Like all new mums, sleep deprived and with an internet-connected tablet, I filled all hours breastfeeding times hunting online for the new norm. (In between spending far too much on online stores, mostly for baby things because justified, yeah?) I had a whole array of emotions that were new, intense, and difficult to ground. I relied on forums, newsites, blogs, government fact sheets. I read so much, hoping to ground myself and plan the unpredictable.
It was all a pile of crap.
What I started to find was this listicle hell of 5 to 20 things I didn't know, wish I knew, wish friends new, should tell my family, should expect of my partner, manage my mother in law and cook. All it did was feed my pre-disposed guilt and have me saying idiot things to my partner, who thankfully, took it in his stride. (In all things equal, he had his own moments, too. We're both new at this, yeah?)
I eventually sorted through, worked out what was real for me, partner and bub, and we muddled our way out into our new normal.
What I started to notice, though, was this trend in the media, and reflected in others, that I (not the father) was some kind of fragile special snowflake. This appeared strongest in someone who used to be a close friend. She got it into her head that being a new mum meant being weak. Being a new mum meant not being able to function at all. That being the friend of a new mum meant you had to be ‘pushy,’ because new mum's can't possibly ask for help -they can't do anything. I read this in so many articles. I needed to accept help no matter where it came from, that friends needed to be ‘pushy,’ and that if I don't accept help this means I'm clearly depressed. Which is always the response. If a mum doesn't behave the way we think she should behave, she's clearly got post-natal depression.
Not once did I find an article that celebrated my resilience. Not once did I find a listicle for 5 ways to remember that you're an adult and you should be respected for that. Not one blog post going, hey, you planned this baby and discussed with your networks how to manage that, good for you! Or, How To Have Those Conversations About What You Want Your New Family To Be, Before and After Baby is Born. Overwhelmingly the majority consensus was that I should feel like a special snowflake and swan about useless, letting others make the decisions.
That's not who I am. I'm lucky, and I know that. My boy was planned, my partner and I have a great relationship where we work equally, I have parent's, and parent's in law who are amazing and supportive. I had difficulties, but I managed them the way that works for us, no need or want for a pushy friend. I am proud of what my family has managed and continues to manage. We found what works for us.
This special snowflake mentality, though, left my once-friend unable to give me the space I asked for and the time I needed. Didn't celebrate my resilience, only saw the perceived struggle that she was told I should have. She was pushy, and used others to check in with me when I pushed back. She couldn't understand when I didn't want take away, that I wanted to cook, that I didn't want her over because our house couldn't fit one more person and that caused me stress. That I wanted family, not friends, to be the first to meet my son, and I was not ready in the first 4 weeks to have anyone other than my mum, “just drop in.” All of this read to her that I was in trouble, because when we did meet up, I would get the sad faces, and feel obliged to constantly justify choices that I made. Self-deprecating jokes were taken as serious cries for help. When I went back to work at 6 months it was met with disbelief and worry - not celebration and support. It had always been planned, it wasn't a desperate move. She couldn't see the joy I have for my son through all the worry she has me. Our friendship isn't over, but it isn't as strong as it was because I can't be myself when this snowflake mum is standing between us.
Mum's need to be respected for choosing their way through. Most of us plan kids, or spend the months pregnant planning. While nothing can really prepare you for the emotions, Mum's still have the right to choose their networks. Some will need lots of support, some will rely on friends asking if they're okay. It takes a village to raise a child, yes, but your friends are not always in that village, and this is where the conversation should lie. Getting new mum's to look at their network and discuss what they want, what they expect, and the flexibility to change their mind. The conversation should be around managing the grief of losing friends who can't come with, and building up mum's strengths so they can give voice to what they really want.
Characterising new mum's as being fragile snowflakes serves no purpose and doesn't celebrate them for who they are. It doesn't allow for those critical conversations, and diminishes women to infants themselves, unable to make decisions about who they are, and how they want their new family to be. Being a new mum is hard enough as it is, so please stop making us a bunch fragile snowflakes.
Young and eager, told you can change the world. You build your career, you do well. You’ll go far. Excellent performance, lucky you. You’re a star in this world and you’ll be running it some day. Modern woman, you’ll remove the discrimination for others less fortunate.
Oh wow, isn’t that brave? Never mind, modern woman, you can have it all. Supportive husband, good education, you’ll be fine, you’ll be okay. Women do this all the time. Besides, when you have the child, you won’t want to work, you’ll just want to spend all the time with them.
Only 6 months leave, why not a year, two? You’ll have to work part time, just not right otherwise. Don't apply for jobs, for a promotion, modern woman, you can't be thinking of your career at a time like this. Look at this child, this is your world, you only have rights to be by his side. Besides, no one wants to promote a part time worker. That would be silly. Your head will always be elsewhere.
9 months +6
9-5 work. Don’t worry about it. Don’t be passionate. Just do your time and go home, you deserve it. You want to care? Oh, who has time for that. You’ve got your children to care for. When they reach school age, high school age, when they leave home, then you can have your little career, that would be nice won’t it? You can do the stuff you always wanted to do then. Look at you, modern woman. 9-5, you’re doing well. Why should you give a fuck about anything else?