Motherhood is an adjustment

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This blog is Day 16 of my 30 days of motherhood blogging challenge. Every day, for 30 days, I’m sharing diary-style snippets of my life as a working mum to one cheeky toddler. Consider this part creative experiment, part self-therapy. Feel free to play along at home! You can read days one to 15 here.

Motherhood – especially new motherhood – is an adjustment. This concept has been on my mind since the day Zoey was born, but I’ve struggled to put it into words – until today.

Adjustment, noun: The process of adapting or becoming used to a new situation.

Of course that’s what parenting is – but we don’t use this type of language very often when we talk about becoming a mum or dad. We use far more emotive language, words like blessing or joy or miracle.

I love emotive language, but it can be overwhelming.

Meanwhile, a word like adjustment is practical, easily defined. It’s not good or bad. It just is. I wish we used more language like this to talk about motherhood, rather than dramatic language like “your life will never be the same again” or “enjoy your sleep while you can” or “just you wait…!” These phrases are rarely helpful or reassuring.

Imagine if people said “motherhood is an adjustment, it will take time to get used to being responsible for a small human, and it’s okay if it feels strange at first”. Some gentle, compassionate straight talk without all the drama.

(Although, I’m pretty sure if someone told me ‘motherhood is an adjustment’ in the early days, I’d have snapped ‘ya think?!’ and reached for another lactation cookie. Maybe there’s no perfect way to talk about this topic, haha).

But there’s something about this word adjustment that feels so comforting to me today.

Let me try to explain…

New motherhood is often a strong cocktail of sleep deprivation, intense emotions, and hormones. It’s very easy to get drunk off that cocktail and lose some long-term perspective. At least, that was my experience.

In the early days with Zoey, I had so many conflicting thoughts and emotions zapping around my mind and I wasn’t sure how to process them all. So, I did what most humans do in the face of change: I tried to resist.

My motto was basically: “I’m a mother now but I’m still ME, the very same me, nothing’s changed here folks!”

I’d read so many articles about ‘women losing themselves in motherhood’ that I was terrified it would happen to me, so I went into full identity protection mode. I wanted to prove to everyone (mostly myself) that I could become a mother and stay exactly the same, even though looking back that’s a crazy and unhealthy expectation. Having a child is meant to include a few adjustments. It’s kind of a big deal.

But I don’t think I conjured this expectation out of thin air. I don’t think I was alone in trying to hold on to my ‘old self’ and prove to people that I was still me.

I think there’s an unspoken expectation that women will adjust to becoming mothers with minimal fuss. That we’ll bounce back after birth. Regain our pre-baby body shape. Seamlessly slot back into our career after maternity leave. Still be the same fun-loving gal we were in our youth.

It reminds me of this quote that went viral recently:

We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work
— Unknown

Women face so many conflicting expectations from the moment we’re born; then we have children and things get even more confusing.

Unfortunately, we tend to internalise a lot of these conflicting emotions and take it upon ourselves to try to present a well-rounded, adjusted, confident public face to the world – to be a woman/mother that’s not too little and not too much, not too opinionated and not too meek, not too masculine and not too maternal.

When we get caught up in the trap of trying to present a perfect outward appearance, we forget that motherhood is an adjustment and that we’re figuring things out along the way.

The further I get into this motherhood journey, the easier I’m finding it to let go of other people’s expectations and go inward; to find a way of being in the world that feels right to me.

I’m realising there are no clear answers, no perfect formulas, and very few decisions you can make in advance of the moment. Despite your best laid plans to be ‘this type of mother’ or ‘that type of mother’, all you can really do is accept that motherhood is a series of continual adjustments and do your best to adapt.

For so long, I resisted the idea that motherhood is an adjustment because I wanted to maintain an illusion of control over this aspect of my life, when really that’s impossible.

Now, I’m learning to surrender to what is and embrace the uncertainty.

Here are some thoughts that are helping me at the moment:

  • What’s best for your family today might not be best for your family tomorrow. Give yourself permission to pivot and adjust as often as required.

  • Self-compassion and self-forgiveness are a daily practice. It’s not a question of if you will stumble and fall, it’s a question of when.

  • There is no such thing as ‘arriving’. To be a mother is to be on a magnificent journey. There is no map and there is no pot of treasure. It’s right here, right now.

  • When it comes to trying to please others, there’s no winning. It’s impossible to stay true to your instincts and values without occasionally letting other people down. Some days you have to put yourself and your family first, and everything else can wait.

  • It’s okay to feel conflicted about your dreams and desires, to not have the answers, to change your mind from one moment to the next. I believe this is all part of the process. We have to give ourselves permission to ‘get it wrong’ if we want to find the way forward.

  • You don’t have to have it all figured out – not today, not ever. You just have to stay curious and engaged, remain open to learning, and let your heart continue to expand, not constrict. There’s so much to be discovered, if only we remember to adjust.

That’s where my head was at today – a slightly random musing, but it’s what I needed to write about.

I hope there was something in here that resonated with you.

Until tomorrow,
Jess x