A Mother’s Rights

A Mother's Rights

Being in the midst of the first few years of motherhood has got me thinking about all the things I need but don’t ask for, ask for but don’t take, and take but feel guilty for taking. To help set my head straight, I came up with a Bill of Rights for mamas.  Things we need to pay attention to in order to preserve our mental, emotional and physical well-being.

A Mother’s Rights

1. You have the right to eight hours of sleep in a 24 hour time period.
2. You have the right to eat a meal start to finish while sitting down at the table at least once a day.
3. You have the right to wear clothes  that fit.
4. You have the right to revise your sex life as needed without pressure to meet a quota.
5. You have the right to shower or bathe every day.
6. You have the right to exercise every day.
7. You have the right to listen to music that you like.
8. You have the right to explore who you are now.
9. You have the right to not always be your best.
10. You have the right to make things easy on yourself when it comes to grocery shopping and meal planning.
11. You have the right to feel however you feel about whatever phase of parenting you are in.
12. You have the right to enlist help for everyday tasks.
13. You have the right to say no to invitations.
14.  You have the right to disagree with your friend’s parenting styles.
15. You have the right to change any or all of your priorities.

The Details….

1. You have the right to eight hours of sleep in a 24 hour time period.

Don’t think for one second that your partner somehow deserves more sleep than you do (stay-at-home moms, I’m looking at us.) Humans need sleep to function. In all likelihood, if you are a new mom or your toddler is a rough sleeper, you won’t be getting eight uninterrupted hours regularly for a while. But eight hours spread out over a full day and night can happen.  And I am here to remind you that it is your right to claim those hours – interrupted or not- without guilt, whenever you possibly can. Sleep is crucial. Divide nights up with a spouse, practice early bedtimes (for you, not just the kids.)  And of course, get your nap on. If you need a nap and can find a way to get one, do it. It’s your right.

2. You have the right to eat a meal start to finish while sitting down at the table at least once a day.

I say once a day because anything more than that is too lofty an ambition (for me, at least.) But like anyone else, you have a right to sit while you eat- start to finish. Usually this means planning and prepping – like cutting up baby-sized bites for little ones, setting water, napkins, and other necessities out- before your butt hits the chair.

3. You have the right to wear clothes  that fit.

After pregnancy, don’t expect your body to shrink from its expanded size and proportion back to the exact same size and shape it was before. It may not ever be the same, even if you lose all your baby weight (which you might not and that’s OK too.) Instead of trying to squeeze into your old jeans and feeling fat about it, or wearing postpartum pants a year after baby arrived and feeling un-sexy as hell, get thee to some sort of clothing store and buy some clothes that fit you now. And don’t forget the shoes. I outgrew most of my shoes after two pregnancies and thought I could just deal with it. Finally breaking down and admitting my gd shoes didn’t fit was a step toward mama-freedom. Mama needed a new pair of shoes, y’all and I had a right to fulfill that simple need. Just like you do.

4. You have the right to revise your sex life as needed without pressure to meet a quota.

Don’t even try and compare your sex life now to what it was before you had kids. If you wait six months, seven months, or a year after having a baby to have sex, it’s OK. If you used to have sex once a week before kids, and now it’s once a month or every other month or practically never, it’s OK. If you are up all night with your baby and would rather sleep than have sex, it’s OK.  Sheer lack of time and opportunity are huge variables. It doesn’t mean you aren’t sexy or your relationship with your spouse isn’t strong if you aren’t having regular sex. Becoming a parent changed your whole world, did you think it would change everything except your sex life? Nope, that changes too.

5. You have the right to shower or bathe every day.

Water is a great healer. It rejuvenates and replenishes on many levels. In ten minutes, you can wash off a stressful night or mentally prepare for a busy day. It is a safe place to just be with yourself.  Not to mention showering makes you smell good- always a bonus in a day filled with breastmilk, diapers and baby food.

6. You have the right to exercise every day.

Even a little bit- I’m talking 10 minutes of walking- either with or without a stroller or baby carrier can do wonders. Or taking a few minutes to stretch your legs up to the ceiling and do some abdominal twists before getting out of bed in the morning can really feel good.  Do not forget about this grand instrument that is your body. It is your right to work it out every day, even for a few minutes just to say hello.

7.  You have the right to listen music that you like.

Most toddler music sucks. True, there are some exceptions. But there is absolutely no reason why your little one can’t listen to the music you like starting at age 0. They’ll be better off for it. Music is so good for little ones and it’s good for mamas too.Music makes us happy.  And if mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.

