In those simple days BC (before child) you were completely clear about your personal style. Whether it was organised, relaxed, neat freak, messy, social or private, you had it sorted.
Now it seems there’s so much pressure to live up to some unattainable ‘perfect mummy’ image that you feel completely overwhelmed, and your personal style seems more of a hindrance than helpful.
For instance, being a neat freak can mean you feel completely frustrated if (or when!) you get behind with laundry and tidying. This creates more stress as you find yourself focussing on things that ‘need’ doing, instead of enjoying your baby.
Or if you’re naturally really social, being at home alone with a high-needs baby is very isolating, and you can feel quite depressed. Childless friends may not understand that you can’t just dump your baby and spontaneously go for a drink, or that you’re too tired to sit up late talking to them if they visit.
Instead of focussing on the negatives and falling prey to your images of the ‘perfect mummy’, try looking at how your personal style can be integrated into your mothering style – and why this is a good thing, whatever your personality. For some people, being organised will help you have a sense of order and reduce frustration about what you’ll eat tonight. For others, being relaxed and able to ‘go with the flow’ will make it easier to respond to your baby without feeling stressed about the unpredictability of his needs. For yet others, being social means you’ll feel confident about meeting a whole new group of people through baby classes and activities. More private mums will cope well with being at home alone with your baby.
Whatever your personality or personal style, it’s helpful to be clear about what’s important to you, because if you deny parts of yourself or try to force yourself to be someone you naturally aren’t, you’ll feel resentment and your child will sense this. When you work out your mothering style on your own terms, you’ll be able to eliminate stress and guilt and enjoy being a mother. You’ll also be able to nurture with awareness, knowing where you can make ‘shifts’ and compromises that feel comfortable to you.
For example, if you feel out of control when you don’t have a routine, you’ll probably find the unpredictability of life with a baby has you feeling overwhelmed. And yet a strict routine can also have you feeling like a failure when you can’t meet your self-imposed deadlines, because your baby won’t fit into the schedule.
One way to manage this is to break your day into early morning, late morning, early afternoon and late afternoon periods, and work your tasks around your baby’s needs. It can help to create a daily rhythm, a weekly rhythm and a monthly rhythm.
If you’re less organised and find yourself overwhelmed by chaos because it just isn’t in you to plan ahead, this kind of gentle planning can help you too. If things are absolutely crazy, try to list the things you do need to get done to help you feel a sense of order. Then delegate – either pay for help or ask for it.
It can also help to try and think what you enjoyed before you had a baby. When were you happiest? Was it when you completed a really challenging task and you ‘nailed it’? Or was it when you were enjoying great social or leisure moments? How you can integrate some of this fun into your new mummy life – whether it’s reading, studying, exercising, listening to or creating music, meeting new friends, going to a class with your baby, doing volunteer work, or returning to paid work – on your terms?
Consider what you can do with a baby in tow. What do you really need right now? How can you manage some of these things around your baby? And where can you find support to make these things happen?
As you work out your own authentic mothering style, be kind to yourself and remember the old saying: ‘If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy’. Take care not to add pressure by putting too many things on your ‘to do’ list, ditch your images of the ‘perfect mummy’ (whatever these are – she’s a myth anyway!), relax and be the mother you want to be, your way.
To listen to Pinky McKay's teleseminar "Mothering, the REAL change of life; what they never tell you and how you can make it easier - for YOU", visit Pinky's site, then enter your email address to be sent the link to download the seminar.