If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

I usually leave the parenting posts to the likes of those who have proven their expertise in this entertaining arena.  Our Life in 3D, mommyverbs and Mostly Domesticated are a few such excellent blogs I’d highly endorse.  So fear not, kind readers. I’ll  be sticking to my usual territory of fitness, though this post addresses it from a more conceptual point of view.

We all know the story about Mama.  It’s a simple statement, but completely spot-on, and according to Dr. Madeline Levine, author of The Price of Privilege, it goes beyond just general happiness and bleeds into other key elements of one’s life, particularly parenting.  This is not to say that Daddy doesn’t play a significant, and sometimes solitary role in his children’s upbringing.  For the purposes of this discussion, however, we’ll be focusing on the maternal element, based on child care roles reflected by the average household in the U.S.

This book about parental pressure and material advantage was recommended to me by a friend and colleague, as we discussed the perils of parenting in our modern society.  The bulk of the content focuses on how we’re raising a generation of disconnected, psychologically damaged souls based on America’s warped veneration of athletic and academic achievement.

While there was much to be learned from the key elements, and I highly recommend this guide for those reasons, the takeaway that struck me most was the entire chapter – 24 pages – dedicated to the need for mothers’ well-being.  Whether we’re employed outside or staying at home, we’re isolated, overworked, and lacking in the basic comfort that comes from having close-knit communities and friendships.

“Motherhood as we know it today is a unique invention of an affluent society.  Few women in the world are so isolated, so cut off from the easy back-and-forth of communal relations, as financially comfortable as American mothers.  While we love our children madly, truth be told, many of us have problems with parts of motherhood, with the distance from our own families, with the preponderance of responsibility for child rearing, and with the lack of connection to others who share our joys, our problems, and our values.” 

Tennis Racket and Ball on CourtIn 2011 I was on the roster at Mama Ain’t Happy Camp, and was entering my seventh year as a parent.  Up until this time I’d been unwavering in my devotion and dedication to the care and nurturing of my daughter, many times to the unfortunate exclusion of my husband’s involvement and my own needs.  But that’s being a mom, right?  Yes, in the extreme, unhealthy form it is, but so is self-care, a term I considered at that time to be frivolously tossed about by the privileged, stay-at-home-with-a-nanny types who scheduled regular court times and demanded weekly manis and pedis.

Land that puppy!

It was very recently I discovered that my fitness journey, this transformation of my body and ultimately my whole being was born out of the need for self nurturing.  It wasn’t until the time my daughter was entering 2nd grade that I psychologically allowed myself to let go of her a little and reach out for me.  According to the book, and my personal observation of many families in my community, I was a little ahead of schedule.  I’ve sometimes seen mothers, so caught up with their mothering, they are unable to land the helicopter even after their kids have left the airport.  It’s an easy trap to fall into when you look at the culture of our society.  Kids are no longer encouraged to be independent and self-sufficient, and as a result have been dismissed from becoming productive individuals, so somebody has to manage all that loitering on the launch pad.

I sincerely hope we see the pendulum swinging back toward moderation.  Our kids need to find themselves, make mistakes and learn from them.  And we need to get a life.  Period.

My personal nurturing manifested in exercise and nutrition, and most surprisingly, the community I entered into by writing about it.   This not only includes my readers and other bloggers, but my gym friends and even complete strangers who approach me to inquire about my fitness habits.  The diet and workouts have obviously been beneficial, but the camaraderie I’ve experienced on this journey has fulfilled me the most by far.

housewives oc
My personal mind candy

Yours may be different, but whatever it is it needs to be your own, outside of your family and your work.  Singing, sewing, cooking, painting, scrapbooking, climbing mountains or even settling in for a good long marathon of the Real Housewives of Wherever (as I’m apt to when it’s available).  I also strongly advocate a regular girls’ night out, or even a weekend, if you can swing it.

Anything that brings you peace and allows you to embrace the real you.  Maybe it sounds trivial coming from the articles you read in the parenting magazines, or the local talk-show authority on women’s issues, or even your own obstetrician as she hands you the stack of new mommy pamphlets.  I am here to tell you, a real mom with real experience who’s been through it.  Me-time is an absolute necessity whether your kid is 17 months or 17 years, and YOU have to be the one to claim it.

Though your family loves you, it will be a rare occasion for any one of them to present to you a silver platter with consecutive hours on it.  Get your knife and carve it out.  Wrap it up and put it in a safe place no one else knows about (write yourself a note if, like mine, your definition of safe is interchangeable with lost).  Then…and this is key…make sure you actually take it back out and USE it.

And get ready to dial up the King’s horses and all the King’s men, because this is where we tend to crack.  We fall into the martyrous scramble of duty and guilt time and again.  School functions, doctor appointments, last-minute inbox crises.  You name it and before you know it, you’ve under-prioritized yourself right off the schedule.  Again.

I hope you’ll consider my advice and take this seriously.  If self-care isn’t a significant issue why do we see so many t-shirts talking about it?  Women are communicating it, they’re just not saying it out loud.  Speak now, mommies, and forever hold your peace.

How do you spend YOUR time?