The Mother ManualAllana Harkin
First of all, welcome. I know it hasn’t been easy getting here. Even the straight up “easy” way of quickly getting pregnant still involves nine months of growing a human in your body and having it come out through your vagina. A prospect so mind blowing that it’s even more confusing that it actually happened. Don’t worry about dwelling on this fact as you’ll have years ahead of you to reflect on this miraculous event in one of two ways:
1. You’ll be casually walking down the street and momentarily pause, stare at your child walking next to you and say, “Good Lord, you came out of my vagina.”
You’ll laugh or sneeze, and then freely pee yourself in a public place. Just soaking. From the waist to around your knee region. Then you’ll carry on because you happen to be at a party (good for you!) and chances are there are at least 3 other people who have also peed their pants. You may even get to the point where you just say out loud: “Hey! I’m having such a great time that I peed myself!” (I’m not proud of this, but in my defense, I was having a really great time.)
Truthfully, much of the general public is cool with this. They don’t care if you peed yourself but there are those who care how you see yourself. This group in particular is very aware of how you are growing as a mother and they have big thoughts about how you should be progressing, interacting and evolving.
They wonder if perhaps you’re “too Mom”. They may feel uncomfortable if you choose to nurse your children in public places and they really feel uncomfortable if you decide to use the family bed. This same group of people will also be nervous that your child sleeps on a different floor than you. What if you don’t hear your child’s cry and immediately answer their needs? What then? Abandonment issues? Worse? This group thinks you need to nurse your child until they are at least one, no two, actually make it four. There is nothing better than breast milk. But they also worry that if you’re breastfeeding so much does that mean you’re going to give up your career? You can’t give up your career! This is too much identity shift for this group to bear. And speaking of identity please don’t use your child’s photo in replace of your own on social media sites. This group gets very confused. Does this mean you’ve been taken over? Abducted by a baby? Please also note that it’s equally confusing if you don’t post pictures of your child. People want to see your baby! But not that much. Okay one more picture. Whoa that’s enough! What’s happened to you?!
This group also thinks it’s very important that you decide what kind of mother you’re going to be as soon as humanly possible. It’s just better for everyone, especially them. Are you going to stay home? Or are you going to get back to work right away? Because if you stay home the group will have to splinter into two camps: those that agree you’ve given up on yourself and those that think you are a selfless angel who has the potential to be an excellent crafter. Wait? You can’t craft? How about bake? Cook? Good Lord, can you knit a pair of baby mittens? Alright then forget it, maybe you should go back to work. But don’t work too hard…because the group worries that if you get too successful you may emasculate your husband and he’ll no longer know how to hunt. Or do other manly stuff like watch golf. The demise of the guy’s guy male species rests on your shoulders. No pressure. Just know how to change the tire on your car but seriously consider whether you should actually do it. Except the group will also not understand why you just didn’t change the tire on your car…I mean you knew how to do it and all! Just change the damn tire…remember when you traveled the world solo? Good Grief!
Speaking of being interesting…please make sure you talk about things other than your baby. The group completely understands that your vagina is still healing and/or your c-section stitches are slightly infected because you forgot about caring for yourself but Life of Pi has been nominated for an Oscar and it’s a little awkward that you haven’t read the book. There are some BIG questions in that book. Questions that would make for great conversation starters at cocktail parties. That being said, the group will also be uncomfortable if you get blasted and dance on the table. New parents should know better. Come on!
On the flip-side the group is equally concerned if you have no children. Seriously. If you are a single woman with no children please do not adopt a cat! The group knows full well that just one cat is the gateway to 40 cats consuming you whole when all you did was fall asleep on the couch watching “When Harry Met Sally”.
And here is the hard truth: Chances are you know a member of this group. There is even a greater possibility that you may in fact be related to one and a 100% possibility that you’ll read an article that’s only intention is to make you feel like you’re doing it wrong. There is no manual as to how to handle someone who needs to judge you so passionately but feel reassured by the fact that there is an equally large group who is very similar to you. The you that knows full well that we are all just making this up as we go along* and that there is really no manual. Just your heart, best intentions and a little solid advice from someone you trust.
But try and do your kegels. Trust me on that.
* Allana Harkin is the mother of two children under the age of 6. She has been known to engage in thoughtful interesting discussions on life, politics and culture. She has also spoken freely about postnatal hemorrhoids at a dinner party and once offered her child a car in exchange for a poo in the potty.
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