What are you carrying?
And I don't mean diapers and Cheddar Rockets. I'm talking about your emotional baggage.
I talked to a group of pregnant women and their partners on Tuesday morning at Women's Health Alliance in Durham about expectations and worries postpartum. Like the rest of us, most had done a really good job of taking care of the essentials before the baby arrives: getting the car seat installed, setting up a crib or co-sleeper, taking care of the responsibilities of work before we take our leave, etc. What was missing, for them, is preparation for the essentials that come after the baby arrives. Sure, we or friends have set up a meal "service" like Take Them A Meal but what about other essentials? Essentials like support from other new moms, permission to let the housework slide, time to take deep breathes, heal and be present with the emotions that we are experiencing.
Pregnant or not, as women, we've been conditioned to believe that we can do it all and that we should do it all. And that's our first mistake. This impossible promise, though, is much more realistic (or feels that way) when we don't have a child in the picture. As soon as the baby arrives, however, the gig is up. It quickly becomes clear that the social expectation of having it all/being it all/doing it all is not only unrealistic but also tightly packed with more shame, guilt and anxiety than we had ever imagined when we'd first stepped into those tight shoes. But once we're got them on, they're hard to just kick off.
In order to live with peace, be present with our children, sleep soundly at night, stay in good health and leave work behind when we shut down our computer, we must get rid of off these awful shoes. No matter how hard we try, they will never really fit us. And we are not the problem! They don't fit any woman. We need to shrug off what's not working because it's costing us a lot. Even as I type these words, I know how hard this is for me. Unless I get the pinwheel of death, for example, I never actually shut down my computer. I'm not alone on this one. It saves me time to keep the computer on, to just open it and begin to type. Doesn't it? And, is that short-term timesaver "enough" to balance what I'm giving up long-term?
To start casting off what's not working, we need to look carefully at (state aloud, document, get an accountability partner, etc.) what our essentials actually are. And that's a small, tight list! Once we know that, then we can start eliminating some of the emotional baggage of the "stuff" that we carry with us that prevents us from spending time on those essentials. There are additional costs associated with carrying emotional baggage which doesn't serve us. Intangibles like energy, creativity, money, focus.
We will talk about some of this in Toddler Group because the baggage that we carry also affects our relationships with our toddler, our partner of course, and other important people in our lives. When you're overwhelmed and feeling guilty, how do you think you'd deal with our impetuous toddler? Yeah, kind of like that.
What can you stop carrying?