I’ve recently had some honest conversations with other moms I know about how hard being a mother is. Motherhood is hard. Make no mistake. I’m no expert but I’ve been doing it for a little over a year now and I am under no illusions- this shit is rough. It is emotionally, physically and mentally taxing. You are in a constant state of exhaustion and worry and self-doubt. At the same time that you are happier and in love like you never have been, ever, there are days when you feel frustrated and hopeless, angry and alone. But you are not alone. Whether you work or stay home full time, breastfeed or use formula, have a spouse to help or do it all on your own, it is just as hard and frays your nerves just as much. The task of being a mom today, especially a new mom, is made no easier by the social media culture that we live in. My advice is on your hardest days, reach out to your friends and family but do not troll on Facebook, do not check your Instagram- you will begin to believe from everyone else’s happy looking pictures and milestone updates that you are the only mother whose child will not sleep/eat/crawl/do anything besides breastfeed.
I’m just as guilty as every new mom at posting only my happiest, coolest pics and blogging mostly about the absolute wonders of motherhood. I do this because it is easier to talk about the good times; the words flow more easily and sound more eloquent. When I write about the happy, joyful moments I experience with Casey and my husband, these moments are cemented into my memory in a more visceral way. I don’t necessarily need the tough moments to be remembered with the same passion. But it is good to talk about them; to share with other mothers how we all struggle, how imperfect and difficult this task of raising a child can be.
My life usually looks like a lot of coffee, laundry baskets full of dirty clothes or piles of clean laundry, rifled through, waiting to be put away. There are usually toys everywhere, piles of crap on our dining room table, pushed to the side, which we have not had time or energy to deal with. I have pots that have been soaking since last Friday in my sink and grit on my kitchen floor just waiting to be swiffered.
I have plenty of hard days when I am over tired, when I get frustrated, when I yell and then feel guilty for yelling; days when I just can’t get it together to switch Casey’s toys around or find something exciting for him to do. There are plenty of weeks when I am not as creative in the food department and my kid eats bananas and applesauce and goldfish crackers for two or three meals in a row. Sometimes after I put Casey to bed, all I want to do is space out on Pinterest and look at pretty things and imagine what life would look like if I had all the time in the world to finish all the DIY projects I ‘like’.
Despite these days and the times when I am convinced that I am probably failing as a mom and that Casey will never sleep through the night, will never start eating more solid foods during the day, will never understand that the word ‘no’ does not mean “go ahead and do it again why don’t you,” I have found a general sense of okayness with my imperfections. Admitting how hard it is, is the first step.
Here are some other things I’ve learned:
- Patience is something that takes a lot of practice. I don’t have much to begin with so accumulating longer stretches of patience, enough to get me though the toughest of moments, has taken a lot of deep breaths and jaw clenching.
- There is a lot to be said for using the twenty minutes of alone time in the evening to get the dishes washed and the coffee ready to go for the next morning.
- Sometimes, a lot of times, you just have to make concessions- like, I wanted to write this all down while it was fresh in my mind’s eye, so I let Casey pull apart an entire roll of toilet paper and drag it all over the house while I wrote. It kept him busy for a long time and what’s one roll of toilet paper in the grand scheme of things?
So what do I do to keep my sanity? Well, I write- I keep this blog and I journal and I write poetry. Blogging makes me feel like someone out there will read what I have to say and connect with it and it helps me process and remember a lot about my experience as a new mom. Journaling just gives me a place to vent without worrying about form or content too much. I’ve kept a journal since I was about six and I find it very beneficial to my mental health.
I also have a few books that I turn to when I need a dose of calm. Mary Oliver’s book of poetry A Thousand Mornings and William Martin’s The Parent’s Toa Te Ch’ing are two of my favorites. Both contain poetry that reminds me to take a deep breath, relax and remember that life goes on.
I drink a lot of coffee, try to remember to drink just as much water, take advantage of Casey’s first nap of the day to take a shower or at least get dressed in something that makes me feel good about myself, and treat myself to a decent bottle of wine every now and again.
I want to clarify something before I end this post. I’ve blogged in the past about transitioning Casey into his own bed, in his own room, because I was no longer sleeping well while we co-slept full time. Moving Casey into his own room was not a magic ticket to him sleeping through the night. In some ways, having him in his own room is a lot harder than keeping him in bed with us. He still wakes up 3-4 times throughout the night and I get up each of those times, walk into his room and tend to him. This usually means nursing him in my lap while sitting on the edge of his mattress or, more likely, curling up next to him on his tiny crib mattress and nursing/cuddling with him while he falls back asleep. This typically doesn’t take too long, convincing me that for the most part, when he wakes up earlier in the night, he is looking for comfort rather than nourishment. I am more convinced of this now that he is eating more solid foods and we generally get him to eat as much as he can at dinner so that between dinner and his nightly nursing session, I know he has enough in his belly to keep him satisfied for at least 6 hours. I plan to take a few steps to try and get him to sleep for longer periods of time during this first part of the night and I hope to keep you updated on that in due time. (I expect it to be rough and involve some sleepless nights so forgive me if my future posts on his sleep are not timely.)
So, as a friend asked me today while looking for advice on transitioning her little girl into her own room and trying to get her to sleep longer during the night, “what’s really changed?” Good question:
First of all, I’ve gotten my bedroom, not to mention my bed, back. That’s made a big difference- to have a comfortable place to lay down and read or watch something on Netflix before I fall asleep is hugely important to my sanity. After I get Casey to sleep, I can run (tiptoe) back to our room and crawl into bed and curl up in a position that is fully comfortable for me. I get a lot more space allotted as ‘mine’ with Casey in his own room, I have full use of both of my pillows, I can snuggle with my husband whenever I want to and I can pull the covers all the way up to my chin and feel warm and snug without worrying about suffocating the tiny human next to me. I can be comfortable during the hours between tending my son and I find that I do sleep better and wake up feeling physically more present, even if I may not necessarily be getting too many more hours of sleep.
Maybe life gets easier as your children get older. I suspect the difficulties simply change. I’ll let you know what I find when we get there. In the meantime, hang in there mom’s. The days are long but the years are short. I know we have all heard that one before but it’s worth reiterating every now and again. I’d love to hear your comments but no mommy wars, no judging others- not on my blog. Supportive comments, concerns, and questions only please.
Case in point- here is what Casey was doing while I was writing this.