The Dark Side of Motherhood
Updated: Apr 9, 2019
If you are a mother, you know that motherhood is one of the greatest things many women experience. It is fulfilling and innate and beautiful but for many, it also happens to be one of the hardest and longest challenges of their lives. It truthfully starts with the pregnancy and just being so uncomfortable and wanting to just leave your body behind. Then it continues with labor. As you are literally pushing another human being out of your body, and yet everyone from your spouse to your doctor is more concerned about the baby than you.
While, everyone is so excited to meet the baby and complaining about the wait, the uncomfortable couch in the waiting room, and the subpar food in the cafeteria- You, on the other hand, have been nauseous, moody, riddled with heartburn, and haven’t slept well for the last 30 million weeks. Now you’re gearing up to push a watermelon out of a dime, and you’re so confused about why you’re literally terrified for your baby too and not as worried about yourself? That self-sacrificial love comes heavy into play.
You go through so much to meet your beautiful new precious baby, you’re not prepared for what hits you next. The reality is... all that.. The pregnancy and the labor.. That was the easy part.
There truly is so much beauty in creating life, so much joy and awe in watching your children grow up. But it is hard. Let’s not pretend that being a mother is easy. Not a one can attest to that. It is never easy. Worth it? Yes. Great? Most of the time. But easy? Never.
When I was 19 and pregnant with Lily, I remember discussions of it being hard and requiring a lot of sacrifice but I don’t feel like anyone truly prepared me for how gutwrenchingly hard it has been and continues to be. I am consistently in a state of schizophrenia with my emotions where I feel so much gratitude, warmth, and honor in being a mom and then times where I am just plagued by heartache, isolation, fear, and on occasion when I get really caught up - even regret.
Reading that probably just made you go omg, she regrets her kids? And I don't regret them. I have often regretted how old I was when I got pregnant with them (first two), who I chose to reproduce with at that time, and many things about how I handled things, decisions I have made, and so much regret about getting angry, not being enough for them, not being there for that field trip because I had to work and go to school full time, or whatever it may be. Regret can mean many things.
We want so badly to be perfect mothers that we push ourselves so hard – and our children – far too hard. And we often reach breaking points. And we are often ashamed of reaching that point not realizing that every mom gets there. We get so caught up in wanting to be perfect moms, with perfect kids, and perfect husbands that we forget that no one is perfect.
If I haven’t lost you already because you are just very happy and loving and never make any mistakes, I may lose you soon because I am going to be very real and honest and talk about things that are commonly taboo. And shouldn’t be.
The dark side of motherhood should not be taboo but yet, it is- still in 2019. It is one thing I really don’t understand. Why we as a society need to feel perfect and why the pressure is just thrown on us as women so much so that we get put in this box where we must make others to think we have it all together and if we don’t we have failed. We shield everyone from seeing our struggles, fearing we’re alone in these feelings, and others will think we’re unworthy of motherhood. But in reality we are so worthy. Being imperfect and embracing it is so important. More now than ever.
So here are my truths that I have come to know during the past nine years of motherhood and the many stages I have been in my life while being a mother.
My Eight Motherhood Truths.
1.) You will always think you can't do it. Until you are doing it. And then, it is done.
I thought I couldn't last any longer and make it to the end while pregnant and miserable, and then I did. I always thought I would never make it through labor, being induced, etc. and I made it , every time. And then- when the baby came- I thought - I can't do this? I can't be a good mom, and not saying I am great but I am decent and making it. When my ex of seven years, cheated on me while I was pregnant, became heavily addicted to every drug under the sun and stole, lied and left me while in labor to use our sons circumcision money for drugs - I thought - I will never make it. I will be alone with two kids and no one will ever want me. And guess what? I made it, I survived and found someone who not only wanted me, but wanted all the kids, all the mess, and all the love I had to offer. When I had two infants and struggled to choose between diapers and groceries and had to stay up until 3 am every night studying and doing homework only to get up at 6 am to get ready every morning, I often thought- I will never do this. I will never get my degree, I will never amount to anything. But I did, I made it. Every single time. I came out on top. and you can too.
2.) You may struggle to figure out who you are again.
I think every mom, especially young moms struggle with a bit of an identity crisis after having a child. We get so caught up in making sure the baby is okay, that we feed, we change, we problem solve, we dress, we take pictures, and we just try to focus on keeping the baby alive while working, or going to school or whatever we may be doing on top of maintaining other children or a husband if you have them and in all of that we lose ourselves. We wear so many hats that we don't even know what hats we like anymore. If someone asks you what you do for fun- you just stand there and look perplexed and think.. is using the bathroom in peace and watching Netflix fun? As moms, we don't have a lot of luxuries but we should. We deserve to make time for ourselves and figure out what we like, what our style is, and pick up hobbies that make us happy. We owe ourselves that. For me, I did a lot of weird things on my journey to find myself after becoming a mom. I went through a hermit phase, a party girl phase, and all the phases between. You don't have to do that to figure out what you like- in fact I do not recommend the party girl phase- but if you do - you will learn so much about yourself. Particularly, the parts of you that you don't like and the types of people that you also don't like.
3.) You may struggle with who you are as a mother.
