To all the mothers out there with little ones: If you are a mother to a baby, you are probably sleep deprived from late night feedings and around the clock care. The physical exhaustion can feel torturous at times. You may be physically recovering from labor and delivery while feeling the roller coaster of emotions that come after giving birth and especially through the first few weeks that follow. Feeding sessions and diaper changes are on a nonstop cycle of repeat. You may feel stressed or confused as you try to learn all the new tips and tricks that come with having a baby; from learning how to breastfeed (or prepare a bottle), how to wrap the swaddle just right so their little arms don’t wiggle out, or how to soothe your crying baby when they seem inconsolable. You may second-guess decisions you make as you begin to hear all the (unsolicited) advice from others on what they think is best for your baby. You love snuggling with your sweet baby but also wonder how any of the household chores are going to get done. Not to mention, trying to figure out how you will have time to shower or you know, grab something to eat that is still somewhat warm. If you are a working mother, there may be stress or anxiety that comes with figuring out child care arrangements and making the transition as your maternity leave ends and you head back to work. You are tired.
If you are a mother of a toddler, you are probably dealing with an emotionally unstable little person with temper tantrums, crying fits, and irrational demands. They don’t exactly take “No” for an answer no matter how slowly and calmly you may try to explain or rationalize that eating a crayon is probably not a good idea. You are trying to learn their unique baby language as they are learning to talk but you can’t quite pick up on what they are asking for quick enough as they begin to shout and cry. Simply, they want what they want and they want it now. They are now on the move, walking around and getting into things….everywhere. You feel like you spend half your day chasing them around making sure they don’t hurt themselves, or get into something they shouldn’t. You thought your house was “baby-proof” until you realize just how quickly a toddler can destroy things or make a mess. You walk into the bathroom and the whole roll of toilet paper has been unraveled. Point taken. You are tired.
If you are a mother of a threenager (if you have one, then you probably don’t need any further explanation but I will give it a whirl) you may feel like your sweet little three year old suddenly turned into a teenager. They begin asserting their independence and want to do everything on their own, no matter how much more time it takes, as you are running late and trying to rush out the door. All of a sudden, they are making sassy remarks, telling you “no”, questioning the status quo, and not following directions or rules. You find yourself in a power struggle with them trying to get them dressed in the mornings or to put their shoes on to leave the house. You are tired.
If you are a mother of a preschooler, you see that they are learning new things and becoming more independent to do things on their own. You feel more responsibility to make sure they are learning the skills they will need when they start kindergarten. They have what seems like boundless energy. The want to jump, run, skip, wrestle, play, and they never seem to slow down or get tired. You try to teach them social skills and give them tools on how to manage their emotions to navigate life, but they are still little and when they have big displays of emotion in public, you see the side eye glares from strangers. You are tired.
Do you ever feel like there are just not enough hours in the day to “get it all done”? Or wonder how you are going to make it to bedtime tonight? Do you feel like you are failing as a mother? Sometimes, you feel like you could break down and cry right along with your baby or that you are pretty close to collapsing on the floor and going to have a tantrum right alongside your toddler. I get it. Being a parent to our little humans is hard. Being a mother is hard.
You miss aspects of your former self and your former life. Your body now looks different. It has morphed and changed in ways you didn’t even know possible. You miss being able to sleep. Oh, sweet, glorious sleep. How you miss it. You miss the woman that could go out with friends on the weekend or actually go on a date to spend time with her significant other and have a real, uninterrupted conversation. You miss being able to leave the house without worrying about finding a sitter or whether or not your children are sick, so maybe you should stay at home for a few more days. Did I mention missing sleep?
It does not matter if you are a stay at home mother, a part time working mother, a work from home mother, or a full time working mother. We all have our challenges. There are stressors from trying to manage all aspects of life including work, relationships, home responsibilities, physical health, and the children. And let me say, I don’t believe in balance. If you are aiming for balance, I believe you will be sorely disappointed, as I don’t believe it exists. When we give to one area of our lives, we take from another. It is an ongoing delicate dance that ebbs and flows as we try to manage different parts of our lives. However, we expect to do it all and think we have to do it all perfectly. We have these unreasonable expectations that our children need to be behaved little angels, whom never have emotional outbursts, and only eat organic, non-processed food and host picture-perfect, social media- worthy birthday parties or we are somehow failing? Explore and realign your expectations. Do what works for you and your family. Adjust your expectations for what is realistic and meaningful to you. Stop worrying so much what other people will think. Go easy on yourself and show yourself some grace. Remember, you are doing the best you can.
Repeat. “I am doing the best that I can.”
Remember to take care of yourself. Mothers become so focused on taking care of everything and everyone else, that they put themselves on the back burner. We feel guilty or selfish when doing something for ourselves. Oh, the mom guilt. What is it with the guilt? I think it must be an unspoken, automatic phenomenon that happens as soon as you become a mother. We are so hard on ourselves. Self-care is so important. We need to take care of ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually so that we can be the best mother, wife, friend, sister, coworker etc. for others. Give yourself permission to meet that friend for lunch, go to that yoga class or take a walk. You will feel better for it.
And when you feel like this stage of life will never end, remember, this is just a season. It is a season of life and it will inevitably transform. You will get through this (and in the meantime keep checking those toilet paper rolls). It is a beautiful, messy, challenging, glorious, insane, wonderful season. Someday, we will miss their little faces and the cuddles at bedtime. If you feel that you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, such as feelings of worthlessness, chronic sadness, hopelessness, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, or experiencing intrusive thoughts or uncontrollable worry, please reach out to a healthcare professional for support. Reach out to other mothers in the community to share experiences. Join support groups or mommy groups. You are not alone. You got this mama!