This is Not News

As I scrolled through the headlines during the week, trying to find something that wouldn’t just enrage me, I came across an article in the Irish Examiner with the headline “Half of New Mothers don’t take time for themselves after Birth”

My immediate reaction was to think THIS IS NOT NEWS. Every mother in the Western world knows this already.

I say Western world because women in the East are actually far better at caring for themselves & being cared for in the weeks after having a baby…more on this below.

My secondary reaction was… what are the half that claim to take time for themselves even doing? And how?

The article goes on to state that 75% of women “don’t consider a recovery plan” for after the birth… a what now? The only plan I ever heard about was a birth plan, and even that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

So what are we meant to be doing? Well apparently we are all supposed to take 30 minutes a day to care for ourselves in the post partum period.

30 minutes.

Half an hour.

1/48 of a day.

2.08% of a day for those who love a percentage.

Sounds absolutely pathetic when you say it out loud doesn’t it?

Sounds even more pathetic when you try to actually have this time and fail to make it past the 10 minute mark!

But yet we struggle immensely to achieve even that measly 30 minutes of each day to care for ourselves.

I am deliberately not using the term “self-care” because that phrase has been beaten to death by social media and has also been condensed down to a solo trip to the toilet… complete BS and worthy of a separate rant!

In what is called the Fourth Trimester, the 12 weeks post partum, I honestly think more than half of women don’t get that time that they should get and badly need. So many of my friends are mothers at this stage, and I didn’t need an academic study to be carried out to know that the vast majority of these women don’t get that time.

Like myself during my two trips around the newborn merry-go-round, their whole days and weeks are taken up with feeding, changing, rocking, being slept on, attempting to feed themselves, attempting to feed the other members of the household, making a dent in the laundry pile, keeping the fridge stocked, and the many many other things that need to be done.

Most likely, the man of the house is out at work, gone most of the day, and asleep most of the night.

Where is she supposed to get that time?

Sure, she could schedule it in for when Daddy gets home… that will depend on the baby towing the line; not freaking out as soon as Mammy disappears; or having a nappy explosion that is just too much for one pair of hands.

Unless she has help, proper help available, likelihood is, it just won’t happen.

And this is not a slight towards the men; the men for the most part do their best; but evening times are a disaster for newborns; usually the clingiest, whingiest, most unsettled time of the day, and usually when they demand Mammy the most.

So really she needs the help during the day if she is to have this time to recover and care for herself.

Yes small babies nap. But who ever really knows how long that nap will be? 10 minutes? 2 hours? It’s a complete lottery.

You are never fully confident enough in the duration of any nap to start the shower or turn on a hairdryer while the baby is asleep. If you are anything like me, nap time means a chance to EAT ALL THE THINGS and have a hot cup of something in peace.

Is that considered “caring” for oneself? Feeding yourself hardly classifies as anything other than basic survival needs. The same goes for bathing, having a shower is a basic need, not a luxury.

Often we are our own worst enemies. We don’t ask for help. We struggle on. We tell ourselves we “should” be able to do this. We feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness or failure.

Many of us are reluctant to hand the baby over, even to Daddy, as it feels like handing over control. We put the brave unwashed face on and we keep on truckin. We don’t ask for the time we need, and inevitably we don’t get it.

Things are looking up for new parents at last. Our government has recently granted more state funded parental leave options for fathers and mothers; a great step in the right direction, and hopefully this will keep improving.

Having help around for those early weeks can make or break a womans’ experience of motherhood. It makes it possible to take the time needed to recover fully, inside & out. Even if it is only 2.08% of the day that you get, it’s better than 0%.

Most women are home alone 2 weeks after giving birth. That is just simply too soon to be flying solo for 9 or 10 hours a day.

Hopefully now, that can be extended to 4 or 5 weeks, and what an amazing difference that will make to the whole family unit.

Women in Eastern cultures such as China, Japan and Korea have traditions where the mother is on a period of rest for 30 days after giving birth, and often moves back to her homeplace for this time. I know some of you might think that sounds unbearable, but imagine how it must feel to be cared for fully and properly for that time, and the only thing you are responsible for is your baby… sounds like bliss to me!

I was lucky enough to have a similar experience when I had my second boy; we were between a house sale & a house purchase so ended up living with my parents for the first 10 weeks of his life, and I couldn’t have imagined a better start to life as a mother of two.

Moving out was a major shock to the system and it took me a LONG time to adjust to life without my mother to help with the toddler, but it was great to have had such an easy start at least.

So back to that article, it is definitely NOT news. Not to mothers anyway, maybe to others. Props to the half who say they do manage to take 30 minutes a day to themselves; the other half of us could do with a lesson or two!

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