If you’re anything like me, you’ve planned motherhood to fit neatly into the space between a successful career, and nestling into a home with just the right partner. You’re an urban, Type-A, used-to-controlling-your-life woman who’s joined the Mommy Club during an age of unreasonable expectations on women. You know—that mythical 70’s Wonder Woman badass who could do it all, and still feel sexy (yeah, right!).
When you have a baby, everything spins out of control, and you start to feel like you’re living in a house of falling cards. Haircuts, folded laundry and sleep become luxuries. Your life revolves around naps and poops. You may begin to feel like you’re failing at everything, and become OCD about creating order. If so you’re simply craving control. Welcome to your new (out-of-control) life.
Now, everyone’s surely told you that it will get better, but I’ll share a little secret with you. It doesn’t just happen. You don’t wake up one day and magically have an easier life with a flock of family to help. You have to decide that you don’t want to feel this way, and take steps to take care of yourself so you don’t become a totally depleted, empty shell of a woman who doesn’t resemble the real you. If this sounds familiar, don’t beat yourself up. This is all normal. And it can change, if you decide that you want it to change.
Here’s something you can do right here, right now:
Let go of the idea of the Perfect Mom, because she doesn’t exist. Yes, you will make mistakes. Yes, you will lose your patience, and you will torture yourself about all the things you think you’re doing wrong. But that doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. In your baby’s eyes, you are perfect, just as you are.
Breathe that in for a minute, and then….
I’d like to invite you to do a little exercise. Write this down. Put it in your wallet or stick it on your bathroom mirror, and read it daily. Let it be your Mommy Mantra, and then, apply it to every aspect of your life.
“I am good enough.”
If any of this resonates, if you’ve been feeling guilty and stressed and worry that you’re not a good enough mother, leave a comment here and share with all the other moms reading this who feel just like you. It’s anonymous, so you can spill your guts. Now go spill ‘em!
It’s a fact: new moms judge other moms about their parenting choices. I’ve been there, I know. I’m ashamed to admit, I even lost friends over it. Nearly 7 years later, I can finally understand it more objectively, but it still perplexes and angers me that educated, intelligent women are fighting over how they “should” care for their babies.
Why should you care if your friend co-sleeps and quit her day job to be a full-time, baby-wearing mom? And why should she judge you for sleep-training your baby, and going back to your full-time day job? Is it simply because we’re so insecure about our own choices? Are we so afraid of doing something "wrong" that we judge others because they believe a different method or theory or author? Can we blame baby theory “experts” for pitting moms against mom in these theoretical wars, or do we blame ourselves for falling prey to this bourgeois pettiness?
In Attachment Parenting or The Alternative, I write about how opposing parenting theories are confusing new parents more than ever. I would further argue that this trend is divisive amongst women. Megan Francis, author of The Happiest Mom, writes a humbling account about her struggle to find her own parenting style in a piece, On Labels and Limits: Why I No Longer Call Myself an Attachment Parent.
There’s a lot of buzz in the Mommy-sphere about how moms are divided and feuding over parenting choices. Leslie Morgan Steiner’s book, Mommy Wars: Stay at Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families is a perfect example. It's all shockingly true, and it fries my feminist feathers! Why on earth do women compete about how their kids sleep, or for how long they breastfeed? Sorry Ladies, but I grew up knee-deep in 70’s feminist ideals, and I just don’t get it. What happened to Sisterhood?
I’d love to hear from you about this. Have you lost any friends, or are you at risk of losing any friends over your parenting choices? Please share your experiences! And most importantly, WHAT CAN WE DO RIGHT NOW to make this a better, more supportive world for all moms?
I want to live in a world where parents don’t have to choose between career or family or self; a world in which all parents have meaningful, flexible work, and have ample time to simply be with their families without constantly rushing. I want to live in a world where parents feel fully supported by society and by their communities and by each other. Yes I know it sounds Utopian, but...
The truth is that we don’t live in this world unless we create it. We have to build community, make time for ourselves and demand flexibility from our jobs, or create businesses of our own so we can design our lives to work around our families. It’s challenging to live life the way we really want, but I truly believe we can do anything we set our minds to. So strive for happiness, work less, play more, put yourself on your priority list, and enjoy life as much as you possibly can!
Because really, how many of our kids will ever think, If only my parents had worked harder and made more money!?!
Parenting is really, really hard. I've got 2 kids, 2 years apart, and I'm still humbled daily by the endlessness of parenting. Nobody told me I would have these feelings, but I swear every mom feels them. Even if you don’t admit these things to yourself, guilt may be secretly wearing away at your very core, threatening to take you down. Here are Five Mom Taboos, with correlating Guilt-Liberation Tips.
1. We feel like failures at everything. Whether we work at home, outside the home, or we’re the primary caretaker, we feel like we’re never doing anything good enough. I know you’ve heard these voices in your head: I’m a terrible mom, a lousy wife, a bad friend and I’m so tired, I can’t even do my job!
Guilt-Liberation TIP: Resist multitasking, cultivate efficiency, and re-program those negative voices! You’re not a failure; you’re a mom, you’re doing your best, and that IS good enough. Pinky promise.
