I had forgotten. That's hard for me to admit but admit it I must. It's been 20+ years since I was a nursing mother of a newborn baby.
Time can be cruel and time can be kind. For me it feels mostly kind. I do not vividly remember the feelings of loneliness or quiet desperation that comes when you are knee deep raising tiny ones. I know that I felt that way, I remember that I felt all those things but I don't remember exactly how I felt. There is no physical memory that is triggered that takes me back to those places.
Similar to labor. I know and recall the pain of childbirth but I can't really remember what it felt like, not in my flesh, only in my memory.
This past week I was with my daughter and her 3 beautiful babies. Identical twins that just turned 3 and her 4 month old baby girl. 3 of my 4 practically perfect in every way (as Mary Poppins would say) grandchildren.
We are together every week but for several reasons I hadn't been over to her house in a about 4 weeks. They just bought a new house after staying with us for 6 months during the house hunt and once we got them settled I wanted to give her a little space to breathe.
Being with her there, I remembered what had been forgotten.
The busyness. The endless requests, The messes made as soon as they are cleaned up. The laundry, The exhaustion. Hanging on by a thread sometimes.
She rolls with the punches, she always has. Much more easily than I do in truth. I think having twins first broke any delusions of well-oiled bliss. Twinadoes will do that to a mom. If you know, you know. From the moment they were born she hasn't had a moment to slap her own butt with both hands.
Spending a few hours with her, helping unbox a couple remaining things, between playing outside and snuggling the baby I remembered what I had forgotten. It is so isolating. It is non-stop work. It is being at the beck and call of unreasonable little people who don't understand why going to the bathroom takes so long, when they just want some chocolate milk.
Moms with littles have their hands, their hearts and their spirit full up, stretched to capacity. It's a bit different from when I did it, from when my mom and her mom did it. The work is the same mostly but the expectations are skewed.
For all the talk these days of self care and the affirmations of our post-partum bodies and cautions about mental health I still think, it's actually worse for mothers now.
Never once did I create a monthly photo to mark their age. Nor did I have to take videos or photos constantly. If I was on the ball (and I wasn't always) I would get the kids into Olan Mills or JC Penney for photos annually.
I didn't have social media and everyday I thank the Lord. The distractions, the temptations to shop, the messaging about your home, body, mental health, marriage, politics, social justice, stereotypes in film, celebrity gossip, diet, exercise and on and on is relentless. It's utterly relentless.
I don't believe for one second we can immunize ourselves against the impact ALL that messaging has on our psyches. I just don't. Saying it doesn't impact us and preventing it from really getting into our heads- very different things.
The world took expectations of mothers and multiplied it exponentially with social media. Because raising humans and keeping them safe and healthy wasn't enough.
It's no wonder the backlash is to redefine what motherhood is and isn't. Cleaning, cooking are called "care tasks" now and the "influencers" argue those aren't part of mothering. Also, it's not necessary to play with your children if you don't like to, or so the TikTok tells me. Oh and you have to earn money so you don't lose yourself.
I can't help but believe that trying to take away some of these responsibilities isn't an admission that we've simply piled too much on a woman's shoulders.
Things have changed and not entirely for the better. The home I was raised in underwent a remodel that took many years to complete. But once a room was finished it never changed. I mean NEVER changed until 2 decades later when the house sold.
If there were interior design trends we were not aware of them. We didn't go to Target and browse for 2 hours to determine what we needed in our lives. I do it now, like everyone else but I didn't when my kids were growing up, my mother and grandmother didn't. It didn't exist.
We did watch soap operas. The entire time my children were small (when I wasn't a single working mom) I watched Soap Operas. Everyday I made time to watch my stories, as my grandma called them. Young and the Restless some, General Hospital from time to time, but always, without fail, Days of Our Lives.
I had them on in the kitchen and all the other rooms, while I cleaned and would change the room I was working on during commercials. The babies and kids would move room to room with me and play in their room.
Everyday almost without exception I watched Oprah Winfrey. I would be so enthralled and moved by the guests and topics that I would often just sit and watch the program. And I would eat chocolate, sometimes - my right hand - I would eat bon bons.
Those programs anchored my day, marked it in some ways. They helped me establish a rhythm and routine. I knew without looking at a clock where the day was, when I needed to start dinner and when the kids needed some quiet time. I ran my home and I did pretty well. We even homeschooled.
Streaming and social media devour time. I watch my own days get sucked into their vortex when i'm not careful, but it's the messaging that concerns me more than the time.
So much self improvement. Expectations that keep climbing. I love me some self improvement. I had to drive to a bookstore and browse the section, buy a book and then read it - the whole book to get the information. Now it's a never ending stream of memes and 30 second videos that pound away at your brain telling you - do more, be more, feel more, think more. So much thinking.
Are you recycling enough? Using straws? Think, Think. Do. Do. Do. It's too much.
Watching my daughters navigate this world as young mothers wears me the heck out. They have robot vacuums and ring doorbells but what is expected of them is unreasonable. It's too much. It has to stop.
Don't make Bento boxes for toddlers, or manage an Instagram for your puppy. It's okay. Maybe instead watch a soap opera and enjoy some bon bons. Release all these constructs and comparisons and watch the pressure lift off.
I don't think the isolation is remedied by social media. I think it makes it worse. Not only does it provide a false sense of connection while the true need goes unfulfilled it simultaneously creates hundreds of new little neurological pathways to make us feel inadequate and crave more of it.
Soap operas and bon bons may have a similar effect, full disclosure. If I had to choose as a young mom these days I'd probably scroll my phone too. I don't know how you avoid it. But soaps and bon bons was simpler. Simple is pretty good.