The other day, a lovely elderly woman in the grocery store told me all about her grandkids and great grandkid and then commanded that us “young people” – my husband and I – enjoy our daughter because time just goes so fast. Gah. I’ve written about this before and inevitably will again, but I can’t take the “Enjoy every minute thing.” It makes me seethe. So I decided to dive deep and find out why. Like I’m some kind of investigative journalist or some shit.
So the first reason I think the command to “Enjoy every minute,” or EEM for short, makes me nuts is because of my postpartum. I mean, really? Telling someone with postpartum depression/anxiety to EEM is equivalent to damning them to hell on earth for eternity. So thanks for that. High five.
Even though I am not in the throes of PPD/A anymore, I still resent this idea. It could, of course, have something to do with the fact that I hate being told what to do. It could also be because, as I have talked about before, every moment ain’t great, and the pressure we put on ourselves to enjoy all the moments of motherhood makes us nuts. Like, literally in some cases. *points at self*
A mom I know said this to me the other weekend: “I asked my husband this morning if it was okay that I don’t like all the mommy things” and then explained to me that we was confused about what she meant by this. I basically shouted at her THAT IT’S OKAY NOT TO LIKE THE MOMMY THINGS because many of them suck. She provided an example – she hates feeding her kids. I get that. Kid feeding is hard. I don’t care if you are sticking a boob into your baby’s/toddler’s/kid’s mouth or one of those plastic spoons THAT HOLD NOTHING, it’s just not easy to feed another human and get a lot of joy out it (let’s all remember that when we are drooling in the nursing home and quietly shaming ourselves for not enjoying every moment, k?). The list of not totally fabulous things that you have to do as a parent, and as a mom especially, starts with trying to get a baby out of your body and ends in tears somewhere in a laundry pile of clothes you forgot you had because they’ve been dirty so long. Spoiler alert: Motherhood – parenthood – really isn’t that glamorous. And isn’t it kind of annoying when people try to make it so either by telling you to enjoy every friggin’ second or pretending that parenthood isn’t hard?
I bought into the model motherhood thing so hard that it still nauseates me to think about it. I still do buy in from time to time and it makes me crazy. You know, more than I usually am. One of those ways that I am currently drinking the Perfect Mommy Kool-Aid is via this idea that I need to be an “ideal version” of myself to be proud of myself as Aya’s mom. Double gah.
So I don’t need to tell you that women struggle with their bodies, especially postpartum. Some of us struggle more than others, but I am gonna guess you don’t know anyone who is over the moon about her new stretch marks and the pelvic floor massages she has to get just so that she can feel something below her neck. If you do know such a person, introduce her to me so I can punch her. Just kidding! Kinda. Anyhoo, we struggle, and that’s normal, but something about motherhood makes a focus on your body – or on my body, I should say – more intense. I think it’s due to “bounce back” culture – you know, where your success as a mother and woman is based on how quickly you can “bounce back” from your baby body into your old skin, and presumably, your old self.
I resent my old self. The one with all the time to exercise and all the freedom and all the carefree days of worrying about shit that doesn’t matter, now or then. I resent other people’s old selves, especially if they are able to slip easily back into them. I resent my clothes that hang in the closet I never go into because they remind me of a former self I once knew and who I won’t be again. I resent oscillating between wanting to be that woman and having absolutely no fucking idea who she was.
I suppose this makes me full of resentment.
I am currently reading Hunger by Roxane Gay which every woman should for so many reasons – too many to list here. Gay writes,
When celebrity women have babies, their bodies are intensely monitored during and after – from baby bumps to post-baby bodies. After a celebrity has a baby, her size is assiduously tracked and documented until she once again resembles the extraordinarily thin woman we once knew…Celebrities understand the economy of thinness…The less space they take up, the more they matter.
This is just a small nugget of the beauty and wisdom and raw and wicked truths of Gay’s body and all women’s bodies in contemporary North American culture. I may not be morbidly obese as Gay has been so cruelly classified, but I understand her longing to her “best self” packaged in the smallest possible pound of flesh.
This is larger than weight for me and I know deep down, that ridding myself of the baby fat that I so assiduously maintain via my eating habits, will not make me happier or a more effective or caring or compassionate parent. What I know is that I have a long way to go to accept the new body I inhabit, the new role in the world I wear, the new me who has been multiplied by the mixing of cells and the passing of genes and the reality that I live outside myself in small human form.
Perhaps I think that if I accept myself as I currently am, I must accept all parts of me. Not just the jiggly bits and the new wardrobe of baggy dresses, but the whole of me, as woman transformed to mother, a person split into a second self, not that I own or care to, but one that will leave me forever divided, never singular, always walking the world as a piece of someone else.
It is both a miracle and a kind of curse to know that you have created life and so you will never be truly alone again.