The Pressure to Not Feel Pressured

Don’t feel pressured to make stuff for your baby. Your baby won’t know if you did it yourself  or if you bought it.

Don’t feel pressured to breastfeed. Some women find it really difficult and formula is totally OK.

Don’t feel pressured to use cloth diapers. You might use them a little bit and decide that the disposable ones are just easier.

Don’t feel pressured to buy organic food for your kid. Organic food isn’t necessarily better than the normal stuff at the store.

Don’t feel pressured to have a natural childbirth. There’s nothing wrong with drugs or C-sections.

Don’t feel pressured to stay away from pink for girls. Girls are cute in pink, and it won’t damage them at all. 

At 23 weeks pregnant, I’m at the point where this stuff is starting to get pretty real. I can feel the baby kicking up a storm a lot of the time, so I know she’s in there. I’m not just going on faith anymore; she is for real. Also, even though the chances are statistically grim, she technically could survive outside of my body at this point – granted, this would only be the case with pretty serious medical interventions and she would probably have long-term health problems or disabilities, so it’s not something we want to happen by any means, but she could. Which is pretty crazy to think about.

Of course, this means I’ve started planning. A lot. I’m pretty Type A when it comes to… well… everything. If I don’t have a well-researched, well-thought-out, honest-to-goodness, bonafide plan for the most likely scenario at the very least, I am seriously a hot mess.

I know: Men plan and God laughs. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. It doesn’t matter. I’m a Type A teacher. Planning is literally in my job descriptionI cannot help it. And Tim is not as Type A as I am (because, seriously, you cannot get more Type A than me), but he is also a teacher and, therefore, also a planner. We make a good team. Or, at least, a team with a plan.

So, plans have been made. We researched cloth diapers, breastfeeding, natural childbirth, organic food, organic fabrics, safety standards on carseats/strollers/baby carriers/furniture. We researched the benefits and drawbacks of hospital births versus home births, whether or not the expense of having a doula was worth it, the effects of my diet and exercise on our unborn child. You name it, we’ve researched it. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, we have made a few decisions along the way.

Cloth diapers? Good for baby, the environment, and our wallet. Yes!

Breastfeeding? Good for baby, mom, the environment, and our wallet. Yes!

Natural, drug-free childbirth? Good for baby, mom, and our wallet. Yes! (Though we will not be using a doula and we will be giving birth at a hospital. The doula was not good for our wallet, and the hospital is a non-negotiable for me.)

Organic food? Good for baby and the whole family, the environment, and farmers. Yes! (We already eat organic all the time, why shouldn’t our child?)

DIY nursery decorations? If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you should know that I absolutely love to make stuff. It keeps me busy, helps me relax, and gives me a serious sense of pride, so I did create some pretty cute stuff for the nursery. Plus, it’s good for our wallet. Yes! (Also, note how almost none of this stuff is pink.)

Notice a theme here? If I’m being completely honest, most of the decisions we made were because we were being totally selfish and trying to save money. Of course, health plays into it a great deal, but that’s pretty selfish, too, when you think about it. We have only made decisions that are good for us in some way. Never, at any point in time, did we ever make a decision thinking, “Gosh, we really should do this even though we don’t want to.” Far from it, in fact. I wanted a natural childbirth, for example (mostly because needles and drugs scare the bejeezus out of me) so we found a class and method that would allow us to do that. And we are really excited about the decisions we’ve made. Natural childbirth was something I wanted, breastfeeding and organic food/materials are things we both feel passionately about, cloth diapers are freaking CUTE, I love to craft, and I am not a huge fan of pink in my home decor.

No brainer decisions, right?

That’s what I thought. Until I started talking to some people. In retrospect, this might have been my first fatal mistake. Everyone knows the Cardinal Rule of New Motherhood: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU EVER TELL ANYONE ANYTHING. KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT AT ALL TIMES OR YOU WILL RECEIVE ADVICE AND OPINIONS YOU WERE NOT LOOKING FOR AND DID NOT WANT.

But, in my excitement, I started chattering away about all of these super awesome things I was really excited about – and I mostly started chattering about them because I never, ever, in a million years, ever thought I would be excited about childbirth and childrearing and baby stuff. So I was excited. I am excited. And I just wanted to share that excitement.

As it turns out, no matter how excited you are or how clear you are about not wanting people’s advice, some people will not share that excitement with you, and they will just want to tell you about how you are wrong. Except they won’t phrase it as simply as, “You are wrong.” They’ll frame it in a way they think you can stomach and will be more likely to listen to: “Don’t feel pressured…”

This, friends, is the new Mommy War: the pressure to not feel pressured. Who can withstand pressure the best? Apparently it’s not me, because I’ve decided to do things that, on the surface, seem more difficult, so that must be because I’m not very good at withstanding pressure. It’s obviously not because I’ve researched everything and made the decisions I’m most comfortable with.

