Give Me a Break

Written by: Dianne Edmonds Posted on 27 Jun 2014 0

Written a few months ago - it's timely to post this now during the final stages of the Pregnancy and Pelvic Floor Health - Managing the Motherload National campaign by The Continence Foundation of Australia 2014. We know firsthand how juggles in motherhood can affect our ability to take time for ourselves, even something as simple as finding time to do some pelvic floor exercises to improve our health and wellbeing. Why does something so important to so many areas of our lives, get put aside by so many women due to the other factors of life? Well now there's a new app available to help remind you to do your pelvic floor exercises, but in case you feel you want to know you are not alone in the busyness of life, here's a story for you.

In the ‘constantness’ of it all, I decided I would just lie down and go to bed, at 7.30pm, for at least 10 minutes before facing the bedtime routine (?) again. For the last four weeks my husband has been on the couch with an injured leg, making short trips to and from the bathroom only for the first two weeks. So my motherhood load has doubled. Even though my kids are now 10 and 12 and doing their part, the constant workload with no extra help is wearing me down. Having moved in the second half of last year, we had not yet established strong support networks.

So I look to what books from my bookshelf I can pull out to read – Motherhood Stress, by Deborah Shaw Lewis – that looks like a good one! A picture of a mother desperately holding on for dear life, her hands clasping on one side to the grass on the ridge, and her feet dug in to the other side. Her children walk across her back as it arches and bows under the weight of a toddler, young child dressed as a pirate and her teenager applying makeup happily looking in the mirror.   How is she holding on? I do not know, but at that moment I think that I can relate.

So I look inside the contents page:
Part 1. Motherhood Stress: Exploring Causes and Effects

  • Stress? What Stress?

    • Unpredictability

    • Lack of Control

    • Complexity of the Job

    • Time Pressure

Yes, and that was the first chapter. Yes, I could relate.
Turning to the first page, I read “In a rare moment of calm, my friend Barb and I sat at her kitchen table, sipping warm tea and talking. Our young children – her three, and three of my five had quickly paired off and were playing happily in her back yard”.
Well that sounded idyllic! Then I read:
“I’ve been worried lately,” Barb admitted. “My hair has been coming out by the handful whenever I brush it. So I went to the doctor this week to find out what was wrong.”
“Oh? What did he say?”
Barb shook her head. “He told me it was only stress. But I can’t see how it could be. I’m just a mother. It’s not like I work.”
Only stress? Just a mother? Mothers don’t work? I knew then Barb and I needed to have a long talk.
Doesn’t sound like much unusual? But the interesting thing that I found is that I was reading a book written at a time when a book was just a book. It was first published in 1989 and again in 1992, back in the days when a book was just a book. There was no You Tube; Pinterest; Facebook; Twitter; Ipads; Ipods; Smart Phones – to share this information around the world with. A book was just a book!

It was also interesting to find that the issues were just the same. While we might know more now and there are more solutions at hand especially when we can type into them (asking Dr Google for help), they are the same issues.

I think what I had been looking for what was some degree of understanding which someone could identify with what I was going through at this point in time. And I got it, in the section under Complexity of the Job.

Deborah the author, describes a time when she struggled feverishly to finish up work on this book, and her oldest son was in a local children’s theatre production. She writes, “With play practice several evenings a week, then the entire family schedule had to be changed. Pulling off a simple supper now required much logistical juggling. And that created stress, even in a situation we knew would be over in a month.”

But this is the bit that I love and that really spoke encouragement to me, because it is exactly how I had been feeling during the past week.

“The problem with a mother’s juggling act is someone’s always tossing in something new – usually when we’re right in the middle of our carefully practiced routine. The temporary situations just keep changing until everything seems temporary, except the stress. To meet one person’s need, we must toss something else a little higher and hope we can catch it again before everything comes crashing down around us.”

Then I realised, I had become more skilful at juggling! While I might have dropped the balls at times, I was actually quite capable of juggling more than two balls at a time. A juggler starts with juggling just two balls, if not one. And then they slowly will add in another ball or object as they can manage those two. A skilful juggler will then progress,           WITH TIME,                   AND PRACTISE, to having a ball or object thrown in by another, but even at this skill level there is the anticipation that while practising they may still drop it.
She goes on to sum up, “In most jobs you have a job description you can look at and update. If it changes, it’s written out, and you know exactly what the expectations are. But a mother’s job description changes every day. By the time you could ever get it written down, it’d be outdated.

And yet, the more complex and varied any job description is, the more stress the task holds. So all in all, it’s quite an act we mothers try to pull off. Some days I think juggling chainsaws would be a piece of cake.”

Now juggling chainsaws is not recommended, and talking about cake may also cause another level of stress, but for there, we’ll draw it to a close. Thank fully I was able to get a good night’s sleep, which means I felt better in the morning. That’s not always possible and a whole other issue – since I have a printed piece about sleep highlighting “The sleep clock loves routine and regularity”, on my desk right now.

So, that’s as much of the book as I read, before getting up to continue saying goodnight, which was short this time as “Mummy needed her rest too” – and “tonight, `lights out’ is on time”.

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