When watching movies, television shows or reading novels, I always wondered how authors could gloss over the every day trials and tribulations of being a human being. Why didn’t the main character ever get plagued with a migraine? How come protagonists never complained of stomach cramps? Why couldn’t a romantic lead ever interrupt a pivotal moment because she had to run to the bathroom? These mundane distractions and annoyances are a constant in reality but never make it to the big screen.
If movies and books ignore these details, then motherhood is the opposite. Moms thrive on TMI. If there is one rule of motherhood, it’s that over sharing bonds us and creates camaraderie. From the onset of getting pregnant, women discuss how often they need to pee, their weight gain, stretch marks, and all other physical discomforts.
Once the baby is born, mothers scrutinize the size, texture and color of every poop, mucous and bodily discharge. If nursing, women compare the number of ounces they can pump from each breast, their engorgement, swollen nipples and fluctuation in chest size.
Essentially, there is no subject unspoken. If we aren’t supposed to sweat the small stuff, mothers are the exception to the rule. We have the small stuff seeping out of our pores. The more we share, the less we feel alone. And the worse your predicament, the more heroic you are. You are the life of the party if you can brag about how little your kids sleep, how infrequently you have sex with your partner, and when you give toddlers sour gummy bears for dinner.
Women are conditioned to over share. After all, we are told to drop our pants and part our legs for countless medical professionals who push, prod, prick, strip and examine every square inch of our most sensitive body parts from the moment we’re pregnant through delivery and birth. I remember feeling prudish at my first internal ultrasound. By the time I gave birth, I had totally disassociated from my body that I no longer recognized it as my own. I had shared it with a fetus, and I had allowed (almost) anyone to have their hands in places I never knew even existed.
Admittedly, motherhood is a rollercoaster full of emotional and physical highs and lows. Women tend to put their own needs aside to take care of their little ones. And if complaining, over sharing, and divulging personal anecdotes becomes a communal activity, what’s the harm?
But after observing and participating in this ritual for almost two years, I’m attempting to break my own cycle of: over sharing, feeling temporary mutual understanding and repeat. The most truthful phrase I’ve heard about motherhood is “the days are long and the years are short.” Some days feel like it should be 5pm when it’s only 10am. But dwelling on the minutia drags out the day even longer.
Sometimes it’s helpful to take a different perspective and focus on the years, and not the milliseconds in every 24-hour period. I’m no Mary Poppins, but my New Years’ Resolution this year is to see the bigger picture. Despite the hardships, I hope to dwell on the highs and diminish the lows. Over sharing could be a great coping mechanism in the short-term, but a shift in viewpoint may have a longer-term benefit. There will be times when I’ll need to joke about my clogged milk ducts to a close friend. But mostly, I want to bask in this time when my children are growing, thriving and learning
Miriam Levine is a freelance writer based in New York City. She is the Founder and Managing Editor of www.ForwardFemales.com