8. You have the right to explore who you are now.

A few years of motherhood and your life is unrecognizable. Suddenly things got different. You’re nursing every two hours, driving a mini-van (which you swore you never would do), sharing your bed with three people (none of them is your partner and all of them are under age five) and shopping with the whole family in mind. Where are you in this picture? Your life is different, but are you?  Ten minutes of journaling or meditating can give you the chance to hear your voice again. Same goes for a night out with friends. Or even thumbing through a Pottery Barn catalog to ask yourself- “What do I like now? What’s my favorite color? What would I like to see on my walls?” You don’t have to actually buy anything, but you do have the right to carve out time to hear your voice, your interests, your breath, your rhythm.

9. You have the right to not always be your best.

Some days you dial it in and you have a right to. You do not have to be 100% every moment, every day. For one thing, your kids will learn that they can have off-days too. For another, you will suffer less by accepting your off-days as totally normal and acceptable. You don’t always have to do the full blown puppet show with five characters, costume changes and funny voices. Sometimes it’s OK to throw a read-along book into the cd player and go read a magazine while your kids listen.  Spending all your energy on your kids will get you tired, sick, resentful, depressed, and doubting yourself. So if that means your kid watches a little TV while you spend some time on Pinterest looking at things that make you smile, do that.

10.  You have the right to make things easy on yourself when it comes to grocery shopping and meal planning.

Did you know it’s ok to eat Cheerios and non-organic strawberries for dinner? Did you know that many grocery stores offer online ordering and delivery services? Did you know that many people in our generation grew up eating Spaghettio’s, Twinkies, and Kraft Mac & Cheese regularly and are now running Iron Man races and marathons? If you like meal planning and it helps your budget, great. If you don’t, eating simply (think: grilled cheese, rice and beans, noodles and sauce) is easy on the budget too and just…easy. And easy is OK.

11. You have the right to feel however you feel about whatever phase of parenting you are in.

Bored, angry, excited, lonely, nervous, anxious, impatient. Maybe your toddler is brave and reckless and it scares the crap out of you because you think he’ll be that way forever. Maybe you are bored senseless by nursing and can’t wait for the day when you wean. Maybe your one year old is learning to walk and you are dreading the changes you must make to your house to child-proof it. Don’t even try to push away the many, many emotions that come from parenting daily. Most of them come in phases just like every single aspect of a growing babe comes in phases. Try to just be with whatever you feel even if it’s not all flowers and rainbows. Denial will actually make the joys harder to come by. Let “this too shall pass” be your mantra.

12. You have the right to enlist help for everyday tasks.

Have you ever hired someone to come in and clean your house? It is like a dream come true. They scrub your toilets, wash the smashed blueberries and peas off the floor, dust the shelves you haven’t looked at in months, and scrub the microwave. (Are you fantasizing yet?) And that’s just for starters. If you have the extra cash to pay someone to do the hard cleaning once a month, do it. It is worth every single penny. Hiring a mother’s helper can also be a huge payoff for a small investment (as little as $5 an hour for responsible pre-teens) if they’re willing to straighten up toys, fold laundry, or watch the kids while you do the household stuff. You do not have to do every little thing on your own. The feeling of support from getting a little help on the side is an exponential boost.

13. You have the right to say no to invitations.

Don’t want to go the outdoor picnic in 90 degree weather and have to chase down your little ones for three hours while getting maybe half of a conversation in? Don’t go. Don’t want to try to parent your two squirmy kids through a meal at a restaurant? Don’t go. Or how about a house party at the pristine, no-kids home of a friend? Just don’t do it. If your friends are coming with you into this phase of your life- where your whole evening revolves around doing bedtime, and you don’t enter any facility or event unless there is a kid-friendly area, and sometimes the thought of rallying to get everyone out the door and in the car is just too much- they will understand.

14.  You have the right to disagree with your friend’s parenting styles.

They yell at their kids. Or maybe they are so hands-off that their home is a zoo without consequences.  All of sudden, how your friends parent their kids matters to you. And it should. You are a parent now. Here is when friends might float in and out of your life. And when you might decide you don’t want your kids hanging out with their kids. It’s your right to have your own opinions and go your own way as a family.

15. You have the right to change any or all of your priorities.

At any moment, you could change your mind….but right now, you’d rather hang out with your kids than do almost anything else. You stopped using pesticides on your lawn, started donating money to environmental groups and PBS, and quit your job to be home with the kids. You have changed your priorities. That’s your right. Maybe you’d rather go camping as a family than take that solo trip to Ireland you’d always dreamed of. This is not a problem to be fixed. It is a shift in priorities that tells you how important you are to these people you are helping grow. And how important they are to you. You deserve to let yourself change over this thing, motherhood. It’s OK to remap your life, and change your destinations or how you want to get to them. Slowly, simply and easily-maybe with a big fat smile on your face knowing no matter what your goals are, you are making a difference in those kiddos lives just by being you, mama.

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