Many moms will agree that being a parent is one of the hardest things they have ever done. It’s rewarding but it certainly has its challenges. While being a mom means a lot of things, it does not mean you have to suffer. You don’t have to put on a superhero cape every day and make the impossible possible. It’s time to get rid of your superhero cape and drop some of the heavy weight you’ve been carrying.
You may be a mother to a tiny human but you’re still a person with your own individual needs. You have a responsibility to your baby but also to yourself.
Your rights as a mother
1. You have the right to nurse or not.
You can nurse for as long as you want or as little or not at all. Lactation problems aside, the choice is yours. I see many mothers who struggle with decisions about when to stop and feel guilty about their decision to terminate pumping and nursing their babies. If it’s creating an emotional struggle and is intolerable, then it’s okay to stop. Abrupt discontinuation of breastfeeding is a known risk factor for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders so be sure to seek appropriate support.
2. You have the right to sleep with your baby as long as you’re engaging in safe sleep practices at all times.
There are a lot of dos and don’ts to follow and many for good reasons. By no means am I suggesting that you ignore them, but I invite you to release the pressure you may be putting on yourself to follow everything with rigidity. So if you decide you want to keep your child in your room with you or in a separate room, like the baby’s nursery, do what works for you as long as you’re being safe.
3. You have the right to share as little or as much as you want about your motherhood experience with family and friends.
Don’t feel compelled to share anything with anyone you’d prefer not to. People with well-meaning intentions can sometimes ask questions that might feel intrusive to you. It’s okay to set boundaries with others and ask for any space you may feel you need.
4. You have the right not to love everything about your motherhood experience.
There is no need to feel guilty about not loving or enjoying all aspects of being a mom. You will feel all the feelings possible. Being a mother invites a lot of emotions and it can be overwhelming at times. Allow yourself to feel all the feels and try not to judge them. They are just feelings and feelings do change.
5. You have the right to make mistakes.
You are never going to do it all perfectly. You were never meant to. You will make mistakes, but you will also learn and because you will learn, you’ll grow.
So of course, with rights, you also have responsibilities.
Your Responsibilities as a Mother
1. You have a responsibility to take care of your baby AND yourself.
This isn’t optional. You need to do both. It’s too easy to put yourself on the back burner but this is not what’s best. Remember that what is best for you is ultimately best for your baby.
2. You have a responsibility to ask for help.
You can get what you need if you ask for it. You don’t have to do it alone and there’s support available for you. Support can come in many forms and can either be formal or informal.
3. You have a responsibility to find allies in your community.
That might be a postpartum doula, mom group, lactation consultant, or whatever your need may be. There are lots of resources available to you.
4. You have a responsibility to have a postpartum plan for yourself.
There’s a lot of preparation involved in having and taking care of a baby. Most moms have a plan and are well prepared for their baby’s arrival but have no plan for how they will take care of themselves.
5. You have a responsibility to be compassionate and gentle with yourself.
Mothering is hard work. You do need to be gentle and give yourself lots of compassion and understanding.
So take a deep breath and know that you’re doing a good job. Feel free to keep adding to this list as you continue your journey to and through motherhood and pass along to a friend who needs to hear that they too are doing a good job.
Guest post by:
Kerri-Anne Brown, LMHC
Healing with Wisdom, LLC
Reproductive and Maternal Mental Health