Sometimes motherhood feels hard. It can feel like you’ve been thrown out in the middle of the ocean with no lifesaver and you’re told to swim. There’s this misconception (read: prejudice) that motherhood is a priori happiness, and if you don’t feel joy and fulfillment, something’s wrong and you’re a bad mother.
Panic, frustration, self-doubt, anxiety, and – oh, let’s just never utter the stigmatized word – postpartum depression can really take a toll on mums (and it’s way more common than you think or is spoken about).
Add to the mix other early “joys” that come with parenting, such as lack of sleep and a cocktail of post-pregnancy hormones still raging in your body, and you’ve got yourself the perfect storm – one that’s going to make it next to impossible to swim to the shore.
Psychologists remind us that we as young mums often can’t adequately assess our condition. Our brain’s protective mechanism kicks in and tells us, “Everything’s fine, I can handle this,” when we know we really can’t at times. Then another voice pipes up – you know the one, right? The nagging, almost “mum-in-law voice” in your head that’s forever criticizing your parenting skills and decisions.
With all these conflicting emotions that mums all across the globe go through, it’s important to know you’re not alone in feeling cornered and that you haven’t got it all together, and that it’s okay to feel that way sometimes.
But if you don’t take my word for it now, here are 6 things you absolutely need to hear when the going gets tough as a mama.
1. Take everything you see on social media with a whole bag of salt
Even though modern parenthood has its perks, mums 20 years ago were at least blessed with not being bombarded with images of “perfect” motherhood every time they take a 5-minute break to scroll through their Insta feed.
Today, however, is a different story – one that can make you feel like an inadequate mother in a matter of seconds.
Coming across mums who seemingly lost their baby weight overnight, with their perfectly behaved kids and picture-perfect careers, while you’ve just had to clean up after your toddler’s fourth accident that day because potty training just isn’t going according to plan, can do a real number on your self-esteem.
I’m not saying that following other mums on social media is a bad thing, it’s just important to remember that if you’re in a bad mood or have had a day that simply sucks, seeing posts from other parents who seemingly have it all under control can only make you feel worse.
The truth is that everybody struggles, but not everyone’s going to make that public to God-knows-how-many followers. So try and keep this in mind the next time you feel insecurity creeping in.
2. You don’t need to enjoy every moment of it
As mums, we have unconditional love for our kids. However, this sentiment often gets misconstrued to mean that we must have unconditional love for every moment of motherhood, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Maybe your baby’s teething, or breastfeeding didn’t play out how you originally planned, so now you’re in the middle of switching from breast milk to formula. Perhaps you have a 3-year-old that woke up in a terrible mood and is throwing a tantrum every 10 minutes. Regardless of where you are in your parenthood journey, when motherhood feels hard, you’re allowed to feel like you’d rather fast forward through some days.
I know my mum certainly didn’t love arguing with me about why I had to have a curfew when I was a teenager, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t love me or was a bad parent!
Frustration and anger are part of every human relationship, including the one you have with your kids. But it’s how you react to them that counts, not the fact you’re feeling this way.
3. Feelings are not facts
“I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“I feel like I’m losing control.”
“I feel like I can’t do anything right.”
Do you see a similarity between the three statements? All three contain the word feel, a seemingly innocuous way to express your emotions.
One of the most important realizations of my motherhood journey was understanding that how I feel is not necessarily how things are. In fact, my interpretation of a particular situation was often vastly different from how other people viewed it.
This is why taking a step back and putting an end to your internal monologue is super important. Even better, talk to a friend or take a moment to yourself to identify where these feelings are coming from – you might just find your own emotions have convinced you to believe a whole bunch of lies.
For every negative statement, think of a positive one, and you’ll start to dig yourself out of the rut of negative emotions you’ve fallen into.
Also, remember that life is a series of ups and downs, and mums aren’t immune to it either! But just because you’ve been feeling down lately and you find motherhood hard right now, doesn’t mean you’ve lost your fabulous self. One look at your baby’s adoring eyes will tell you all you need to know about how valuable and amazing you are!
4. Love is the most important ingredient of a happy childhood
Chances are you’ve never heard an adult say, “I had to go to therapy because my mum yelled at me once for spilling apple sauce all over my shirt” or “I have attachment issues because my mum let me play with cheap plastic toys instead of wooden ones as a kid.”
That’s because losing your cool once in a while won’t forever put a damper on your baby’s childhood. Showing our kids that we love them by reading stories every night, playing together, providing them with a safe environment, and being affectionate and supportive far outweighs the few times you snapped at your kids.
We all know very well that kids don’t come with an instruction manual, so figuring out this motherhood thing can be a bumpy road.
And even if you do raise your voice from time to time, you should learn how to forgive yourself – you’re only human! Besides, you’ve more than made up for it with tons of cuddles and kisses that your kids will never forget – they’ll know mom is always there, no matter what.
5. Tomorrow will be a better day
If you’ve had the kind of day you wish you could’ve just skipped, it’s easy to let negative emotions cloud your mind and feel like every day will be like this.
Allow yourself to accept that sometimes motherhood feels hard and chaos will reign, but that tomorrow you have the opportunity to do things differently by learning from your mistakes.
Yes, complaining and venting is helpful, but don’t make negativity your default state of mind. Instead, approach the following day with optimism that’ll help you not repeat the mistakes of yesterday.
6. Overanalyzing never brought anyone clarity
If there ever was a competition in overthinking, I’m sure I’d be world champ by now.
Those of us who’ve been blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with the ability to pick apart every single situation know just how easy it is to fall down the overanalyzing abyss.
But with children, our tendency to overthink increases tenfold. When you couple that with the sometimes very conflicting parenting advice you can find online, it’s easy to spend hours thinking about what you should’ve done in a given scenario.
However, many of us don’t realize that during this process, we aren’t present in the now and are missing out on meaningfully interacting with our kids.
Whether you’re worried about being a good homeschool teacher or simply spending enough quality time with your kids, it’s best to redirect yourself away from repetitive thinking and come up with a plan or solution to the reason behind your overanalyzing.
That said, letting go of overanalyzing doesn’t mean you don’t care about your kids, just that you don’t want to live in the past but would rather be present with your kids.
And whenever I do find myself falling back into the old overthinking habit, I just take a look at my kids, remember how happy and healthy they are, and remind myself that I always did the best I could for their wellbeing at the time.
7. When the going gets tough, the tough get going
Oftentimes, motherhood feels hard and like a neverending obstacle course. The moment you overcome one challenge, another seems to pop up right around the corner.
But think about all the challenges you’ve made it through so far – from sleep regression and potty training to the biting phase – you’ve come a long way!
So, give yourself credit where credit is due and understand that while motherhood can be incredibly difficult, there’s no better mom for your babies than you, and as long as there’s love and warmth at home, things will be just fine.
Ivana Davies is an educator turned stay-at-home mom. She’s a proud mum of a beautiful 7 year old girl and a playful 5 year old boy. Since she didn’t have a clue about raising kids, she had to learn it all in a hard way. Ivana managed to find so much information online and it inspired her to turn to blogging to share her experiences and struggles as a mom. Being a mum is not easy. In fact, it can sometimes be pretty isolating. Her blog, Find Your Mom Tribe, is here to help you connect with other moms, as well as to share mom hacks, information, and tools to help you on this parenting journey. You can catch up with her on Facebook and Pinterest.