Today we welcome Walker Karraa to ETMW. I’m grateful that Walker and I have crossed interwebs paths a lot recently because sometimes, well…getting to actually know someone a little better changes your perspective, not just about them, but about certain ideas, and occasionally even yourself.
I have a confession. One year I volunteered over 2,000 hours at my children’s school. Yes, I was one of those moms. From wearing an orange vest directing carpool in the morning, Xeroxing homework packets for the teachers, and planning the Spring Auction, I chose to put everything into public displays of affection for motherhood. Selflessness was superior parenting.
Fast forward a few years and I am rounding the corner on my PhD. I am now one of those moms. I barely know the name of the kids’ school Principal, regularly and intentionally miss school functions, never volunteer in the class, and avoid direct eye contact with anyone on the PTA at all cost. I am caring for myself in ways that don’t directly involve caring for my children. Many would perceive it as selfish, or at a minimum my not being “an involved parent”. I feel the judgment from other women. “Oh, you weren’t there, were you?” or, “I took pictures for you, Walker”. Ouch.
I would imagine anyone reading this right now understands the mine field of guilt, disappointment, and distress we walk through regarding balance between self-care and caring for children. A paradox for women lies between the need for self-care and the social construct of selflessness as superior in parenting. Moreover, socio economic stressors regarding childcare and ongoing employment bear critical weight on time and resources for women to engage in self-care in addition to caring for their infant, other children, and family. Women need and deserve physical, intellectual, mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being—yet engaging in self-care is a social construct that views it as selfish, or a luxury. And dare I say we engage in keeping this paradigm alive by extoling the virtues of some women who display self-sacrifice and dishing about the deviance of others who are not at the PTA meeting. We compare ourselves to both, often rejecting the parts of ourselves that are in desperate need of time, privacy, exercise, prayer, creativity, recovery. For that matter we could all use a nap, a shower, and time to do with as we want, desire, or dream.
And my heart breaks as I read the projection of pain online, and have fallen to the pull of it. It is so easy to lash out at other women rather than stand up to men. It can be too easy to forget the majority of women who don’t have time or resources to sit at a computer and post their opinions on Facebook. We forget our sisters dragging themselves through domestic violence, substance abuse, institutionalization, racism. We never forgive our friends, we always fail ourselves in granting the right to be exactly as we are in a group of women who are doing the same. Nothing will change until we build tolerance. How?
Practice letting other women say their peace. Let them get it out. They are finally saying what has been backlogged for centuries. Let them speak. Don’t offer an opinion unless asked. Practice accepting each other at all costs. Look into the eyes of every woman you meet and know in your bones they have the same battle scars. But also the same innate aching potential that desperately needs out! Silently imagine helping her plan her escape into the fresh air of being herself, fully herself, without the glare of judgment. What could she make of this world if no one judged her? She could make herself.
©Walker Karraa, PhDc
Walker Karraa,PhDc is a doctoral candidate at Sofia University, where she is finishing her dissertation study of the transformational dimensions of postpartum depression. Walker was the founding President of PATTCh, an organization founded by Penny Simkin dedicated to the prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth. Walker is the perinatal mental health contributor for Lamaze International’s Science and Sensibility, Giving Birth With Confidence, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Midwives Connection. She is co-authoring a book with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC, FAPA on PTSD following childbirth. Walker is a 10 year breast cancer survivor, and lives in Sherman Oaks, CA with her two children and husband.