Preparing for and Accepting Change
In the so-called middle years of our life, between the single and empty nest phases, we learn that parenthood and change go hand in hand. Like our children, as parents we must mature too. Quite often it is changes in energy and consciousness within the child which precipitate changes in energy and consciousness within the parents. At other times it is the parents who initiate circumstances for change to which the child must respond. On both sides it requires adaptation and therefore maturation. This is basic human interdependence.
Growth for the child and the parents can be both gradual and sudden. Although there are stages and phases each child goes through, their timing is never exact, and their disruption of the status quo can manifest very differently. The easiest way to accommodate change is through sensitivity to them in advance, adapting yourself and your lifestyle sooner rather than later - in other words, choosing to change rather than having change thrust upon you.
Like pregnancy and the birth itself, when approaching parenthood a degree of physical and metaphysical preparation is needed beforehand. Yet how can a first time mum prepare for something as foreign as motherhood? When a woman prepares for pregnancy, birth and motherhood, it is well understood that these are physical events. Most mothers-to-be focus mainly on the physical preparations for childbirth, with some reading on the side, and through circumstances, are usually forced to make lifestyle compromises. As for the emotional aspects, we usually figure in advance that joy and pleasure will be the main ones and that we'll handle the rest when they come along. But this is too often found to be far from the truth.
In the first few months after childbirth, many women comment that that whilst they did prepare for pregnancy and birth, "nothing could have prepared me for all this"! Firstly, they didn't even think about how they would handle motherhood, and secondly they reckon nothing would have helped! It must be said that, yes, there are lessons on how to fold a nappy, how to bath a baby, how to push a pram without getting a sore back, what sort of car seat you will need to purchase, etc, etc, in the pre-natal and early childhood classes, but the realities of mother-hood are way beyond this.
An interesting phenomenon surrounding motherhood which has been discussed much of late, is the myth that mothers are holding back from childless women and the rest of society the complete truth of it all. Is there really a conspiracy of silence by mothers against their sisters? I have contemplated this issue a lot and also reflected upon my own situation as a young, child-free woman. I have come to realise that people only hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see. Whilst single, most women rarely step inside the real life of a mother. They tend to only mix in places and with people that reflect where they are at. And if they do encounter motherhood at close quarters, its intensity is usually unobvious to the visitor. And of course everyone who observes a struggling parent smugly thinks - "I won't be like that." This is just inexperience and the ego talking. When one becomes a parent these attitudes are brought into very sharp focus by pressures such as the cries of a 2 week old baby, the mess of a 9 month old, and the tantrums of a 2 year old.
In overview, the side effects of motherhood - and therefore the necessary areas of preparation - involve the personal and interpersonal; the domestic and the social; the physical and the metaphysical. All the following headings in this chapter are mixtures of both areas since they are so often linked and infused into each other. Most of them need consideration, not just straight after the birth, but preferably some time prior so that when your baby arrives you have a life which accepts the necessary changes rather than clashes with them. Some of these recommendations are only attitudinal changes which will help you manage day to day events better at the mental level. Some of them involve managing other people. Some of them involve structural changes to your lifestyle which, I believe, are imperative to an easeful life of mothering. I have tried to address these issues with consideration of the many different lifestyle options that women choose today. My own experience has ranged through: full-time, work away from the home motherhood using childcare (which I did for the first 2 years); full-time, stay at home mothering (which I did for the next 2 years); part-time, working for someone else mothering (which I did for the next 4 years); part-time, self employed, around the home mothering (which I have done for 6 years ever since).