Here’s the thing about being a mom that people tell you, but you never really, really understand until you become one.
Motherhood, is seriously hard. In fact, it’s the hardest thing you will ever, ever, EVER do in your entire life.
Of course, it’s also the most rewarding, beautiful and amazing thing you’ll ever get to be.
One of the hardest things about motherhood are all the feelings you don’t expect to have — and I’m not talking about watching your child fail or have their heart broken for the first time — these feelings come with the territory.
I’m talking about all of the internal interrogation you subject yourself to, time and time again. Often, these feelings of self-doubt are completely unfounded, completely made up in your head and exacerbated by your own mind, by that constant feeling that you’re somehow not good enough.
I bet if you gathered a room full of mothers and asked them to raise their hands if they ever felt not good enough, felt like they were somehow failing their child, every.SINGLE.one of them would not only raise their hand, but stand up.
It’s not something we’re proud to admit, us moms, that maybe we’re not strong enough, not patient enough, not kind enough — in our weakest moments, some of us might even question if we love enough.
But we all have those feelings. And while it’s not fair to place blame on any particular thing for those feelings, I think it’s time we start calling out the things that make it a lot worse.
Facebook. The internet. Parenting magazines. Blogs. Friends. Twitter. Family. Other women. Other mothers. Instagram. Advice columns. Stupid memes. Pro-this-and-that groups. Doctors. Professionals. Television shows. Oh, and did I mention, SOCIAL MEDIA.
The other day I was perusing my Facebook timeline on my lunch break. I came across a motherhood meme from a new mother friend of mine. And I read it, and it made me mad. So I read it again, I tried to with softer eyes, less feminist, mother lion, hear-me-roar eyes, and it STILL made me mad. Because while the message seems all sweet and lovey dovey, there’s so much hatred the mother I was three years ago feels because of that meme. And I don’t like feeling that way.
«You can tell a baby is being well taken care of when they are full of joy.»
Seriously? Whoever made this can go shove it. I have taken care of my babies for well over six years now, between growing them in my body and worrying about every drop of caffeine I put in it or if I had enough veggies while I was nourishing them. And once they made their ways into the world, I continued to care for them. My daughter was a «difficult» baby. She struggled to latch, I had to either wear a shield to nurse her without both of us ending in tears (although sometimes, we still did) or pump for days on end. She went 10 days without pooping once (with plenty of wet diapers), which was «unheard» of for breastfed babies. She cried a lot. Sure, she smiled too, but those first four or five months of motherhood, my baby wasn’t full of joy. She struggled with gastric issues, she couldn’t sleep unless on her tummy (which is a huge no-no) and she was stressed out. But you know what? I took care of my baby. I LOVED my baby. I smiled and cooed at her. I lived on her giggles, even if they were few and far between. She may not have always exuded joy, but she was loved. And cared for. And I’ll be damned if some stupid meme is going to make me feel like I didn’t take care of my baby, don’t take care of my baby, because she’s not a bundle of fucking sunshine.
I know, I know, I’m allowing myself to get all wound up because of some meme that meant well. But isn’t that how a lot of things we end up beating ourselves up over start out? As well meaning? Nowadays, the pressure is really, really heavy on mothers, suffocating at times, because it seems like no matter what we do, it’s not good enough.
You’re a stay-at-home mom? Awesome! You’re dedicating your life to your children, you gave up a career so you can be there for every little moment, that is a blessed and beautiful thing. Except now, you’re lazy. Now, you’re an insult to women everywhere because you’re «just a mom,» «just a housewife.» You know, you’re just THE single most important person to your family, how dare you not want to work a 9-5 job in the name of women everywhere to raise your babies?
You’re a working mom? Awesome! You’re showing your children that women can have whatever they want — a family, a marriage, a career — ROCK on sister. Except, don’t you feel guilty that you’re not there to see your child pull themselves up for the first time? Take their first step? Are you even really a «full-time» mom if your children spend 40 hours a week in daycare? I mean seriously, you’re going to let OTHER people raise YOUR kids. What kind of monster are you?
See what I mean? The list goes on and on. And in this day and age, you can’t win, no matter what you do.
So here’s the truth. I don’t know what the answer is to all these stipulations, all this pressure we feel to be everything to everyone.
But I do know this. We need to build ourselves up, build each other up, embrace your decisions with confidence, because even if no one else in the world agrees with what you’re doing (co-sleeping, bottle-feeding, raising your kids vegan), if you make your choices based on what YOU think is best for your children, you’re going to start to feel a lot better about those decisions. So bottle feed if that’s what works. Let all 5 of your children sleep in your bed. Instead of looking at another mother and thinking «I would NEVER do that,» let’s look with loving, open eyes, «That might not work for me, but kudos to her.» Let’s accept that there isn’t one magical right way to do everything, and instead of offering critiques, let’s offer support.
Once you stop listening to all those other voices, you’re going to be able to hear another one a lot better — your own.
And when you’re raising babies, your voice is the most important one to listen to.
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