3/23/11

Lowest Mom on the Totem Pole

Let’s say you saw a very pregnant woman struggling to carry a bunch of heavy grocery bags. Over her shoulder she grunts, “I’m fine, I just wanted to save myself an extra trip.” Then she vacuums her entire house, skips lunch and her prenatal appointments because she doesn’t “have time,” wouldn’t dream of taking a nap even if she’s tired, and downs a double espresso so she can stay up late filling goody bags for her preschooler’s birthday party.

Be honest: you would judge this woman, wouldn’t you? I know I would. She’s putting the health of her poor, defenseless, unborn baby at risk because she can’t be bothered to take care of herself.

Only here’s the thing: except for the part about being pregnant, this (hypothetical) woman is me. And probably some of you. How many of us have powered through our days with barely enough nutrition to sustain a gnat, telling ourselves we don’t have time to eat a real meal? Or fueled our bodies primarily with junk food and caffeine because we “need it to get through the day”?

But this is not a rant about poor eating habits. It’s about – clichΓ© alert – moms’ habit of making themselves the lowest person on the totem pole. Putting everyone else’s needs first. Putting ourselves last. Not even realizing we’re doing it.

You know how sometimes you hear the same advice over and over and one day for some reason it suddenly sinks in? That happened to me while reading “The Naked Mom.” Author Brooke Burke asks: “What if you applied even a fraction of the attention you pay to your child’s health and well-being to yourself?”

Being a fairly health-conscious person (Mini Egg and Starbucks binges notwithstanding), it’s shocking for me to consider this. I bend over backwards to make sure both my boys have some form of protein, a fruit or vegetable, and not too much sugar at every meal. Even if that means going to the grocery store for the third time that week to buy kiwi. (Which the baby calls “fiwi.” Adorable.)

I worry about them getting enough sleep, exercise, and fresh air, to the point where I will sit in a parked car to ensure they finish their nap, and force myself to kick a soccer ball in the mud when I would rather be sitting inside where it’s warm and dry.

But do I extend the same care and concern to my own health? No, I do not. I regularly skip breakfast (because I’m too busy being a short-order cook), miss spinning class (because I decide to throw in just one more load of laundry before I head to the gym), and forget to schedule my own doctors’ appointments. (Who has TIME for another appointment?!)

Burke writes, “Becoming a mother gave me a whole new respect for my body… it felt good to nurture myself in order to nurture that tiny life growing inside me. …Once you’ve left the delivery room, it’s a shame to discard the self-awareness that pregnancy provides.”

It’s true. I grew A PERSON inside my body. Two, in fact! I did prenatal yoga, forced myself to take vitamins the size of hub caps, and got plenty of rest. Don’t I deserve to treat myself better than a pack mule? (I bet even pack mules take regular water and snack breaks.)

Tell me: what do you do to take care of yourself? And when? For God’s sake, WHEN?!

8 comments:

Anonymous said…

Funny, I'm sitting in my OBs office seeing all of the mommys-to-be and was just reminded of this very same thing, as my stomach is growling louder than ever since I skipped breakfast today and hardly ate dinner last night because I was too busy being a new mommy. πŸ™‚

Lisa said…

Fantastic post. I think you hit on something true for most of us. The truth is, super-moming is similar to anorexia. Totally unhealthy eating habits at first get you the reaction, "Wow, you look great!" and the hyper-vigilance gives you the feeling of being in control. Being a super-organized mommy martyr can get you the same kind of social approval and comfort of control.

But I do have to disagree with one thing… If you left out the missed prenatal appointments and the late night caffeine (which people would see as potentially harmful to baby), most other moms would be left feeling either impressed or inadequate (or both), and therein lies the problem.

Mom2Miles said…

Lisa: I love that you used "super-moming" as a verb. πŸ™‚ You make some good points. It's true that while I personally am shocked to see a very pregnant woman going all out on the treadmill, other people might be impressed and approving.

SpontaneousMom said…

I find my sanity in working out. I go during my lunch break- hey it's either that- or sit staring at the computer for another hour- or going out and spending money that I don't need to. So off to the gym- get in some mommy workout time- work off any fustrations- then that way in the evenings I can focus on making dinner for my family (which I really enjoy!) and playing with the kids. And if that means that I miss TMZ- or have to DVR the Biggest Loser- no big deal- but EVERYbody eats a veggie at dinner. Oh- and I only cook dinner on Mon/ Wed- we eat leftovers Tues/ Thurs- πŸ™‚

Arati dasi Aislinn said…

I am suffering from trying to be a super-mom to a 20 month old toddler, and so is the baby growing inside me. Instead of a healthy 35 week old babe, I have a fetus whose head is the right size, but body is 5 weeks behind schedule. I have now been put on a high, high, super-high fat diet in the hopes that baby will finally start gaining some real weight. If she doesn't then we may have to induce labor to get her out and get her some nutrition in the form of breast milk. If I can't start taking in more calories each day than I am risking actually starving my baby, as seems to have been happening already. Scary.

But what to do? I have been taking this diet seriously, replacing milk with cream, slathering butter on everything, and stuffing my face full of peanut butter and cheese (our family is vegetarian), but I still have to make time to make sure my toddler is happy and healthy, that the house is taken care of, and my husband and brother-in-law fed. I am almost always the last one to sit down to eat, and the first one to finish, so that I can clean the toddler once he is done and before he starts throwing his leftovers all over the walls.

I can't see any way to give up the things I need to do in order to take better care of myself, as everything is so important. But so is the little, tiny person growing inside of me, and so I find myself eating as much as I can since our Midwife got so concerned as that seems to be one thing I can add to my day (if I eat standing up, don't take my time and remain prepared to leave my high-fat meal halfway through in order to take care of any of the emergencies that come up on a regular basis).

Being Mom of a toddler and an almost-born baby is proving to be the challenge I always feared it would be.

Loukia said…

I certainly don't eat as well as I should, nor do I exercise on a super regular basis. I am highly stressed, always worried, and don't go to bed before 1 a.m., ever, becuase there is always SO MUCH TO DO after work, and after the kids have gone to bed. There aren't enough hours in the day! I do take care of myself in some ways, though, like doing my hair, and some nights, just relaxing in front of the TV. But really. I need to take care of the whole package!

Shannon @ AnchorMommy said…

Oh man. I know exactly what you mean. I do feed myself, but barely. My problem is that I don't eat enough. Because I'm breastfeeding, I am a little hungrier than normal. What sucks is that I usually make up the calories I didn't eat during the day by eating at night!

I realized the other day that I really need a break. I didn't get to sneak away today for a little time alone at a coffee shop, but I think I'm going to do it tomorrow. Little does my husband know. πŸ˜‰

Erin said…

This is something that all moms need to think about. Maybe we shouldn't encourage each other to "do it all" We should push more of a "take a break when you need it, or take care of yourself too" attitude.

I remember frantically trying to get the house cleaned up for visitors after my second son was born and drove myself nuts. I remember thinking that I didn't want people to think I was just letting everything go. Yeah, god forbid you're not cooking, cleaning, and vacuuming after having a baby and being up nursing all night.

Sad thing was, people told me my house looked great, asked how I was able to balance everything when I was really a total mess.

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