You will often hear the saying, ‘Happy Mum = Happy Baby’.
I think the intention of the saying is good, and it may well be true for many others, but it certainly did not ring true for me when I was a struggling new mum with an intense high needs baby who took more from me than I ever thought I had. So many ‘choices’ and ‘options’ were put to me that would supposedly solve all our woes and they all pretty much boiled down to the fact that I needed to start putting myself first so that I could get back to ‘happy’ and stop being such a ‘martyr’ who was sacrificing her sanity in order to bend over backwards 24/7 for a ridiculously demanding child.
Even after I found my surrender and my mothering groove, the suggestions kept coming.
The people who suggested it were genuinely concerned for me. They could see no good coming from this situation I lived in with my extremely frequent waker who nursed all night and wanted to be held all day. I looked dishevelled and unkempt. I looked exhausted and washed out. I looked to have been consumed so wholly by this mothering gig that there was no semblance of the person I was before. I was someone to be worried about, pitied and in need of advice and a push in the ‘right’ direction.
From the outside looking in, I made this mothering business look ridiculously hard and not at all appealing to those around me.
BUT, on the inside I was growing. On the inside I was glowing. On the inside, I was developing a new strength.
I was becoming a new and fuller version of myself.
Maybe for some the path to a happy mum is to focus her self-care on doing things for herself. This kind of self-care has slowly appeared into my world, too and as my babies have grown, it fits more and more frequently and comfortably into our lives. But, I am not ashamed to say that for the longest time with my first baby, there was simply no way I could feel ‘happy’ unless I knew my baby was happy, too.
I am an empath and as such, I keenly feel and take on board other people’s emotions. This is both a strength and a weakness in my life but I have learned to accept it as an essential part of ME, and because I like me and care for me, I know that I need to be mindful and care for my Empath tendencies for me to feel well within myself. Does this mean I need to fix the ills of the world as well as my children’s every discomfort to find happiness? No, it does not, but it does mean that while I have a highly dependent and attached infant relying on me as their primary source of comfort and nutrition, they WILL require my care first and I will need to know they are happy before I can embark on any form of self-care without them.
I remember trying on many occasions to seek to make the more traditional types of self-care happen. More often than not, the stress and anxiety of even having to contemplate doing these things were enough to make me unhappy. Then on the occasions where I did ‘just go, they’ll be fine, you are just stressing. They always do better than you think.’ … I’d be called back home within the hour to a hysterical child who would not calm for dad and needed boob or I’d get home to them looking wrecked as my husband ‘toughed’ it out to give me a break. Interestingly, on none of these occasions was I out having the time of my life or even feeling particularly happy, despite the fact that I was getting ‘me’ time that was meant to make me a happier mum. I wasn’t enjoying it because despite what other people told me, that my baby would be just fine, he wasn’t, and I knew he wouldn’t be. He is now the cruisiest dude in town and can easily be left with daddy, babysitters, daycare, his grandparents, friends and family, but while he was an infant, he wanted his mum. That was it.
Once I accepted this, as where he was at and what he needed, I was so much happier within myself. He needed me, all of me and more. He was happy when he had me, and unhappy when he didn’t. My self-care simply had to fit within these bounds and to work that out saved both of us so much heartache.
This doesn’t mean that at times I didn’t dream of running away. I didn’t wish for some time to be alone and untouched. It didn’t mean that my dreams and desires ceased to exist.
I still needed and wanted time just to be, but for me to be happy, I didn’t need to have everything I wanted and needed right then and there. To be happy, I had to be right where I was needed.
I needed to have a happy baby and to have a happy baby made me the happiest mum I could be.
I do not need perfect to be happy. I can be a mess of contradiction, raw and exhausted and still be okay.
What was key for me was getting to a place where I could talk about my worries, frustrations and struggles without feeling like I needed to filter them out of my life completely to be happy.
We all come as we are as people to motherhood. For some mothers, truly, the happy mum =happy baby path may well be the best and most appropriate course to chart, but I feel it is necessary to express why this may not indeed be the route to happiness for ALL mothers and should therefore not be held over mother’s heads as yet another pressure she has to do this mothering thing ‘right’.
If you only feel happy when your baby is happy, there is nothing wrong with that.
Mothering does not need to look pretty, perfect or easy for it to be ‘right’.
Sometimes, it may be ugly, raw, unfiltered and undeniably taxing on a mother’s heart, mind and soul and still be all kinds of ‘right’ for her.
A massive shout out to all the mothers out there who are simply doing what feels right for their family without a succumbing to pressure to conform.
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