Struggles You’ll Only Understand If You’re A Mom
Being a parent comes with many difficulties. Naturally, some of them are reflected by other elements of our lives. Being frustrated when our kids don’t eat breakfast on time is sort of the same as waiting for a late friend. Or clearing up muddy pawprints compared to muddy bootprints, which are basically the same deal. But some struggles are unique to being a mother. As a mom to a seven month old, with many mommy friends, it surprised me how many “weird” struggles I thought I was going through alone are actually common, everyday problems… if you’re a mom.
Wondering how much you could have done.
When you’re sleep deprived, the baby is screaming, and you have ten minutes to shower, eat, clean the kitchen and put a load of laundry on, it’s like you suddenly have superpowers. Right now, with a seven month old asleep in his crib, I have written more in two hours than I would manage most days. I make my living over naptime. And looking at all this work I can do now, I can’t help but wonder how much I could have got done if I hadn’t procrastinated before baby. I could have started an empire in the time I spent watching Netflix!
The desperate need to impress.
We all feel that pressure to do well. But during motherhood it is amplified like nothing else. So a woman like me, who seriously didn’t care about trends and fashion and fads and gadgets, finds herself wondering if the baby will do better in life for having a Ralph Lauren hat and the newest baby phonics (they won’t), and more socially sensitive women find themselves biting their nails when asked whether they will take painkillers for giving birth (take them). No matter what we do, the judgment is strong, and we feel it and shiver.
But, that said, you’re done with body-shaming.
Remember when all your insecurities were about belly fat, breast size, and that weird asymmetry your nose has going on? Well during and after pregnancy you will go through two phases. The first phase is where this is amplified and you panic about every single stretchmark. The second phase is where you say “You know what? I’m a warrior, a queen, I’ve had my kid(s), and I’m proud. Yeah, I look good. Look at my butt, it’s amazing. Too fat? For who? Stretchmarks? They’re here to stay, so love them or leave. I’ve got no time for your unrealistic beauty standards, world.”
“Awww, he spit up AND farted at the same time!”
I’ve never been a huge fan of bodily functions, and during pregnancy it got even worse. And the whole time all I could think was “What’s going to happen when this pooping, peeing, crying, vomiting human arrives?” I really didn’t think I could cope. Then he arrived and… it was fine. I still hate even the sound of someone coughing. But sour-milk spitup? Vinegary teething poops? Getting peed on when I’m not fast enough during a change? His first solid poop? All fine. Kinda cute. It’s weird, but cute.
There’s this weird sensation I’m going to call “s-mother-ing”. You’re so comfy and cozy and happy holding your baby, playing with your toddler, talking to your ten year old about their favorite show. Or you’re stressed, but happy, handling a crying baby, calming a temper tantrum, or disciplining a bad ten year old. And yet, however happy you are, you realize you have spent literally the past 72 hours with a child physically attached to you and suddenly you feel overwhelmed and want to hand them to the next relative to walk through the door. It’s OK, we all get it.
The tug of war between motherhood and non-motherhood.
When you’re pregnant you joke about how you’re not going to be a boring mommy. When the baby arrives you joke about how you don’t even want to go out anyways. The reality is actually in between. Yes, you want to go out. But you don’t want to have a stranger care for your baby, or be away from them too long. What you’d really love is to go out for a nice meal and ONE glass of wine with friends, but bring the baby along and just bottle feed for one night. And even if you get mommy friends you can do this with, you will still secretly wish you could do it with your old friends.
“I think we need more socks…”
The obsessive buying really gets to me, and I’m the one doing it! For myself I’m the most miserly person out there. But for my baby? Nothing’s superfluous. His 0-3 month wardrobe probably cost more than I’ve spent on my own clothes my entire life. At first I thought it was a manifestation of the pressure mothers feel to impress everyone and follow the right trends, but looking back it seems to be more of a hoarding thing. We want our kids to be provided for, we have enough food and water and stuff, so unlike our wild ancestors, we hoard socks instead.
Visualizing a horror movie.
Once I was considering carrying my baby downstairs in his rocking baby seat. I carried him around in it quite a bit, just putting my hands under it and moving it from table to floor, or from one spot to another, so it was almost instinctive. And looking down the stairs, I clearly visualized me slipping, him sliding from the straps, and flying into the wall at the bottom of the stairs. I carried them each down separately. For some reason when you have kids you don’t just worry about stupidly graphic accidents, you actually see them flash before your eyes. I should write a horror film.
Being too embarrassed to admit what we feel, even to ourselves.
A lot of this stuff might make childless readers feel uncomfortable, but it will make many mothers feel relieved. From what my mom friends have told me, many of the things we freak out about the most are perfectly normal. But we don’t dare admit these thoughts, even to ourselves. It’s as though thinking “I want a break from mommying” or “I can’t take him in the car, he will slide down in his seat and choke and nobody will notice til we get there!” is wrong, rather than a perfectly normal part of turning a small Neanderthal into a happy, healthy, functioning human being.