Buh-Bye 2016 ...
Posted on December 31 2016
To me, happiness is not just a state of mind. It is an essence of being. It is the place where I don't feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained or too tired that I yell at my kids without good cause. Considering women, especially Moms, have been told we can "have it all," this type of happiness can actually be quite hard to achieve. In fact, to achieve this kind of happiness, I think the first step is to recognize that you can't have it all. This was a concept I started thinking about last year, really focused on this year and with that framework asked, "Well what do I want?" It is very hard for Mama to ask this question because we are always so used to putting others' needs before our own that we sometimes forget we wanted anything at all.
Which is why I circle back to New Years Eve with fondness. As the mainstream world is asking, "What do you resolve in 2017?" it is forcing me to take the time (that I deserve) to reflect on myself.
Mama - if you haven't done so today, I want you to do the same for you. Don't just do it because everybody's doing it. Do it because you deserve this day. In fact, please know, you deserve this every day. The way you feel, how you live and what you do matters. Afterall, I love to pronounce: Moms are the only real people with the power to change the world.
In 2016, we had a lot of Moms achieve their breastfeeding goals and milestones. We also had a lot of Moms who didn't have their babies in the way they planned, a few Mamas who experienced infant loss, some Mamas who had to stop breastfeeding in a way they did not plan and more. Sometimes I think one year in the life of being a Mom can be equivalent to five years of a life before children. There are always highs and lows but with the addition of a child(ren) - whose highs and lows now double your own experiences - paired with the presence of fluctuating hormones, situations and experiences which can bring about a new self-identity and the weight of the world (isn't that how it feels?) on your shoulders - it's actually quite a miracle any of us survived the year at all!
So - now that I've got you here - tell me: What do you want in 2017? What will make you happy? And most importantly - as you answer those questions - what can you set to achieve but won't be devastated if you don't? Afterall, we're only human.
For my 2017, I have a few hopes:
1. That in some ways, the US will start to achieve better maternal support. It doesn't have to be breastfeeding specific - all women everywhere need more support - but I like to think the lawsuit against Wellmark to expand their network of lactation professionals is a good start.
2. That women who have thoughts that their children would be "better off without [me]" or that they are not a good Mom recognize that these thoughts are not healthy. If you are this woman, please know this thought is not wrong. You are not alone. And overall, it's just a matter of your personal health and the fact you need more support. Work on your health by taking the step to acknowledge this gap between healthy and unhealthy thoughts and seek support ... either by reaching out to a friend, a Partner, your doctor or Postpartum Support International or Postpartum Support Virginia.
3. That women (myself included) bridge the gap between feeling healthy and being healthy by taking decisive action - and I don't mean going to the gym. I just read this great article called "The Invisible Workload that Drags Women Down." It put the words to everything I have been thinking and feeling particularly as I spent this past year growing Mama's MilkBox while also learning how to be the Mama's MilkBox worker and everything that I was all the years prior. As you grow as a woman (including the title of "Mom"), so can the list of everything else. Last year, on this point, I resolved to do better in 2016 and I took decisive action by creating a family plan. I talked about it briefly in an interview I did with the One Committed Mama blog. First, you need to recognize all the things you do. Then, as you grow and your list grows, you need to draw a (realistic) box of what is manageable for you to do and not do. I strongly emphasize the happness goal all the way above (ie, not feeling overwhelmed or too tired) - Mama's instinct is to add and add and add to the list but that is not healthy. My personal list expanded this year when I went to work full time on Mama's MilkBox. Perhaps your own list expanded when you became a Mom for the first time, or added a new baby or maybe you went back to work, etc. Either way - an important goal should be to recognize that as you grow, not all things will continue to fit in the box and when things don't, you need to re-assign those tasks that no longer fit. To put this into something tangible, for example, I recommend that your children - as they grow - can take up tasks that fall outside the box (and take up space in your mental retreat). I did this personally in 2016 by assigning more chores to my now five year old and let me tell you how successful it was: Mama is happy to have less on her plate, child is proud to have responsibility and achievements and I feel confident I'm doing my part in this world by adding a child to the mix who I think (and pray) will grow up to be a great contributor to his family, community and society. As 2017 rolls around, I had such success with this resolution that I am going to continue it into 2017 - and vow to think about this "box" *every season*.
A lot of emails are coming out now, "Hello 2017!" - but I'm not ready to say hello yet. I still have 9 more hours to think about 2016 and say buh-bye. As the hours dwindle down, I want to celebrate all my great achievements, tweak the successes into more tangible goals, think a little further about any setbacks and feel confident that when the sun rises tomorrow, I will be in the best place to welcome the new year on a new day.
Wishing you all the best in health and happiness as you close-out 2016 and welcome 2017,
The BreastFeeding Stylist and Creator of Mama's MilkBox