Once upon a time, I lived in la-la land. I had magical dreams of a unicorn baby. A baby that slept through the night and never cried. A toddler that was a well-behaved angel. I dreamt of how easy it would be for a baby to nestle into my existing life as a career-driven woman. My dreams were just that, dreams.
The fairytale life I had envisioned quickly turned into a nightmare. My baby had colic, so not only did he not sleep through the night for months, but he cried all day and night, for months. I felt so alone. I felt betrayed by all my mom friends. No one told me how hard motherhood would be. Everyone let me believe that every moment was filled with glitter and rainbows.
My days were filled with darkness. There was no glitter. Unless you count my glistening tears. Every day, I counted down the hours until my husband came home from work. My favorite noise was hearing his key in the door. As much as I couldn’t wait for him to get home every day, I also resented him. I resented the fact that he got to go to work every days. For nine hours a day, he got to escape a crying, screaming, pooping baby. He got to be around adults and have more meaningful conversations than I was having. Although I don’t think goo goo ga ga qualifies as meaningful or a conversation.
I missed working my regular 7-8 hour days. I missed being creative. I missed setting and achieving big, audacious goals. I tried to work whenever the baby was sleeping (which was hardly ever). But I just couldn’t focus. My art wasn’t flowing. I was exhausted, had mommy brain and was always watching the clock. Counting down the minutes until the baby woke up from his nap.
And then, the villain of my fairytale appeared out of the shadows. Guilt. Relentless Guilt with his sharp claws digging into my heart. Guilt made me feel like a bad mother and wife. Guilt made me feel disgusting for wanting to spend more time working than with my baby. Guilt made me feel shameful for not loving and enjoying every moment I had with my newborn. Guilt made me feel like a horrible human being.
I started to spiral. Looking back now, I know I had a postpartum. But I didn’t realize it then. I just thought this is what motherhood is. None of the moms I knew talked about this stuff. And I felt ashamed that I was having these feelings. I put on a make-believe bright and happy face for the world. I was only posting the picture-perfect moments on social media. I was telling people that being a mom was so fun and fulfilling. But behind all the make-believe, I was having mental breakdowns and dreaming of running away.
I loved my baby, but I didn’t feel like myself. I missed my old life. I have always been a high achiever, setting out to be the best in everything I do. My career and art were such a huge part of who I was. I felt like I was losing all the parts of myself that I admired and loved. I didn’t feel like I was the best mom, wife or artist. I felt like an absolute failure.
Being a children’s book author and illustrator, I set out to inspire children and children inspire me. But motherhood left me uninspired. It was only when I confronted my guilt, that the darkness started to lift. I realized that in order for me to be a good mom and be the person I was meant to be, I had to work. My job sparked a twinkle in my eyes and lit purpose in my heart. It wasn’t motherhood that made me feel uninspired. It was too much guilt and too little of what sparked a light in me.
Just because I was now a mom, didn’t mean I was any less of an artist, a goal-oriented high achiever, a complete fantasy nerd, a big goofball and most importantly, my own person. All those things helped me be a better mom and being a mom helped me be a better person.