In healthcare, a lot of emphasis and care is placed upon managing or preventing a disease’s comorbidities. Comorbidities are not symptoms of a disease, but rather other individual diagnoses that occur simultaneously with the primary disease. (So, for example, comorbidities of diabetes can be hypertension and obesity because it is common for people with diabetes to have hypertension and/or obesity.) Lately I’ve been thinking about the comorbidities of motherhood and how these different, stand alone issues are seriously impacting me and other mothers I know. Do you find yourself in a similar situation? Sometimes the comorbidities of motherhood are more difficult to handle than the just the mothering!
1. Loneliness and/or isolation. I’ve been chatting with a few fellow mothers about this and I know we’re not alone! Having a support group with young children is so important, just as a support group is vital for any other stage in life. (I can hardly imagine having been a teenager without all of my best gals.) Research even concludes that social support can moderate the adverse effects of stress on a mother’s life satisfaction. It can be so difficult to establish these support systems with little ones, though, given different work and nap schedules, friends moving away, or just the never-ending to-do list that miraculously appears after the birth of a child. Even Daniel Tiger sings, “But you’re much stronger, With your friends than on your own”– and Daniel Tiger is obviously a very wise soul. I was recently chatting with my long-distance friend and mother of two and we both really feel like there should be a match dot com for families to connect. Thoughts?
2. Emotional changes. You guys, I am typically a very even-keeled person but have lately noticed…emotional outbursts. I spoke to my women’s health provider about the topic, which led to a bigger discussion about how long postpartum issues can last and the permanent neurological changes after childbirth. I was surprised to learn that postpartum mood changes can last for several years after giving birth and that documented neurological changes occur in motherhood that may impact moods. Which, in my case, is being a little extra sensitive than I used to be. This also translates to other emotions as well and may lead to deeper feelings of love and enjoyment. That must be the reason why people have more than one child, right?
3. Loss of identity. The typical transition from working full-time outside of the home, losing the freedom to schedule parties whenever or even spend an entire Sunday in bed with Netflix, and/or not being able to devote as much time to hobbies is tough. With the new role that motherhood brings, a loss of other roles may simultaneously occur and can cause an imbalance. Just google “loss of identity in motherhood” and you will find gobs of articles written by people both saying it’s BS and telling their story of how real it is. Just because there’s a loss of identity does not mean it’s bad, it’s just different and something that needs to be worked through. In occupational therapy, we look at defining one’s identity by how they choose to spend their time. Well, motherhood brings about a very time-consuming and selfless way to spend one’s time– therefore I fail to see how you can’t lose a little bit of a your pre-mama self!
4. No time. For anything. I seriously have no idea what I did with my time before I had a child. I felt so busy (I mean, I legitimately worked a ton) yet I surprisingly feel so much busier now, I think because there is less “me time.” I work outside of the home less now than I did prior to having Waverley which made me think I could get all sorts of productive and functional tasks taken care of. But the thing is, Waverley actually…you know…needs me. To be with her. To play with her. To give her snacks. To be present. Based on what I’ve read and friends I’ve chatted with, this is such a fundamental and common occurrence regardless of how much a mother works. No one feels like they have enough time to do everything they need to! I think the key to having time for “it all” is essentially having an army of people at one’s disposal to delegate tasks out to.
5. Physical changes. Well, this is certainly obvious. Stretch marks, cesarean scars, a pelvis that may never be able to sit on the floor again, an inability to do jumping jacks without peeing. There are a lot of physical comorbidities that occur with motherhood just from the pregnancy and childbirth as well. But what about super human upper body strength and the ability to do multiple things at once with just one hand? Mothers of little ones are some of the strongest women ever.
What else would you add to the list of the comorbidities of motherhood? I think we all have our own top five list of what plagues us as mamas outside of actually being a mama. Because nearly dying of embarrassment over a temper tantrum at dinner with friends? That is a full on motherhood.
**Disclaimer: Comorbidities of motherhood, from what I read, is not actually a real thing. It is just something I made up, so please do not confuse this with medical advice. It is for informational purposes only.**