I just got back from a postnatal yoga class where I accidentally told off a group of new moms.
How did I, a relatively nice person and chronic people pleaser, find myself in this situation? Let’s back up.
It’s Wednesday. When you are on maternity leave, Wednesday is a tricky day for mental health. It’s not quite Thursday. On Thursdays, I am almost admittable. But Wednesdays are a toss up — depends on how late my husband got home from work on Monday and Tuesday and just how many hours I have been alone with myself, my 3-month-old son, and my thoughts.
So it’s Wednesday, and on Wednesday mornings I go to a “Stroller Strides” workout class in the park. Class went well. I made polite small talk with a first time mother of a 5-month-old. Upon hearing I also have a 3-year-old, she asked me through scared eyes if you are ever ready to have a second child. I managed to navigate this conversation with honesty and socially acceptable grace. Well done, Me.
Then, on a whim, I decided to hit up a mommy meet-up at a local cafe. This was a big move for me. I had also attended a mommy meet-up the day before at a movie theater, but the second I got there I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, so I just sat next to the mommy meet-up and just pretended I never intended to be a part of the meet-up.
But today, I went for it. Immediately, I regretted it, but the cafe was small and it would have been very obvious if I’d left.
So what’s my deal with mommy meet-ups? Unbearably boring polite small talk. I don’t care how many hours your son slept for the last three nights. I don’t care what bottle you’re using. Your story about your weekend rental in Montauk is boring. (The occasional tidbits about your sex life are kinda fun, though.)
Maybe I could handle this while drinking. But we are at a coffee shop. My alertness is not making this awkward eight-person conversation more interesting. I have to remind myself every couple minutes to say something, anything. Or at least an emphatic nod or guttural sound of agreement. I am not a socially awkward person, but good God this is hard to witness.
After an hour, my son started fussing, so I took this as my out. I bid my adieus to the group and a couple women looked up, clearly not giving a shit who was leaving.
Now it’s raining and I am very far from home. One of the meet-up moms mentioned a local yoga studio does a super chill, restorative, baby-friendly class nearby. So I decided, let’s try it. Two-a-days in the bring-your-own-baby workout world. I’m wild.
Restorative yoga for a bunch of postnatal moms with their babies is kind of an oxymoron. At the beginning of class, you go around the room and introduce yourself and your laundry list of physical complaints. It is not socially acceptable for women in this society to match the tone of their voice to the seriousness of their ailments so this exercise becomes a strange one.
Imagine someone saying in a chipper tone, “Well, I have diastasis recti (meaning your abs are having trouble reconnecting and your organs are just swimming around with free reign of your abdomen) and my back hurts constantly (because your boobs are like heavy dumbbells strapped to the front of your chest) and I’m barely sleeping, but that’s to be expected, so I’m feeling pretty good!”
I breastfed twice during the class and my son took a gigantic shit but I got a couple sun salutations in; it was fine. After class, I took my time packing up, and eventually made it to the lobby where some new moms were chatting. I listened in from across the lobby like a super creep.
Now at this point, I’m tired. I’m worn out. Physically and emotionally. I small-talked all day. I supportive nodded through boring-ass story after boring-ass story. It’s Wednesday and it’s raining.
Listening in, I heard that one mom had a 3-week-old and the other one had a 4-week-old. They were talking about sleep. One mom mentioned that although her baby was waking multiple times throughout the night, she was doing it all alone. The other mom said she was doing it all alone too, because “my husband has work in the morning.” Another mom nodded in agreement.
Alarm bells sounded in my head.
My eyes went red and and my voice shot lasers through the yoga merch displays, “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!”
Six frightened, tired mom eyes looked up in my general direction.
“NO, NO, NO! DO NOT DO THAT. Make them help. When the baby gets up, make them get the baby, change the baby, and bring them to you as you pee and refill your water bottle!”
Still, six eyes stared at me, stunned that they were being yelled at after restorative yoga. Did I politely excuse myself and apologize? No, I did not. I doubled down.
“WHAT’S HARDER, WORKING OR WATCHING A KID ALL DAY?!??!”
Silence. And then I heard a voice from a short woman over to my left who I’d never seen before. “Watching a kid is harder!”
I didn’t notice her in class. Maybe she was just my feminist guardian angel.
Still nothing from the new moms so I quickly packed up my things and as I charged through the door to leave I just kept yelling, “MAKE THEM HELP. YOU HAVE TO MAKE THEM HELP!”
We have to stop letting our husbands sleep because “they have work in the morning.” It’s absolute horse shit. I mean, they do have to work in the morning, but going to work is like a Caribbean vacation next to maternity leave.
I know what you’re thinking … but Tara, your Wednesday sounds pretty chill. You got to workout twice and meet up with some people for a nice omelette.
True. It’s almost impossible to explain to people why maternity leave is so hard. But it just is. It’s like having all of the time in the world but none of the freedom. And it’s lonely as all hell. Even when you are around other moms all day, rarely are you connecting honestly with anyone.
So my PSA to new moms out there … get your husband to help you out. And please, please, please let’s skip all the polite small talk.