This motherhood thing…. it’s beautiful, wonderful, life changing.
It’s overwhelming. It’s intense. It is a lot.
But mama, you are doing a great job, even when it feels like you aren’t.
Today I was off of work and able to spend the whole day with my child. I am 29 weeks pregnant and we had some appointments to go to and errands to run. It wasn’t the most fun day off but, it was a day to spend together. I am so tired and my son was literally hanging off of me and while I love his affection, I find myself getting annoyed with his ever so rough cuddles and his passion for throwing things all over the living room floor. We ended up watching a lot of cartoons and colouring. We ate macaroni for dinner and he went to bed at 7:45 because I just need time to rest, which important too. But, then the day is gone and I am sad because it wasn’t the fun day off that I had envisioned. I also didn’t get the laundry folded or do the dishes I need to do, which is often a source of anxiety for me. And now, I am mentally preparing myself for another day of robotic daycare drop off, work, daycare pick-up, quick dinner, bath and bedtime all over again. This is just a small example but these little things, these aching thoughts can so often add up to bigger thoughts, stress and exhaustion. The mundane day in and and day out can get to anyone.
I love being a mom though, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It often doesn’t make sense in my brain with how hard it can be but the amount of love you feel for these tiny humans. After my son goes to bed I miss him. When he is at daycare, I miss him. When he goes to grandma’s house for a sleepover and we finally get a date night, or I get some time alone, I miss him. Don’t get me wrong, I love our time together too and I am so excited to see how he will be as a big brother, albeit a little nervous too.
It seems as though the difficulties of motherhood are not always shared and women are left isolated, feeling like they are the only ones carrying this weight. A few mom friends have reached out to me recently wondering if they are alone in feeling the way that they do. It always surprises me that we don’t realize we are all essentially just trying to keep our heads above water while loving these little creatures. But, maybe that’s the problem. We are so busy that we keep our heads down trying to get through each day forgetting about our community, doing the exact same things we are. We need that community and we need to make time for ourselves and time together.
“In the absence of the village, mothers struggle most”
I often feel guilty about having these overwhelmed feelings. I mean, mothers have been mothering since the dawn of time, right? Have we always struggled? Are there more battles we face in today’s society? We have so many conveniences today and we are still exhausted! Does every new motherhood generation feel increasingly overwhelmed? I am not sure. I just know, most mothers have A LOT on their plates.
I also feel guilty because we really have it good by the standards of the world but it doesn’t make our every day realities any less challenging. The to-do lists are long and the days are short and time goes by ever so quickly. In times of particular stress, I tell myself I am so blessed to have children and why the hell should I be complaining when others wish, so desperately, to be in my shoes? Does that mean I shouldn’t feel the way I need to feel? It’s just a constant push-pull of guilt.
So, here I am, adding to the blogosphere of mommy blogs talking about the pain points of motherhood. Adding to the dialogue about how today’s mothers feel so overburdened, alone, and many times, like we are failing our children. I’d assume that the mothers before us, including our own mothers felt this way too. And I guarantee those mom’s who seem to have it all together, don’t always have it all together. This is the thick of it. The messy and exhausting days that become fleeting memories – another point of stress for us moms, the constant reminder that the days and moments fly so fast!
The mental load on mothers these days is a lot. Many of us are working mothers with our children in daycare. Many of us manage everything at home all day, every day. Many of us are single mothers taking care of it all. Many of us have partners but the emotional burden is just not the same for them. Many of us having loving husbands or partners who do their fair share but somehow it still feels like so much.
As our children grow, there is homework and activities and schedules are demanding. Birthday parties, and school events. It seems never ending.
It’s all a lot.
Are the clothes clean? Enough diapers? Should we start potty training or wait? Is there fruit or other healthy food in the fridge? Did we read a long enough bedtime story, if we got to it at all… those dishes in the sink can’t wait… Did they watch too much TV today? Did we do anything memorable on the weekend? My child missed his naptime, had a mega tantrum and people must think I am raising a nightmare. Oh my goodness, time is going by so fast and all I did was complain, or clean!
