No joke, if someone had told me before I got pregnant how unbelievably, gut wrenchingly, hair tearing-outingly hard being a mom is, I never would have done it at all. Thankfully, no one did and I had 4 beautiful babies who have helped me to become the person I am today. But oh. My. God. This is so fucking HARD!
I mean, there’s the parenting in and of itself. Nothing prepares you for the challenges you face in parenting. The sleepless nights that sometimes go on for 2, 3, even 4 years. Where you start to truly question your sanity and everything you know to be true because you haven’t gotten more than 2-3 consecutive hours of sleep in longer than you can remember.
Then there are the tantrums. Dear god, the tantrums. I remember one time, we were living in my teeny tiny hometown and my kids were 2, 4, 6, and 8. I had to take them to the grocery store to pick up some dinner stuff. I’m getting everyone out of the car and my 4 year old decided he didn’t want to go in. Period. I’m standing there, my 2 year old on my hip cause he doesn’t want to walk, trying to drag my 4 year old out of the car while my 6 and 8 year old are fighting next to me. Then the 4 year old goes spaghetti, like full on wet noodle, completely dead weight, in the middle of the parking lot. And he’s screaming. I honestly can’t remember what I did at that point, probably because I blocked it all out to avoid retraumatizing myself.
Then there’s dealing with picky eaters, defiance, siblings bickering, bedtimes, diapers, potty training, and this is all before they’ve even started kindergarten. I don’t care how many baby books and parenting books you’ve read…when you’re faced with a kid who will only eat chicken nuggets and yogurt tubes for a year and a half and refuses to wear anything but his spiderman costume, you’re going to be seriously questioning your capabilities as a mother.
As if the challenges of parenting and raising decent human beings wasn’t hard enough, there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that can prepare you for the effect that motherhood has on you as a human being. The fear, the anxiety, the constant self-doubt, the loss of your sense of self, the isolation.
From the second you find out you are gonna have a kid, the worrying starts. You read and research until your eyes go blurry, determined to do everything perfectly. But there are so many options and everyone has a different opinion about how things should be done. Bottle feed or breastfeed? This prenatal vitamin or that? Doctor or midwife? Attachment parent or cry it out? Spankings or time-outs? Go back to work/start a job or be a SAHM? And everything is filtered through your childhood, how you were raised, and how you want maybe want to do better for your kids than was done for you.
Once the kid actually arrives you realize it really doesn’t matter what you read and researched, you have no idea what the hell you’re doing and who’s idea was it to let you take that baby home from the hospital? Complete and total overwhelm takes over.
Fast forward a couple of years. You’re a bit more seasoned. You’ve found your groove for the most part. That’s when you start to realize that you can’t remember the last time you had a shower without interruption. Or when you last read a book that had nothing to do with parenting or kids or running a household or cooking. Or the last show you watched that wasn’t Paw Patrol or Dora the Explorer. Or when you last got to go clothes shopping, have a date night, or just be an adult for 5 seconds without having to change a diaper. In fact, when you look in the mirror, you no longer see yourself. You see your kid’s mom.
When my 3 oldest kids were really young, we moved from BC to Alberta because there were so many jobs there and they paid relatively well. Once we got settled there, we had our 4th baby. The move made sense on paper at the time, however I didn’t take into consideration the fact that I was, as a massive introvert, already super isolated. But I had my family close by so at least I saw them on a semi-regular basis.
After the move and having that 4th kid, I became nothing short of a hermit. I didn’t know how to make friends and we were still pretty broke, plus I had 4 kids under the age of 6 and we only had one car, so I was restricted to only travelling where I could walk while my husband at the time was at work. I spiralled into a pretty gnarly depression for a loooooooooong time.
It got so bad at one point that I would be sitting there in our shabby living room, surrounded by kids and diapers and Cheerios, sobbing uncontrollably and fantasizing about fleeing alone to Mexico or committing suicide. For real. I felt like I was drowning and those were my only two options to escape it.
The funny thing is, I never reached out. I never sought help from anyone…not my family, not his, not our church. No one. I sat with my anger, loneliness, self-hatred, resentment, and overwhelming sadness day in and day out for years without looking for support.
