon. Not being able to easily define the “stuff’ that happens to us moms is disempowering and can leave us feeling lonely.
Here, I would like to introduce five useful terms for new and expectant moms; terms that through their very existence remind women that motherhood is a more collective experience than it often feels at 3am.
I would like to start with defining the "stuff" that happens to us. I like to call this collection of "stuff" Disruptive Wonder.
The unique mix of elation, fear, love, uncertainty, serenity, exhaustion, utter exhaustion, happiness, confusion, joy, frustration that is motherhood. Duration: the rest of your life, redefining itself every few years or every five minutes.
The place where every mom’s expectations are realized; it is just not in this universe. Membership is free and there is unlimited storage.
It is a perfect location to send the expectations a woman may have held regarding her pregnancy and labor, her ability to breastfeed, calm her baby, the help she was going to receive, weaning, the new dish she just slaved over believing her child would eat it, the party she was excited to go to until her baby got sick, and it goes on, and on. Membership gift: the understanding that our happiness is not dependent on the things that happen to us (and on those things that our baby does or doesn’t do, is or isn’t) but on our reaction to them.
The realignment of relationships that occurs between a new mom and everyone else in her life. “Everyone” may include her partner, parents, in-laws, friends with children, friends without, neighbors, her employer, store owners and anyone the mom will meet while with her baby. The Relationship Rattle will tend to calm down after a year but can reach extreme peaks within that period and even beyond.
The Relationship Rattle is comprised of many parts, unique to each woman and those who surround her. The most challenging part of the Relationship Rattle will often be with a new mom’s partner (if she has one) and work and communication will be required to calm the two-became-three scene.
The outcome of a Relationship Rattle may be positive – a woman may find herself closer to members of her family than before – or negative – a woman may find herself more distant from her childfree girlfriend who can no longer relate to her; or from her girlfriend, who is also a mom and believes all moms should practice her preferred theories of childcare.
Sounds like birth control but it is a defensive armor protecting moms from unsolicited baby care suggestions that arrive at inappropriate moments. Suggestions may include: She is hungry. She is tired. Lay her like this. Hold her like that. They may continue: Feed her this. Sit her up. Don’t sit her up. Why is she in a stroller? She should be walking by now!
Moms who do not use their Mommy Shield may find themselves wasting precious energy on anger. In a family setting, the Mommy Shield allows us to smile while thinking “I know your comment comes from love but I will choose to ignore it.” With strangers, the Mommy Shield allows us to smile while thinking “I don’t know you and I don’t want to!” Or quite simply, “Asshole!”
And then walk away.
Don’t leave home without it!
Working Wonder Mom
Both describes the mom and the acts she carries out while often single-handedly caring for her baby and beyond, throughout the day.
A more honest description than “Stay-at-Home Mom” and one that recognizes the fact that if she wasn’t doing this job, it would be outsourced and paid.
The output of a Working Wonder Mom is generally invisible and undervalued. When asked in honesty, most men will admit they could not carry out this work, day in, day out, for an extended period of time.
Please ease a new or expectant mom’s entry into motherhood by sharing this post with her and by adding your suggestions to the motherhood lexicon.
Illustration credit: ”Turn” by Nomi Melul Ohad (all rights reserved)
Tania Elfersy is co-author of the book Purple Leaves, Red Cherries: A Gift for Mothers with Short Stories, Journal & Toolkit. In 2004, Tania left her career in corporate marketing to become a Working Wonder Mom. Three children later, Tania had the idea for an inspiring book for new moms. Together with her good friend, Andrea Katzman, they created Purple Leaves, Red Cherries. Seeking a mom-friendly return to the workforce, Tania established Flower Cap Press and self-published their book. Click here for more.