Motherhood is hard, but maybe it doesn't have to be. The Thing you're doing wrong is thinking you're doing it wrong.
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If we want to figure out how to make motherhood easier, first we have to discuss why motherhood is hard. I think the biggest culprits are:
Oh, and that one other minor detail about how kids are little jerks sometimes.
#1 Motherhood is hard because other human beings are depending on us.
Of course motherhood feels like a lot of pressure! Are you kidding me? We have the responsibility of keeping another human alive (and often times, more than one other human, while still trying to function ourselves). But more than that, we are expected to take care of them emotionally, develop their minds, and also make them productive members of society.
It’s not just that we’re expected to do all that, we want to.
We want our kids to be smart and to excel academically. We want them to be kind and compassionate. We want them to be confident. We want them to be healthy and safe.
We don’t want to emotionally damage them or stunt their intelligence. That’s why we worry so much about whether to breastfeed or use formula, how much screen time they should have, how soon they learn to walk or talk, and so on.
It’s not because we’re trying to be control freaks. It’s because whenever a person struggles in adulthood it always seems to come back to their childhood. That’s a lot of pressure for parents, especially for moms who typically bear the biggest burden of childcare.
So how are we supposed to relax when there is so much on the line?
This is where some sort of faith or spirituality comes in real handy. Because the only way to do it is to trust. Trust yourself, trust your kids, trust your partner, trust the universe.
Trust that they’re going to be okay, even if you mess up along the way. Trust that you’re not the only deciding factor for how their lives turn out. I know it feels that way sometimes, but it’s not the case.
The truth is it doesn’t matter how tightly you’re holding on, because it’s really not even in your hands.
#2 Our own needs aren’t being met.
We’ve all heard the sayings.
“You can’t pour from a cup that’s empty.”
“Put your own oxygen mask on first.”
Like most things, it’s easier said than done. So how do we refill our cups?
It’s a balance. One, you have to accept help. And by "accept" help, I mean you might have to demand it or request it or pay for it or get really creative. But sometimes it’s as straightforward as accepting it without feeling guilty.
Two, you have to stop expecting so much of yourself. I get it, your email needs to be checked and appointments need to be made and there’s laundry overflowing in the basket. It might feel like the floor really needs to be mopped, but the sticky floors are not as important as your tired body or your cluttered mind.
Sometimes we get panicky when the baby finally falls asleep because we’re not sure what to do when there’s so much that needs to be done. Let me give you a cheat code.
Take the nap. Enjoy a hot shower. Paint your nails. Read a book. Watch a show in peace. Do some yoga. Do something that makes you feel like a person, like your regular self, something other than a mom.
It may not seem like that’s a productive enough choice, but trust me. Doing something that refreshes you will make you a much better (happier) mom to that little one when he wakes up.
And, since you’re energized and feeling more human again, you’ll get more of the other stuff done with less effort.
In the very least, if you really must use the time to make phone calls or get on your laptop, make it more pleasant by enjoying a fresh cup of coffee or listening to music.
I know a lot of moms feel like the current trend of pushing self care is just added pressure. It's one more thing on their to-do list. But that's because we're missing the point. It's not about adding to the list. It's about replacing some things on the list and teaching us to prioritize ourselves more.
#3 We feel judged by everyone.
If you let your kid have unlimited screen time, you’re a “bad mom” for using technology as a babysitter. If you restrict screen time, then you get mocked for being uptight.
Give your kid McDonald’s? You’re a monster who is poisoning your own children. Buy organic produce and cut out heart-shaped sandwiches for your kid’s lunch? Then you’re an annoying Pinterest mom who needs to get a life.
How do you combat the fact that it feels like everyone has an opinion on every little thing you’re doing?
You realize that it’s actually quite freeing. Since you can’t please everyone anyway, there’s no point in even worrying about it.
If preparing elaborate meals is a creative outlet for you and decorating cookies together is a pleasant bonding experience, then by all means, do it! If you’d rather cook a frozen pizza and watch a movie together, that’s awesome, too.
There are some people who genuinely enjoy craft time and playdates and doting on their kids all day long. There are some mothers who really love their kids but don’t enjoy motherhood. But the truth is that most of us fall somewhere in the middle of those extremes.
The bigger truth is that we need to respect ourselves and each other more. Live the version of motherhood that suits you and stop caring what other people think.
#4 We compare ourselves to others.
Comparing yourself to someone else is always, always, always a bad idea. It’s disrespectful both to you and to the other person.
How do you break the habit of pitting yourself against another mom?
Not to be totally cheesy, but the answer is love.
Send love to that other person, knowing that no matter how confident or successful she may seem in one area, there’s absolutely some area that she’s struggling in. She doesn’t need your judgment, resentment, or jealousy. Chances are, she’s already being hard enough on herself.
Likewise, be more loving towards yourself. Give yourself grace.
And when you feel unsure about a decision (Should I bottle feed? Should I go back to work? etc) be honest about how you feel, and don’t worry about what other people are doing.
Whatever decision you make, remind yourself that plenty of other people have survived the same way. Plenty of people, myself included, were given formula and are doing just fine. Other people, like my own kids, breastfed, and are also doing great.
Let love help guide your decisions, not other people. Does breastfeeding feel like a sweet bonding experience or is it torture that makes you resent your baby? Is it easier to be loving when you can use formula instead of sharing your body, or do you enjoy the convenience of being able to nurse and not having to warm up a bottle at night?
Does letting your kid have an iPad mean that you get half an hour to drink your coffee and calm your nerves? Does it make you a more patient, loving mom? Or does having devices around stress you out because they’re too loud and the kids fight over them? Is it easier for you to pull out crayons and paper?
What experience allows you to be the more loving, truer version of yourself?
It’s not about the action. It was never about the action. There is no wrong way. There’s just a right way for you and your family.
#5 Motherhood is hard because we feel guilty for no damn reason.
This one goes hand in hand with all of the previous points, so allow me to reiterate them.
You are not going to mess up your child. You’re doing the best you can, and it’s enough.
Taking care of yourself is being a good mom. So don’t feel guilty when you do something for yourself, whether that’s going out with friends or hiding your favorite chocolate.
Every mom is different, every household is different, and every child is different. What works for one mother may not work for you, just like what works for your oldest child may not work for the youngest.
Other people’s opinions of you do not matter, so don’t let them get to you.
Mom guilt is normal. We've all felt it at some point. But it's also mostly bullshit.
When the time comes that you mess something up and you feel guilty, then allow it to help you make a better decision/action in the future but do not punish yourself. Learn from it and move on.
Just as importantly, stop feeling shame and guilt for things you haven't even done wrong in the first place!
Motherhood is hard sometimes, but there are ways to make it easier. Give yourself some grace and give your kids a happier mom. The fact that you're even reading something like this is proof that you care, and that in itself is enough. You are enough.
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