I think I mostly just didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. After all, this had all been my choice. And now here I am, whining and complaining about how hard it was? I figured I should just grin and bear it and hope that one day maybe things would get a bit easier or I would get better at it or both.
There was also a huge fear of judgement. I mean, I’ve got these 4 beautiful, healthy babies who I consciously chose to bring into the world, and as much as I love them and would die for them, I was soul-crushingly miserable. I wanted to be anywhere else but where I was. I honestly thought that if I said that to anyone, judgement would rain down and I’d be told to ‘enjoy it while it lasts, they’re only young once, they’ll be grown before you know it’. In fact, I had heard that phrase many times before, whenever I would make a half-joke about losing my mind in those early years. And every time, I’d think to myself, thank fuck, make it go faster, let these years be over.
Something else they don’t tell you before you have kids is the toll they will take on your marriage/relationship. Dear god. Some people even think having babies will bring the two of you closer together. HA! Hahahahahahahahaha. Yea,no. What tends to happen is they wind up driving a wedge between the two of you, amplifying any pre-existing problems in your relationship, and creating a whole whack of new ones.
You’re exhausted all the time. You’ve been wearing the same yoga pants and oversized t-shirt for days, which has by now been blasted with spit-up and mushy bananas. Your hair is up in your signature permanently tangled messy bun. You somehow manage to get dinner on the table at a semi-reasonable hour as your partner comes home from work, also exhausted. Between picking up the sippy cup your 1 year old has thrown on the floor for the millionth time and ever so patiently (and then so not patiently) trying to coax your 3 year old to eat his peas, you attempt to carry on a conversation with your man, as it’s the first adult contact you’ve had all day. Cue the sibling fight.
When dinner is over, there are dishes to do, baths to give, stories to read, bottles to make, and diapers to change before you collapse into bed, wondering what the hell happened to your life. And then you feel your partner’s hand on your shoulder, affectionate and eager. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. You give a sort of grunt-snort and tell him not tonight. He says he can’t remember the last time you had sex. An argument follows, with no resolution, and you both fall asleep angry.
Throw into the mix the financial burdens that so many young families face and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a very rocky marriage.
Having said all of this, you might think I hate motherhood. It might sound like I regret my decision to have kids. I know I questioned myself about that early on when everything was so very hard. But I can say now, as I think about these 4 incredibly unique, independent humans who are all teens and young adults, that I don’t regret motherhood for a second. As they got older and I got better and fought to find myself again, I am so damned thankful I had them. I am absolutely filled with gratitude everyday that I get to go on this wild journey and help raise these little people into big people.
What I do regret, however, is that it took me so freaking long to learn that I simply cannot do everything by myself and I need help. Even now, it’s hard to admit that I need help. But I’ve learned that it’s imperative to my own survival to reach out. It’s also necessary to my kids’ well-being. Nobody wins when I’m a martyr.
For anyone out there who is where I was…drowning in diapers and dishes and tantrums and everyone else’s needs…please know that you’re not alone. There is hope. There is help. Please don’t suffer in silence, grinning and bearing it like I did. There are no trophies for that. In fact, there aren’t trophies for anything in motherhood. The bottom line is, you owe it to your kids and more importantly, to yourself to not only survive, but to thrive. And you can’t do that all by yourself with no support.
Reach out on Facebook. Check out mom forums, they’re everywhere. Even if you’re a lifelong socially awkward introvert like me, you can at the very least find a couple of moms in similar situations you can trust to vent to online. Sometimes all you need is to be able to share what you’re going through and know that someone else is going through it too and it helps to ease that fear that you’re a horrible mother. Look up local church groups. Try Meetup.com. Call your mom.
If all else fails, talk to me. I’m here. I will listen. I will help you find resources. I will NEVER judge you for what you’re feeling or thinking. You are not a burden. The fact that you are worrying that you’re a terrible mom means you care so very much for your kids and want to do the best you can for them. But whatever you do…Don’t. Struggle. Alone.