We all have perfect parenting ideals – until we become parents. You may have planned to breast feed until your child self-weaned. You were never going to yell at your kid, or spank your kid, only hash things out with a soft toned discussion. You were going to only puree organic vegetables in a blender for your child to eat. You were going to help out at every parent committee bake sale. You were going to be your daughter’s best friend. Then you had the child. Maybe you got tired, so you weaned your child. And maybe you weren’t at the bake sale because you needed overtime at work. And before you realize what is even happening , your kid is eating a happy meal and your swatting at them in the back seat trying to connect your hand to their thigh so they know that you mean business. Whatever your ideals were, chances are motherhood is a little different from what you planned, and you struggle with who you really are as a mother. Acceptance is key. Don't let anyone make you believe they do it all and do it with a smile, no one is that good.
4.: You understand how people can truly lose it
Before becoming a mom you could never understand the ‘shaken baby syndrome’. You never understood how on earth a mother could be abusive. In fact, you couldn’t even understand why a mother would snap – even just with her voice. After kids, you realize how physically and mentally exhausting it can be. It literally can take it all out of you. How the cries can be ear-piercing. How much a toddler can really test you to the end. How a child can talk back so much. As a healthy and adjusted adult, you’ll find ways to cope and overcome that will never include abuse but in those moments where you are so tired, so tapped out, crying from insanity- you do realize how easy it would be for less stable parents to get to that point.
5: Your husband can become your roommate if you aren't careful
Or maybe he already has. Marriage is such a fragile thing- you really have to be careful with it. Growing up you may have seen some of your friends’ parents divorcing as you started or finished high school. Maybe you even saw your own parents’ marriage fall apart once the glue of parenting was gone. Certainly, there are many reasons marriages can dissolve and these days people do it when their kids are young. But it isn’t uncommon for parents to get so wrapped up in parenting that they become nothing but roommates. It’s rarely a conscious choice; it’s something you slip into. If you don’t make your relationship a priority, it will easily fall by the wayside when children are involved. After Ruby was born, there were days sometimes that we would go without having a conversation and then when we talked it was about the babies poop or talk about the last time she ate. It can creep up on you and before you know it you are disconnected. We really have to make a conscious effort to reconnect and often. For us, it is date nights, cute texts, and late night conversations. Find joy in the little things and make the effort where you can.
6: Sometimes, you may truly despise or be embarrassed of your child's behavior
Let me be clear: you shouldn’t ever despise your entire child. But there may be things your kid does or says, that just really make you feel some type of way. Before having kids you probably couldn’t imagine despising anything about an ‘innocent’ child. You couldn’t imagine feeling rage against a child, let alone your own child. However, if you see your child just being downright mean to his or her sibling, you deal with them lying to your face, acting out when old enough to know better, or being just pure evil (which they can be) then you just might despise that particular behavior in a way you never thought possible.
7: Postpartum mood disorder is real and extends much past depression
I always thought, I would never be affected by PPD. Mostly because I didn't feel like I had time for it. Besides that, I felt like I was too strong to ever let something like mental illness get the best of me and I let my lack of education regarding Postpartum mood disorders leave me ignorant to what I was really going through. The truth is, postpartum funk as I call it is an array of things. For me it was rage, anxiety and feeling out of it. For you, it could be sadness, or an empty feeling. It affects every mom differently. It is important to not put parameters on how you feel and talk to someone or go see your doctor. With Lily and Logan, I was in survival mode, I had so much to do and focus on that I never gave myself a minute to accept how broken I truly was. This time around, with the life I wish I had for Lily and Logan back then, a better career, less stress, more support- I felt extra stupid for feeling the way I was feeling. But shortly after Ruby turned three months old, I decided I needed some extra help and made an appointment to see the doctor. I didn't like how out of sorts I felt and how I was lashing out at my older kids for stuff I normally wouldn't. So I got some help. and that is okay.
8. No matter how much you give, it will never feel like enough
Motherhood is this weird balancing act of wanting to give your children everything in the world, but at the same time not make them ungrateful. It is loving them so much but just needing them to go in another room so you can think. And while you recognize your kids can’t grasp the sacrifices you make, somehow you want your work as a mom acknowledged. You can feel like you give, and give, and give, and no one sees what you’re doing or cares. You might feel as though you can never measure up to the room mom or some lady on Instagrams mothering, or that you will never find the right balance of work and home life, like your boss seems to be able to.
In reality, we give all that we can, and it is enough.
There’s a beauty in motherhood. However, the beauty doesn’t negate the hard parts of parenthood. It doesn’t negate the dark feelings we sometimes have. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our children. It just means that motherhood has been really really oddly romanticized, and we aren’t always open to learning what’s normal. We don’t discuss our struggles, so we think we’re alone in this. But we aren't.
Knowing these things are normal is often all it takes to alleviate stress, and allow us to work through the negative feelings. Sometimes, all we as moms need to hear is Karen from accounting say “me too” when we are sharing a struggle we are going through. And, at other times, we simply need more support, much much more support, but we won’t find that support without being honest about our struggles. Each mother’s experience is different, and our feelings might vary during different stages of motherhood. Perhaps some or all of these things are true for you, or maybe none are right now. For me, these struggles are painful to admit but there is something freeing about being honest. I know that these truths are mine and important and I hope that maybe they can help you find your way out of the darkness.