I understand that the pressure to not feel pressured is usually coming from a good place. We cannot be perfect all the time, and moms need to forgive each other as much as they need to forgive themselves. I fully believe that I will pump and hand my husband a bottle of breastmilk to feed her when I just need a damn nap, or that I might make mac and cheese when I have a million other things to do and that looked good, or that I might use a disposable diaper at my mother-in-law’s house because I don’t feel like carrying the wet bag, or that I might need an epidural to get me through a particularly long labor. I absolutely do not fault people for doing these things, nor do I want to repeatedly kick myself for doing them. That isn’t healthy for anyone, and no one can be perfect all the time. 

But, let’s be honest here. Having a baby is hard. And there isn’t a whole lot out there that will truly make it easier. Cloth diapers? One extra step plus a little more laundry. Breastfeeding? In a lot of ways, less work than making a bottle of formula. Organic food and fabrics? Pinch pennies somewhere else. DIY stuff? OK, that’s a lot of work, but I love to do it, and I do it for people I love. Guess what? I love my little girl, so DIY it is.

And what’s wrong with a little pressure, anyway? If I didn’t pressure myself to finish baby blanket #1 (the white one), I never would have gotten that monstrosity done. From what I hear, breastfeeding can be downright hard sometimes, and if I don’t pressure myself to give it all I’ve got, I’m dooming myself from the start. Avoiding princess gear is going to be next to impossible, but being vigilant about the media my daughter consumes is part of the job of being the parent of a daughter.

Often, when the pressure is just enough and not too much, it’s what keeps us striving for better rather than finding comfort in the status quo. And in any other setting, what we see as “pressure” from within ourselves would be called “setting goals” and would be championed.

I have goals. I have a plan. I might reach all of them; I might not. But my decisions are in no way a reflection on how I feel about others’ decisions, and are in no way borne from a pressure to be perfect.

 

EDIT: I realized, thanks to a friend, that I wasn’t super clear in this post. Some of the reassurance not to feel pressured – in fact, most of it – is simply a Type B mom trying to comfort a frazzled, stressed out, Type A mom by letting her know that her baby will be totally fine regardless of the decisions she makes. That is not what I was referring to at all. In fact, that particular calmness is comforting because, frankly, they’re right – sometimes this stuff doesn’t matter as much as you think it does so it’s OK to take a deep breath and settle for good enough for a minute. What I am referring to here is the more jaded “don’t feel pressured” advice that often takes the condescending tone of, “Relax, little missy. It’s cute that you care right now, but in a few months, you are absolutely not going to care about any of this so just give up now” or the vindictive tone of, “Ha! We’ll see how long that lasts. My bet is not very.” This type of pressure to relax is not only not helpful, but is downright mean, and usually comes at a point when the recipient has made a decision and is no longer looking for advice. When someone is looking for advice or unsure, it is perfectly acceptable to offer what you know, but when someone has made up her mind and a person has to jump in and tell her why she’s wrong or that she only made that decision out of pressure rather than research or personal beliefs, laughing at her decision as ridiculous is just rude. (Not to mention that I truly believe that in a few months, with this baby in my arms, I will actually care more about this stuff because it will all have more concrete implications, and, as stated above, I’m setting goals for myself and my family. How long this lasts will be entirely dependent on how long I want it to last! And what’s wrong with having goals? Nothing, in my opinion. But that’s neither here nor there.) Anyway, hopefully that clears some things up. I wasn’t criticizing you, Type B moms. You rock!

 

In other news, below is a gallery of the projects I’ve done so far for Baby Samberts. If you see something you like, I might be willing to recreate it and sell it to you. Feel free to contact me!

3 thoughts on “The Pressure to Not Feel Pressured

  1. Amy on

    I am hard core type b, but I totally understand what you are talking about. These conversations often seem to ignore the fact that people have different priorities/values and what seems like an effort (or a waste of time) to one person is not the same for others. That is something that really annoys me, in many arenas!
    Also, I really like the wall art you’ve made!

    • Ashley on

      Amy –
      Thanks! Being Type B is awesome (and, in fact, I’m a little jealous!) but for some, it just doesn’t work. I think there’s a lot of pressure out there to be the most laid back, cool mom ever, and sometimes that pressure is just as bad as the pressure to do everything “right” all of the time. We just can’t win!

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