Thursday, July 09, 2009

adjusting to parenthood

A blog post by my step-brother got me thinking about a conversation Zach and I had a few months ago, about how difficult it can be to adjust to the realities of being a parent. Zach has always benefited emotionally from the physical outlet provided by exercise, and so would often spend a few hours each weekend going on a bike ride or a hike to get outside and burn some energy. But when you've got a kid, a mama who also needs a break, and any other activities with friends or errands to run, it gets tough to find the time to fit in even a little bit of exercise. So this one day he was venting to me his frustration with how difficult it was to find this time away, and that maybe it was time to realize that being a dad meant giving up certain things and that he might need to adjust his priorities and expectations. Meanwhile I had been nursing for a year and hardly been able to get time to myself for more than an hour or 2 at one time, and while I didn't want to seem insensitive or mean I couldn't help looking at him and saying, "Babe, what do you think I've been doing this past year??"

I think in some ways this adjustment into parenthood is almost a bit easier on moms, in that it is more sudden. You HAVE to adjust, because you have no choice. Especially for mothers who stay home, even if just for the first few months, and who breastfeed, you are suddenly thrust into this whole new world where this person is literaly attached to you nearly 24/7, and in order to cope and survive you have to accept that nearly every aspect of your life is now entirely different, and that is just that. I look back on what my life was like before and then after having Donovan, and it's like entering a new dimension.

Most dads go back to work sooner, just a few days or a week or 2 after baby's birth, and so while their lives change radically as well, their direct, day-to-day experiences aren't nearly as different. They still get up and go to work, do the same stuff at work, and there's a few hours in the evening whre they come home to mom and baby. They might help at night when baby wakes up, depending on their routine and whether mom's breastfeeding. So I think the transition takes longer to take hold an to get used to, because it's not so... obvious. I remember joking with a friend a while back about how livid we each were upon hearing our husbands comment that those first weeks/months weren't "all that bad" to others, while we ourselves felt like we'd been sucker-punched in the gut with no chance to catch our breaths. I don't mean to say anything negative about dads in any way, this is not saying that dads aren't pulling their weight or helping out-- Zach has been incredible since D's birth, taking on more than his share of the housework and supporting me as much as he can emotionally. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a loving, helpful, and understanding husband. I think the adjustment thing is just a result of the way the roles get divided up. I also wonder if often dads are more likely/willing to speak up about what they want/need, while moms might behave more like martyrs and just keep trudging along, nurturing others and letting their needs be the last to be tended to.

I'm kinda just spilling out thoughts here, would love to hear others think of all this.


  1. Wow - I could not have said that better. I'm definitely going to share this one! Thanks!

  2. I think you're right about the martyrdom thing. Women have a tendency to be subservient and put others ahead of themselves anyway, and now you're giving them another tiny, helpless human being that depends on her for everything. How is the mother going to say no? Or be so "selfish" as to think of herself first? We're conditioned to react this way, to think that asking for a break or for time to ourselves is "selfish," when it's really healthy and human.

    I've been encouraged reading your posts and the comments left by other moms on allowing yourself "me time." I think the winds of change on this issue are softly blowing; mothers are speaking up and sharing their experiences, talking about the hard and ugly parts of motherhood (as you and Dooce and others do on blogs), and realizing that they do NOT have to be martyrs, that motherhood does not mean denying your self for the sake of the child. Make use of fathers and the rest of the village!

  3. this is a wonderful post, and so well written. you are becoming a really GOOD writer. i am also going to send this post to Jon, because I think you really hit on something



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