When you first found out you were pregnant, you started envisioning what it would be like to be a mother. The picture you painted was rosy. No where did you envision that it would be difficult. And your friends didn’t tell you; they knew that despite the difficulties, the rewards of your newborn child would be much higher.
After you deliver your baby, you have your moments. You know those moments, your hair may go unwashed… for days. You have baby vomit on your shoulder. And as you struggle, you note that everyone is quick to offer advice or be critical. But, you preservere. After weeks, you finally make it out of the house for lunch. You have to race to get there as your baby had an explosive dirty diaper just as you are leaving. You arrive to meet your friends late, disheveled with your baby wailing. You look up and all you see is that the other moms are well dressed, calm and collected.
Then when your children are in school, you are plagued with a multitude of activities to manage. Sometimes you drop the ball. You don’t get the notice about pajama day. Your child goes to school in his regular clothes. Another mom is the first to noticed and comment… more than once.
Then these activities spill to after school times. You race around town trying to get two children or more to individual activities. You have limited it to two activities per child because that is all you can manage. But, overhear another mother with four children talking about how each of her children is in four activities per week.
And as the years go on the obligations increase as does this unspoken pressure to be not only super mom but this new “Kryptonite Mom”. We will not even mention one “Kryptonite Mom” who has gotten a lot of negative press in the media about her over-parenting choices.
Where does this pressure come from? With the advent of the internet and social media, the societal pressures are even higher. Now achievements can be posted and read around the world instantaneously not just in the yearly holiday letter.
But it’s not all external pressure; parenting is downright hard at times. What works for one child doesn’t work for the next. And there are some days you can be a true “Kryptonite Mom” and some days when you fail. The failure is hard to admit.
One theme common to almost all mothers is that we all want what is best for our children. Now, how about wanting what is best for ourselves: to feel adequate, and supported by fellow mothers.
First let’s examine the effects of all these pressures and then examine how to make it better. Over-scheduling of our children has negative effects as documented in studies: increased stress, anxiety and physical ailments. How many of our children are going to turn into professional athletes, dancers or performers? So while it is important to expose your child to lots of different activities. It is important to remove activities that no longer fit. One mother told me: we went to a parent observation class for our daughter’s dance class, which she had attended for 5 years and were shocked “ at not only her clear inability to keep up with the rest of the class but her apparent disinterest” So after days of discussions, she finally said “I don’t want to take dance anymore!” Maybe it is time we limit the activities. Let our children just be children for a moment.
Let’s change our mindset and stop the judgment leading to these unnecessary pressures.
Think about all the women in your life who are supportive, –you’re really close circle of friends. Now treat all the other women around you like you would your close circle of friends. No ridicule. Respect their different choices. The next time that new mom comes to you, don’t give her advice just listen or offer to watch her newborn so she can go get a pedicure.
I am going to ask a favor: relax and give all of yourselves a break. Strive to be imperfectly perfect. And the next time you hear that mom happily exaggerating about her achievements as a mother, give her a break. She is just struggling with what we all are: being a good mother.
Ask the Doc
1. I have been losing my hair since I delivered my baby. I note that it is slow to grow back. Please help.
Post Partum Hair loss is normal. It usually starts 3-4 months after delivery. Any significant stressor can cause hair loss including: severe weight loss, major illnesses and surgery, along with traumatic psychological events. The hair loss is diffuse (all over). It can take 3-4 months for the hair to regrow. This type of hair loss is reversible and will not lead to baldness. If the hair loss persists, it is important to be examined and have laboratory testing performed.
2. I have PMS (premenstrual syndrome). I have tried many things nothing seems to work. What can I do?
PMS or premenstrual syndrome is common. It is characterized by physical symptoms (abdominal bloating, breast tenderness and headaches) and emotional symptoms (anger, irritability and internal tension) that occur only in the second half of the menstrual cycle. 75 % of women have symptoms. Treatment should be started only when a clear diagnosis has been made: a women must be symptom free in the first half of their menstrual cycle.
For mild symptoms exercise and Vitamin B-6 (< 100 mg) can be tried. These have possible benefit. Other remedies that may have benefit are: oral contraceptives, Vitamin E, Calcium, magnesium, relaxation techniques and reflexology.
Therapies that have been proven to be ineffective in clinical studies are: progesterone (duphaston), lithium, evening primrose oil, essential free fatty acids and ginko biloba extract.
For severe symptoms or for symptoms that effect a women’s life, (if the above fail), a class of antidepressants: Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SRIs) are very effective. Sometimes a treatment interval as short as three days per month is effective. (There are other therapies beyond the scope of this Q&A)
3. My 4 year old son has had recurring febrile illnesses since we arrived to Doha 4 months ago. Should I be worried and is it normal to have so many infections when coming to a new country.
In any country the number of viral illnesses a child experiences is much higher than we as parents would imagine. For example, children under six years average six to eight colds per year (up to one per month, September through April), with symptoms lasting an average of 14 days. This means that a child could be ill nearly half of this 8 month time period. Expatriates from all over the world live in Qatar, they bring with them many different strains of viruses than you would normally encounter in just one country without so many expatriates. The number of illnesses your child has will be the highest this year and then should decrease the following year. Your child should be evaluated if the fever persists beyond 3-4 days or if your child does not having complete resolution of symptoms in between infections.
Top Three Parenting Tips
- If you work from home and have young children at home, center work times around nap times to eliminate distractions. Noise cancelling headphones and music work well too.
- If you need to do homework with an older child but have a toddler running around interrupting. Give her some homework too. Photocopies of letters that he can color regardless of whether he can write work well and can be educational.
- To keep dinner fun, go around the table and tell about your favorite part of the day.
Please send me your supermom story, your parenting tip or your question. Would love to print it in an upcoming blog!
This article was previously published in the March 2011 Woman Today magazine.