With reference to Bob Kegan’s Developmental Theory, I felt that I had moved from a Socialized Stage of making decisions based on what others expected of me, to a Self-Authoring Stage, where I could transcend others’ desires and make my own decisions.
The last eight months, however, made me question myself. I felt I had relapsed into the Socialized Stage.
I did not like taking care of my baby – I did not like to hold her when she was crying, I did not like changing diapers, and I hated breastfeeding and pumping. Some of my friends could go out with three kids plus a crying baby, and handle the strollers and spilt milk bottles. However, these situations are stressful for me, and I do not like to be in a situation where I was stuck with her alone, especially if she was wailing on top of her lungs.
Yet, I felt guilty for not wanting to do these things. I felt a lack of confidence in myself for not being able to handle such “motherly” duties. I felt incompetent. I assumed it was what a mother should do, and I felt pressured to do so. Thus, when I forced myself to carry out these tasks, I was upset and unhappy. My body had physical reactions as a consequence; for instance, I would get nauseous and have stomachaches whenever I had to prepare her meals, or I would feel dizzy from hearing her cry. It was my body telling me I was not being authentic to myself.
Perhaps this was different to what most mothers do, or at least what I saw my friends who were mothers, did. However, who said I had to be the same?
The whole point of my reflective journey was to be who I was without fear of judgment or guilt. So, why try to do what I thought was right, instead of what was appropriate for me?
Thus, Timmie and I went through an exercise to identify tasks and activities that he and I liked, disliked, did not mind doing with the baby. We could then divide our tasks and take more of a lead on the things we liked to do, and have the other person do the things we did not like to do. Or, we could outsource and delegate things like cleaning her bum to the nanny without feeling guilty, for it was a conscious decision we made.
I like to play with her and to teach her things. I like organizing her clothes and toys, buying little books, and making sure she had enough diapers, cotton pads, towels etc. So that is what I do, and Timmie or the nanny would do the stuff I did not enjoy. Occasionally I would too, and in those instances, I enjoyed it and had fun, because it became a choice, and was no longer a “duty” or “obligation.” A simple change in perception made a whole lot of difference.
Perhaps it is incompetence, or maybe it is simply a preference; but regardless, the definition did not matter.
What mattered was to have the courage to acknowledge my thoughts and emotions – despite them being different to others – and not to lose my authenticity as a result of this change in my life.
Going back to self-authoring, and making decisions based on what I feel is right for me, and not other’s expectations of me…