While pregnant, many well-meaning individuals will inevitably offer up parenting advice. Some of the advice will be helpful, but most of it ends up making the mom-to-be potentially insecure. Words of wisdom like “Get your rest now! Once that baby arrives you are going to be glad you did.” or “How much does the baby weigh now? Be sure you eat a lot of healthy food to keep him growing!” or “When are you due? Oh, January, you say? My cousin had a baby in January and she went absolutely stir crazy. Try to stay as busy as you can at home.” and “Beware of the germs before baby’s two-month shots.” Sure, some of the advice is sound, but a lot of it is BS that makes moms feel like they are being set up to fail when the baby arrives.
The barrage of advice only intensifies after the birth occurs. It is frequently meant to be helpful, but mostly, it’s just unsolicited and creates stress for a new mother.
So where does a new mom turn for truly helpful advice?
Where does she go when she wants to weed out the crap and only take in what is important? The obvious choice is to seek advice from other moms who have recently given birth or who have similar-in-age infants.
For me, I found solace in meeting with other moms, but only for a short period. The obvious choice sort of blew up in my face after a bit of time, and it led me to feel socially disconnected from my peers.
At first, it was great to see other moms who were having similar issues with things like breastfeeding or sleep. I would attend local meetings for new moms, and I appreciated the words of advice from others in that group.
I remember thinking: Hey, this isn’t so bad. I am still socializing. Everyone told me my social life would tank once I had my twins. Here I have two newborns but I am making it work!
I was pretty cocky.
The Camaraderie was a False Alarm
As the meetings started turning into lunch outings with our kids, I started to feel the disconnect. I believe that having twins did make it difficult for me to connect on a deeper level with these other new moms, I recognize that. I know that having a newborn is hard no matter what the circumstances are, however, with two babies, it didn’t take long before noticing that the challenges we faced were not the same.
I distinctly recall a lunch outing that went awry where the disconnect hit me in the face. The other moms (there were about 5 of us) walked right through the front door of the restaurant with their strollers. Well, my double-wide did not fit through the door. That was challenge number one. They were very helpful and pitched in to help me carry each baby inside in their stroller-bassinet (which could be disconnected from the stroller base). We were inside successfully, but cue challenge two: Two crying babies at once with no additional help from the equipment I used at home in such situations — a swing, bouncer, etc. I was suddenly so out of my league.
I sunk as I noticed the other moms each holding their baby and feeding them, each one quite content in his/her mother’s arms. Meanwhile, I am at the corner of the table trying to quell two screamers with two arms. It was honestly absurd. I can laugh about it now, but in that moment, forget it. I was overwhelmed. At this point in my new journey as a mother, I was socially isolated, not because my ‘mom friends’ pushed me aside, but because I was incredibly overwhelmed and, admittedly, envious. Add to it the feelings of guilt for even thinking or acknowledging my envy — because how could I not be grateful for my two precious babies — and I did what I now refer to as ‘going dark’ from socializing with other moms.
Realistically, it was hard to spend quality time with anyone (I mean, twins, hello.), but I remember yearning for more adult interaction and having a very hard time finding it. I became weary of hanging out with other moms, afraid of adding to feelings of anxiety because they all seemed to have it all together. Meanwhile, I felt like the pre-pregnancy friends sort of vanished for a while. (Hindsight on this is that the did not vanish, they were respecting me by giving me space to navigate life as a new mother.)
My naive thoughts about how life was supposed to look once I had children were incredibly misinformed.
I thought that to be a truly dedicated mom, I had to show the world that I’d given up every other part of me to give my whole self to my children. I thought it also meant I had to socialize with other parents to show that I was invested in their social/emotional growth.
I thought it meant shifting my entire social life, which I did subconsciously. By throwing myself into the world of mom groups and ‘mommy-and-me’ classes, I actually ended up feeling more alone than had I just stayed in my lane and done what worked for me and my family.
I don’t dislike any of the women I met in these groups. They were kind and supportive, but it was not what I needed as I navigated this season of life.
Getting Back to Myself and Reconnecting
It took about a year for me to realize that I was hitting a wall with the strategies I was using to feel included in the mom-community. I continually pushed through negative feelings, doing what I believed was going to pay off in the long run: I figured that if I made friends with these mothers, our children could do playgroups together, and it would make the days fly by, make the winters feel shorter (winters are the hardest season). After a year of this, I finally discovered what worked for me; for my family.
These are the top two ways I shifted my thinking and found peace, found my ‘groove’ as a mother.
First, I lowered the expectations I had of myself.
This meant that I had to let go of this idea that to be a ‘perfect mom’, I needed to be involved in every community program for mothers. Heck, I had to let go of the idea that there is even such a thing as the perfect mom.
I started caring less about attending events, and you know what? The world didn’t collapse! I was happy staying at home with my babies and staying in pajamas for an extra hour if that’s what felt right in the moment. Once I identified that my expectations of myself were holding me back, I started to make a conscious effort to let them go, and I feel more like myself after going through that process.
Next, I separated my social life from “mom life.”
While I still take my kids out to events and playdates, I don’t feel the need to be best friends with every mom I meet. I can decline an invitation because it would be more effort than it’s worth to attend such-and-such event. I am friendly, of course, and I do enjoy talking with other mothers, but we can be chatty without hanging out every single week simply because our kids are the same age.
Instead, I went back to making connections with the friends I had before the twins were born (well, they didn’t go anywhere, I just thought they had). Some of them even have children of their own now, which adds an additional layer of conversation, but it’s not necessary to have those conversations to have a good time. As a couple, my husband and I enjoy outings with other adults when we can manage to get someone to watch our kids (thank you, sisters), and I have found that separating my social life from the ‘mom life’ has made me feel more like myself. It has helped me step into my role as a mother because the other parts of my personality — specifically the part that enjoys socializing — is satiated.
It was important for me to reconnect with my inner-self to feel that I was being a good mother to my children.
If I continued to push to fit a mold of what I thought made a good mother before I had children, I was going to hit bottom. Well, I kind of did.
Being someone who I wasn’t made me completely disconnected socially.
But the social disconnect was really just a symptom that I was not connecting with myself in a meaningful way.
Once I shifted my perspective, I was able to come back to who I was and still be a good mother to my children.
What I’ve learned in this process is that it is possible to give 100 percent to your children and to and still be connected to who you truly are — who you were before they were born.
Sometimes, it feels like there’s the ‘you’ before kids and the ‘you’ after they’re born — but you were always there, you never lost that part of yourself. Sometimes all it takes is a conscious effort to reconnect with your inner being.