Here in Canada, we’re known for a few things.
Hockey, maple syrup, Ryan Gosling, saying sorry a lot…just to name a few, eh?
We’re also known for our public health care system. It’s pretty impressive. This isn’t going to be a post about it, but it’s where today’s musings got started.
In my lovely province, when a woman goes home after having a baby, she receives a follow-up call from a nurse. The goal is to ensure that both Baby and Mama are doing well and adapting to their new circumstances. I got my call on Monday of this week, and something the nurse said got me thinking.
It was when she was asking questions about my postpartum well-being – specifically, if I was experiencing any signs of the baby blues or depression. I told her that I felt really good, but that I was expecting to fall prey to those damn hormones any day now because I had had a hard time with them after my son was born in 2015.
Postpartum depression has received increasing attention ever since Brooke Shields brought it to the spotlight in 2005 (and Tom Cruise subsequently criticized her for using anti-depressants – Dr. Cruise apparently felt vitamins were the best way to treat those pesky, ‘unscientific’ emotions).
The nurse acknowledged that PPD is very real and very serious, and after we established that I had no thoughts of harming myself or my baby, the nurse blew my mind.
She told me that, often times, the baby blues aren’t actually linked to hormones, but to the mama’s expectations of what life would be like once Baby arrived.
Certainly some cases of PPD’s less world-destroying cousin (the baby blues) are the fault of hormonal changes in the mama. Bouts of crying, problems with sleep and appetite, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed – all common symptoms of these blues.
But, the nurse said, the blues can also sometimes be blamed on the collision of a woman’s expectations of life with a newborn and the reality of life with a newborn, which are often nothing alike.
I thought of my own Inner Productivity Junkie. Was she to blame for the rocky days I experienced after my son was born?
Women, in general, are awesome. We get shit done. We are often at the vortex of our family, making sure mouths are fed, the house is kept, and everyone feels loved and important, all while maybe working our own jobs and trying to carve out time for the stuff that makes us who we are.
I set some pretty lofty goals for my first maternity leave. I wanted to work out every day and blog every other day and run a 10K race and become a cooking superstar. None of it happened. None. of. it.
I was too spun out by my new job title: Mommy.
But rather than cut myself some slack and recognize that new motherhood maybe wasn’t going to be my most productive season of life, I got really frustrated with myself and my limitations. I berated myself daily, disgusted and perplexed that I couldn’t seem to get shit done anymore. Instead of celebrating the things I was getting done – like raising a healthy, happy baby boy – I focused on all the goals that were just sitting on my to do list, collecting dust. I felt defeated and fairly useless, most days.
Well, not this time around, I say!
This time around, it is all about the small wins.
In the world of psychology, ‘small wins’ are those little goals you set on your way to something bigger. On its own, a small win might appear to be of minor importance, but each one triggers the release of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that makes ya feel gooooood! That good feeling then acts as motivation to conquer another small win, and then another, and so on.
Now, as the mom of two under three, I am choosing to celebrate my small wins every day rather than focus on big goals that may be unrealistic to meet at this particular stage of my life.
Today’s small wins include:
- reading 10 pages of the library book I can’t renew due to its ‘in demand-ness’
- writing some ‘thank you’ cards
eating a row of Chips Ahoy cookiesremembering to feed myself
- gathering a box of clothing donations for a women’s shelter
- writing this post
Nothing particularly impressive, but is this mama feeling the dopamine? Heck yeah!
Small wins and the good vibrations that come with them are not limited to the mama club. The idea can be applied by anyone, to any part of life: work, fitness, home improvement, healthy eating. Small wins have even been credited to helping people overcome the grief of losing a loved one.
I see it as a shift in perspective that is essential for
neurotic over-achievers people like me who feel at their best when they are – say it with me now – getting shit done.
Sorry for the swearing, eh?