On mornings when my daughter goes to preschool, I sometimes pop on the TV for some adult voices as I nurse, change, care for Henry and do things around the house.
Sometimes (all the time) there’s nothing really good on so I kind of half-watch whatever is on. The other day, I found myself watching one of the Kardashian spinoff shows for the first time.
I was sucked in, big time.
I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the way Kourtney as a mother to two young children, one a baby, was depicted. Her sisters obviously had no conception of what it’s like to be a tired, nursing, protective Mama Bear mother to a baby. Her husband was off racing cars and the sisters were making fun of her for wearing sweatpants and smelling bad.
Of course it was all played up for laughs and giggles and the sad sap mom, in her apartment-hotel just breastfeeding and covered in spit up, was the comic butt of the show’s overall joke. It was interesting to see how motherhood was depicted in the least mother-y of settings…high-flying celebrities, partying Miami, beauty, flash, conspicuous selfishness…how far from the self-sacrifice and all-encompassing nature of early motherhood.
Yet…Kourtney seemed to take it all in stride. She seemed completely confident in her choices, to breastfeed, to care about her little family pack above all else, to just hunker down and BE a mom in the face of her family’s ridicule. It was kind of cool.
I guess I’m having a lot of deep thoughts about an E! TV reality show because that juxtaposition between what it means to be a baby mother and the non-understanding larger world around is kind of resonating with me right now. I remember before I had my first baby, how annoyingly been-there-done-that moms were, with that whole “you just can’t understand until you’ve been there” attitude about what it’s like to give birth, be a mom, be up all night for a year, to have your whole world and priorities and universe shift, irrevocably.
There are groups I circulate in who will just never understand. Most men, for one (Sorry, guys. I know many men are equal parenting partners, but…). Pre-children people in their 20s, or of any age. Weirdly, people whose children are long grown also seem to revert back to a hazy innocent un-remembering about it all, too. Babies are recalled as sleeping and perfect angels by grandparents. It’s a forgetting of time and an inevitable scrubbing from the memory of the bad, the stressful, the difficult.
But I think that does a disservice to the moms of now. If you can’t understand, or remember, or try to understand, you can’t support them.
I HATE HATE HATE when well-meaning older women post things on friends’ Facebook statuses about their babies, how they are struggling with lack of sleep, or baby fussiness, or whatever it may be, and then here comes a nice middle-aged lady, saying something like “These are the best days of your life,” or “This is the easy part, just wait until they walk/run/drive the car,” or “My kids are 17 and 19 and I still don’t sleep at night.”
NO. No no no no. Let’s please stop lying to poor women in shellshock from their first weeks with a new baby. They knew it would be hard. They didn’t know they’d have to shed their old skin, lose their self before they regain a better, tougher, harder, Mommy snakeskin.
They didn’t know the chrysalis would be like this. By fire.
Don’t admonish them on Facebook to appreciate it. I understand that from a twenty-year-long vantage point, these ARE the best days of our lives. That never again will our homes be so full of children’s laughter, joy, sounds, family. We understand that. But these are also the hardest times. Don’t scare new moms into thinking they will be this sleep-deprived forever.
They won’t. It gets better and better. But support helps, especially for those of us who have been there, done that.