*Disclaimer: This post is about motherhood. I have two other children – my stepsons – who I Love deeply and uniquely and with my whole heart. But because they have a mom who is present and active in their lives, being “main mom” is not my role in their lives. Even though I have been stepmom for 2 1/2 years already, being main mom has still been a completely new experience.
Six and a half months ago, a mother was born.
Standing on this side of the motherhood experience, I can say with absolute certainty that there is nothing anyone can say to you that will prepare you for being a mom. Sure, you may know how to care for babies and change diapers, have your dos and dont’s of discipline laid out and understand your position on vaccines and playdates and private schooling, but there is nothing that can make you understand the emotional impact being Mom will have on you.
Everyone talks about the overwhelming, life altering love new parents feel. It is true – you will Love this child of yours in a way you can’t comprehend. It’s an incredible reorientation of self that occurs. Everything in your life passes through a new filter now – that of parenthood. Priorities change.
But not everything in motherhood is butterflies and roses and lollipops.
I spent a lot of the first few months of being a mom feeling like I was a bad person. Why? Because while I felt all the love that everyone always talks about, I also felt a lot of other not so nice things.
For one, I felt a lot of resentment. Resentment that I had lost my ability to just go out for a night with my friends without having to get a babysitter and pump and leave instructions and then worry the whole time anyway about whether or not the baby was doing ok and if the babysitter could handle it. Resentment that my husband could turn over and go back to sleep whenever the baby cried while I had to get up to feed him. Resentment that I couldn’t browse through clothes at a store without a baby hanging off of me or the looming deadline of having to be done in 2 hours so that the baby could eat again. Resentment that even when given the chance, I was unable to nap, as the phantom cries of my sleeping child would wake me. And I didn’t just lose my physical independence (at least for the time being). Even more than that, I lost my mental independence. This baby invaded my every thought. I couldn’t even eat or drink without having to consider how it would affect him. Every single choice I made had to be made with consideration for the implications it would have on another human being. It was totally and completely overwhelming.
I was also frustrated. Before having a baby, I was the most efficient person. I got things done, and I got them done quickly and completely. Now, I found myself struggling to accomplish even a quarter of any given task. Everything took ten times as long and only (maybe) got finished after 4 or 5 attempts.
Then there was the crying. I’m lucky – my baby is a pretty damn good baby, and he’s never been a super crier. But when those times did come when my baby wouldn’t stop crying NO MATTER WHAT I DID, and I was exhausted from only getting 5 or so interrupted hours of sleep every night for the past 4 months, that crying felt like the most effective psychological torture ever invented. On more than one occasion I had to put him down and walk away so I could cry myself in the other room, afraid I’d shake him or possibly throw him out the window from overwhelming frustration and exhaustion and helplessness. Then I’d feel horrible for even thinking those thoughts (even though I knew I would never actually do anything of the sort) and inadequate for not being able to take care of my baby and I’d question why I could not do what all other mothers could. I felt so alone.
And the struggles with motherhood continue. In one week, I am starting law school. My son is now almost 7 months old, and while I am so fortunate to have my husband being the one to take care of him while I’m at school, I still battle off thoughts of being a bad mother for leaving him while he’s so young. I worry that he will feel insecure and abandoned. I feel guilty that I don’t have the time or energy to pump while I’m at school during the day requiring him to be on formula during those hours. I know I’d be unfulfilled staying at home full time but I question whether I can be a good mom AND be a good lawyer at the same time. I wonder if someday he will resent my career.
I have spent so much time over the past 6 months feeling guilty for not being a good mom. But the truth is, I AM a good mom. I’m a great mom. I’m a real mom. I’m a whole human being and all the different parts of me came together to join in my motherhood. It’s not all love and happiness. It’s not all joy. Sometimes it’s frustration and anger and resentment and fear, and that’s ok. That’s part of it. That’s part of the growing and changing and learning and mourning that all comes with being a mom. In motherhood we gain so much but we also lose our old selves and our old lives, and we do ourselves a disservice if we refuse to acknowledge the not so nice things that are part of our motherhood experiences.
Motherhood has many moods. Many different shades of joy and sorrow, of love and longing, of learning and of letting go. It is the most difficult role I have ever taken on. It is also the most edifying. While I am thankful every day that I have the honour of being someone’s mom, I’m here to tell you other moms – past, present and future – that motherhood permeates us in our entirety, and there is nothing wrong with parts of us struggling to accept the new reality of this enormous responsibility. We are not one dimensional beings, so to expect that our experience of motherhood would be one dimensional is unfair and unrealistic.
You are a good mom when you are nursing your child blissfully in the wee hours of the morning. You are a good mom when you joyfully play on the floor, laughing at your child’s simple pleasures. But you are also a good mom when you hate the thought of having to feed your child YET AGAIN and fantasize about the day when your boobs will once again belong to you. You are a good mom when you just can’t bring yourself to play the same song for the 50th time in a row and you long for uninterrupted adult conversation. You are a good mom when you question if you did the right thing by having kids right now. You are a good mom when you wonder if you are a good mom.
Motherhood is not just about loving your kids unconditionally and feeling blissed out and blessed by their presence in your life. It is also about struggling to maintain your own identity under this new umbrella of motherhood, and figuring out how to balance your needs and theirs. One of the best gifts we can give your children is to be whole people, and achieving that wholeness requires that we embrace both the joyful and the more difficult parts of life. Our children love us for being their moms, even when we aren’t sure exactly how to be one.
Hello, motherhood. I look forward to all you have to offer.