Almost exactly five years ago, I walked into a pediatrician’s office in Brooklyn, with dark circles under my eyes and engorged breasts, lugging my shrieking newborn baby in her car seat. It had taken me five minutes to drive from our apartment and 20 minutes to find a parking spot. I had arrived at our 2 week-old newborn checkup with my first child and I thought I was about to fall over with exhaustion, before the appointment even began.
My daughter’s exam proceeded smoothly despite the crying and ill-timed poop. At the end of her routine check-up, the pediatrician asked me if I had any questions. “Can I drink a glass of wine in the evening if I am a nursing mom?” I asked. He lowered the medical chart in his hand and looked at me for a moment. “I always say that a happy mom makes for a happy baby,” he said with a smile. “Really?” I perked up. “Wow, I can do that for my baby!”
I walked out of that doctor’s office, still feeling the side effects of sleeplessness and sore breasts, with a new feeling of self confidence and thoughts of my next glass of pinot noir. My baby needs not only a mom, but a happy mom. Since she was born, all I cared about was taking care of my baby while I overlooked the essential fact that I also need to take care of myself.
Fast forward several years to my arrival at a playground in Atlanta wearing clothes that I had worn the day before, with disheveled hair, toting my cranky 1-year old and know it all 3-year old. I met my friend with her 3-year old for an outdoor play date. My friend took one look at me and relayed what another mom once said to her. “Take a shower every morning and never leave the house without applying makeup.” That was the key to good parenting.
"What?" I thought. "What if I prefer to shower at night and have never worn make up every day?" But then I realized that my friend was not commenting on my personal hygiene nor was she scolding me for not wearing enough mascara. She was telling me to spend at least 15 minutes every day on myself. "Wow," I thought to myself. "A whole 15 minutes to myself EVERY day?"
Later that week I realized the advice from the pediatrician, years ago, and now from my friend, had a common denominator. In order to be a good mother, who is happy, confident, and able to see to the needs of her children, she first needs to take care of herself. Whether it’s eating well, drinking a glass of wine, or simply looking in the mirror before leaving the house, it all added up to one simple fact. Happy moms promote happiness in their children.
“So,” I said to my daughter’s pediatrician five years ago. “How many glasses of wine still constitute a happy mom? When does a happy mom tip the scale over to a bad mom?” He chuckled and explained how one glass of wine consumed over the course of an hour, while eating food and also drinking water, should not have an effect on the baby. All mothers had different thresholds so it was important for me to find my balance.