2. We let our kids watch more TV than we admit. I’ve finally stopped agonizing about this now that my kids are 4 and 6, but I am guilty of lying to friends about how much TV they watch, and I know the lies are reciprocal!
Guilt-Liberation TIP: Chances are, if you’re reading this, your kids have very well-rounded worlds and have a LOT of stimulation. Give yourself a break, and worry about something else!
3. We want to run away. OK, maybe it’s just me, but some days I seriously feel like I just can’t take it anymore. Last week I was feeling particularly cagey from caring for sick kids ALL WINTER, and I thought, if I hear Mommy! one more time, I’m going to die, or leave, or both!
Guilt-Liberation TIP: Thinking about leaving and doing it are different. If your kids are driving you nuts, go away with a girlfriend for a day or a week, so when you come back you, want really want to be there! (I go away with a girlfriend for a week every year and it’s amazing, try it sometime!)
4. We have violent feelings sometimes. Yes, it’s true. We all have them. It’s those moments when your inconsolable baby is screaming at 3am, or your toddler is having a tantrum and hitting you.
Guilt-Liberation TIP: Relax, it’s normal. Yes, you might lose your cool with your kids, and feel TERRIBLE when you do (been there!), but beating yourself up about something you merely thought is a waste of energy.
5. We’re not interested in sex. After childbirth (or c-section), 24/7 hour breastfeeding, between the full time day-job or childcare-job (SO much harder); between laundry, groceries, poops and puke, I’m sorry man, sex isn’t on the priority list!
Guilt-Liberation TIP: You don’t have to pretend to be interested, just throw him a bone every now and again. Or trade for a massage if necessary. It will help your marriage, I promise!
Before we have kids, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us have NO idea what we’re getting into. As new couples, we look at families with children and we think warm, glowing, happy thoughts. We name our hypothetical babies in bed as we cuddle with our partners. We dream about becoming mothers ourselves, but don’t truly understand what’s going to happen if and when that happens. In the media, motherhood looks beautiful. Expectant mothers “glow”, they instantly fall in love with their babies, they giggle and play with their kids in the park – they look happy! And maybe many of them are, but as a mother of two young children, I see the another side, and I worry for all the moms who think they should be happy, when they’re really not. I see a lot of moms who are pretending, because it’s not socially acceptable to be an Unhappy Mom. What about those of us who hated being pregnant, hated breastfeeding; those of us who didn’t instantly bond with our babies and really felt (if we’re truly honest with ourslves) that having a newborn was more of a trauma than a difficult childbirth? What about those of us who really miss our former bodies and sleeping in and having private time and reading novels and having our own identities beyond mom/wife/worker? The societal pressure to be Happy Moms is driving many women into a deep, dark depression, and we need more honesty and open dialogue about how we’re really feeling. If not for our own sakes, for our children – to become better, more honest mothers and role models. It’s OK not to feel all the things the media tells us we should feel. And it doesn’t make you a Bad Mom if you don’t love motherhood 100% of the time. I’m curious to hear from moms about this. How many of you feel like a Bad Mom at least some of the time? Please tell me I’m not alone!
There’s a problem that I’ve been trying to put my finger on for some time. The status quo isn’t working for most parents, but it’s so deeply ingrained in us, most of us don’t see there’s a problem at all. I think it’s part of an American cultural phenomenon stemming from the disintegration of extended families and tribal communities. We’re so conditioned to do everything ourselves, it’s become increasingly difficult to accept help, especially from strangers. How many times have you answered a well-meaning friend or acquaintance with, “Oh no, I’m fine” when you really could use a hand. We often secretly wish someone would step in and take over, take our kids for a few hours, or cook us a meal when we’re sick, but most of the time, we deny help. Why? What is it about our culture that is so fiercely independent, that we won’t accept help? New parents: Will you accept help when someone offers? If it’s free, or within your means to afford, I encourage you to open your arms and accept it. You only become a parent once in your life, and other parents understand how you’re feeling. So step aside and let us help you!
Crazy things happen when you become a mommy. You may experience an excruciatingly painful, unconditional love that brings you to your knees. There will likely be a roller-coaster of hormones, many sleepless nights and tears, breastfeeding challenges, potential postpartum depression; you name it, it’s all happening. And while you may be one of the rare few who (honestly) finds it all very natural and easy, the vast majority of us are scratching our heads thinking, Oh, crap, now what? And we figure it out, one way or another, in a process of trial and error. Usually at about the six week mark, new parents start feeling more confident and in control. The baby starts sleeping longer stretches, you get a few smiles; it all starts to feel somehow more manageable. These are things we can all anticipate on some level, right? But did you know that if you have a baby who sleeps through the night early on (I’ve heard as early as 5 or 6 weeks), that you absolutely must NOT talk about it with other new moms? Trust me on this, just don’t. The rest of the sleep-deprived mommies will hate you. It will make them feel like failures, and they won’t have a sense of humor about it. Believe me, I’ve been on both sides. If your baby sleeps through the night a freakishly early age, be smug in private and lie to the other moms.