I see you tired mama, I see you.
In addition to all of this, the comparison game makes us feel even worse because social media is only half of the story. We see little snippets of other’s lives and we think “why can’t we just be like them?” or “they must have it so easy, look at that.”
The mommy bloggers who work so hard to get the perfect shot, again, only half of the story. It adds just another dynamic to our stressed out and exhausted brains that leave us feeling overwhelmed and not good enough. Add any amount of anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses to the mix and it’s enough to make anyone want to implode or, explode or both!
Finding Strength and Support
I am grateful for the support system that I have collected around me. From mom’s groups to book clubs, family and close friends who help out, I am really blessed. But, it is still exhausting and asking for help can be hard.
So, here we are… what are we to do? For me, outsourcing where I can helps. For example, I just hired a cleaning lady for two cleans just to take some of that weight off my shoulders, especially before baby comes. Using technology to our advantage through online shopping and grocery store services is another helpful tool. Conversations with other moms helps me tremendously, even if we cannot fully understand where the other is coming from, sometimes a listening ear is all we need to feel normal. And lastly, for me, writing down what I do accomplish in a day helps me to see that I am rocking this motherhood thing even when I don’t feel like I am.
As Beth Berry so eloquently explains in her piece, In the Absence of the Village, Mothers Struggle Most , and what inspried me to write this, we all have a part to play in re-villaging motherhood. Here are some of her suggestions:
You and I aren’t likely to experience what it’s like to raise children in an actual village, but that’s okay. That’s not what this generation is about. This generation is about waking up to who we really are and what we really want, and resetting society’s sails accordingly.
Playing your part in the re-villaging of our culture starts with being wholly, unapologetically, courageously YOU. Here are a few tangible steps you can take whenever you’re ready:
Get really clear on one thing: the fact that you’re struggling is not a reflection of your inadequacies, but the unnatural cultural circumstances you’re living within.
Own and honor your needs. Most mothers are walking around with several deeply unmet needs of their own while focusing almost exclusively on the needs of others. This is precisely the thing that keeps us from gaining traction and improving our circumstances, both individually and collectively.
Practice vulnerability. Rich, safe, authentic connection is essential for thriving. Cultivating this quality of connection takes courage, and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. What you want most exists on the other side of that initial awkward conversation or embarrassing introduction.
Own your strengths. What makes you feel strong and fully alive? What lights you up and gives you energy just thinking about it? Who would you be to your village if you had one? Tapping into your strengths and engaging them is one of the greatest ways to attract the kinds of people you want into your life, bless and inspire others, and build a sense of community in ways that fill rather than drain you.
Become an integral part of something. Whether it’s a knitting group, dance troupe, church, kayaking club, or homeschool collective, commit to growing community around one area of your life that enlivens you or fills a need. Use the connections you cultivate within this community to practice showing up bravely and authentically and asking for what you need, be it support, resources, or encouragement.
Do your part and ONLY your part. Though it’s tempting to fill our lives to the brim with commitments that make a difference, doing so only further disempowers us. Read Essentialism if you struggle with this one.
Learn self-love and self-compassion. In a culture of “never enough” it is essential that we forge healthy relationships with ourselves in order to be able to fend off the many messages hitting us about who we’re meant to be and what makes us worthy of happiness and love. In fact, I see self-love in action as the greatest gift our generation of mothers could possibly give to the mothers of tomorrow.
Speak your truth. Even when you’re terrified. Even if it makes you the bravest one in the room.
Imagine a new way. Where we’re headed looks nothing like where we’ve come from. Creating the kind of future we want requires envisioning that future and believing a new way to be possible. Get specific and think big. What do you want?
Source: In the Absence of the Village, Mothers Struggle Most by Beth Berry
All of this is not to say that we don’t love motherhood, because we do. We just need to acknowledge again and again that it is a struggle and one that we need to collectively join together, despite our differences and say “I need help”.
“It takes a village to raise a child” – African proverb.
How do you find your village? What helps you in this crazy motherhood journey?