It seems these days that being a mommy is just too much for many of us. Motherhood has become exhausting, overwhelming, at times unbearable. We find ourselves doing it all, most of the time on our own. We aren’t supposed to be doing this alone, we were designed to nurture in tribes. So we seek out mommy friends, a group we can pass the hours and commiserate with. But at the end of the day, it’s each mommy for herself. Both realistically and figuratively.
When it comes to the hardest times of the day (dinner time, bed time…) we all return to our own homes and are left to manage motherhood on our own. We muck through the days with coffee in hand in the morning and a glass of wine after the kids are in bed. Our secret elixirs that make motherhood bearable and make us feel strong and brave enough to do it all again tomorrow. Because we have to. Our grandparents are too old and frail to help. Many of our own parents are still working. Our sisters live across the country or world. We turn to our partners for help but they work long hours at jobs that show little respect or understanding for family needs plus they have needs, too, and we are saddled with even more with-the-kids-alone time.
Finding affordable, family friendly housing close to our jobs, doctors, and pre-child lives is nearly impossible so we move farther and farther away. Public transport options are non-existent for most of us so we spend our money on gas and waste our hours in traffic while our babies scream hysterically, desperate to get out of the hold of their properly tightened car seats. And we wait at home, counting down the minutes until our partners make it through the same hell to return to us each evening so they can provide us with the help we’ve needed all day, desperately hoping they’re up for the task.
We are forced to choose whether to stay at home and raise our kids or return to work and bring home pennies on our hard-earned dollars after childcare expenses. But for some of us, it’s not really a choice at all; those pennies are crucial and we head back to work long before our babies and our bodies are ready. We entrust our tiniest treasures with family if we’re lucky, strangers when we’re not, and pretend there is such a thing as work/life balance within the craziness that is motherhood. We are thrown into motherhood, often without assistance or preparation aside from the classic advice which is unrealistic for modern moms. We are left to bumble through it all by ourselves with only Google, baby books and the words of others ringing in our ears: “Is he sleeping through the night?” “Shouldn’t she be sleeping in her own room by now?” “He’s too chunky, you shouldn’t let him use you as a pacifier.” “She’s too skinny, you need to supplement.” “Is s/he a good baby?”
And these words make us constantly question our choices and leave us feeling like a failure. We feel forced to choose: natural birth or c-section; breast or bottle; co-sleeping or cry-it-out; pacifier or thumb; babywear or push a stroller; cloth diapers or disposable. It goes on and on and on and the outside opinions and judgments begin long before baby. Before we even have kids people want to know when it’s going to happen. After the first they want to know where the second is. And if your first two are the same gender, a third is expected. But once you’ve got both genders covered, you’re crazy to have more.
In modern motherhood, we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Don’t breastfeed in public because you might offend someone but pull out a bottle and you might get judged. Don’t take your kids anywhere where they might bother an adult who doesn’t want them around (like to a restaurant or on an airplane) but also be sure they don’t act out or throw a fit in places where kids are a regular occurrence because then you’re a bad mom with out of control kids.
So we shut ourselves in. We get comfy in our sweats and yoga pants and try to adjust to motherhood. We immerse ourselves in our children’s needs because someone has to feed them, bathe them, love on them, teach them right from wrong, making sure they’re well fed, well-adjusted and well rested.
We are told that the early years are the most important and made to believe that if we don’t start early, they’ll fall behind. So we spend our days running our preschoolers from play groups to enrichment classes to play dates and our evenings struggling with our school-aged children over homework and fitting in extra-curricular classes. We watch our children crack under the pressure and desperately seek a solution and in droves we are pulling our children out, choosing other ways. We completely lose ourselves in motherhood and in them because they are our world. And then the nagging comes, the reminders that we must take care of ourselves. Every blog, book, TV show, Facebook post directed at new mommies tells us how important “me” time is.
But where do we find “me” time when we can’t even go to the bathroom alone? When our to-do list is miles longer than the hours we have in a day? When our house is a mess and all we seek is some quiet, resting time? How do we not lose ourselves when we don’t even have the time or energy just to be? Don’t get me wrong, I love my children with everything I have. I do my best every second of every day even though I make mistakes. I love being a mommy and can not think of anything I’d rather be doing. I chose this life, I chose motherhood, and I would choose it all over again.
I just wish our culture supported mothers more instead of setting us up for failure and then ridiculing and judging us when we are down. There is a reason we’re hearing more and more about postpartum depression. Motherhood is hard and until we start lifting each other up and giving each other what we need to be and feel successful, the cycle is just going to continue. Motherhood should feel like you’re on top of the world, not like you’re drowning in a pool of ridicule and judgement.
This post was originally published on Beyond Mommying.