Before Nina Lutz was a mother, life as a career woman and wife was carefree.
"Much of my time was spent with my husband. We went out for dinner, we went out for drives, we worked in our garden unencumbered. We were really free to do whatever we wanted to do," she remembers with a laugh.
Then the Central New York woman became pregnant. She did not know how much everything would change.
Many first-time moms are blissfully unaware of what motherhood means. The potential for joy is grand. But the potential for conflict is also large. If you are an expectant mother, you should learn more than just bathing and diapering instructions. You should find out how your new role will change the essence of your self-identity and plan how to balance the new demands on your everyday life, career and goals.
"I thought I would have the baby and that I would arrange for day care and go back immediately to work because my work was a very important aspect of my life," Lutz explains. "It was who I was.
"When I gave birth, things changed very quickly," she says. "I was at home with my child, I felt utterly in love with my baby and I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to continue spending an entire day in the office and not with my child who needed me."
COLLIDING ROLES CREATE CONFLICT
The ensuing conflict, while not universal, is common when working women give birth the first time. They are forced to decide whether they will continue working, and, if so, in what capacity. Some love their careers and can't imagine not returning. Others dream of quitting, but are heartbroken that finances won't allow it. And some give up work to devote themselves solely to their new identity of mother.
No matter which path you choose, you must adapt to this new lifestyle. You may think you can do it all --- work, take care of the kids, nurture yourself and your marriage, run the household -- and do it all to an extreme degree of perfection. You can't. Not all at the same time. Unless you accept that, you may experience mental anguish, guilt, stress and physical symptoms like exhaustion, headaches and chest pains.
"The idea of 'Supermom' is a huge and hurtful myth," says," says Linda Troia, president of the Syracuse, N.Y., chapter of the New York State Society For Clinical Social Workers. "We all buy into it. So the women who choose to work try to be the super career women and do it all: work 40 to 50 hours a week and still give quality time to their kids and partners. And they feel burned out and stressed and overwhelmed and feel like a failure because it seems everyone else can do it."
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Strike a balance among all your roles, and realize that if you must keep all the balls up in the air at the same time, it's OK to keep them a few inches up instead of sky-high.
For example, if you work, you can be a good mother, but you won't spend every waking minute with your child or do 10 craft projects a week. However, maybe you can find a job that allows you to get off at 4 p.m., and maybe you can do one craft a week. If you are the kind of mother you want to be, you may not be able to accept the promotion that requires you to travel three days a week. But maybe you can keep a middle-management position with some on-site supervisory responsibilities.
If you are expecting your first child, think beyond the baby shower and the adorable homecoming outfit. Analyze your life and goals and realize you may not be able to have everything or accomplish all you want at every stage of your life. Then plan to compromise on work and home issues as best you can, according to your own situation.
And finally, you will be happier if you appreciate the fact that nothing stays the same. "People need to accept the fact that life is filled with change," Troia says. "When you have a baby, that's a major life change. Something needs to give and you need to be flexible, but it will evolve. Sometimes everything doesn’t come at the same time. You can be happy."