The Reality of Motherhood

Personal Essay

The Reality of Motherhood

Raising a sassy toddler has made me realize that it’s so easy to be hard on yourself as a parent. It’s easy to feel like you’re failing when your child is having temper tantrums over nothing or when they get a common cold. It’s so easy to feel inadequate as a parent.

Parenting is hard. It drains you physically and emotionally, but without a doubt, it will also bring you such joy.

Most of us will never feel ready to be a parent – even as I sit here with one child, I know that a second one will bring me completely new trials. Although that scares me, the pleasures of watching my daughter grow gives me the confidence that I could handle a second one when the time is right.

But let’s be very clear: There is no “right time” to have children. There are certainly wrong times, but I think using time as an umbrella measurement is just as pointless as saying every child is the same and will grow the same. Every child, every baby is so different and unique, so the only time that is “right” is when you feel it’s right for you.

The thought of having a child can be overwhelming and unfortunately that doesn’t go away. Every day I wake up and think “I am in charge of growing a person.” The decisions I make in raising this child will determine her path, her attitude, her morals and defining features of her personality – and that scares the life out of me.

I am on a journey to learn to be kinder to myself, as a parent. To accept that I am doing the best I can. It’s time for me to stop looking around me, looking at the lives of others and focus this energy inwards.

This doubt and guilt we feel as parents sometimes comes from other adults and, more often than not, adults who aren’t parents. On one hand, this can be useful because they’re sporting an impartial view from outside. But also, they’re on the outside! There’s so much more that goes into parenting than what can be observed by an onlooker.

You may see a parent taking a while, in your opinion, to potty train their child, but what you don’t see are the numerous failed attempts, the breakdowns, the tears, the despair that comes before the small victories.

You probably won’t see the very long, seemingly endless days they have or all the time spent worrying about something, the many hours a day they struggle to hold it together.

As if that’s not enough, a significant amount of that doubt and guilt comes from within. Parenting is already hard, but it’s made even harder with the constant self-judgment – not to mention seeing parent blogs where life seems neat, calm and dandy. It’s so easy for a parent to get in their own head and question every decision, from whether their kid is eating right or developing right to even just wearing the right clothing for the weather.

Motherhood is sudden. No matter how organized you are or how much you prepare, you will never fully understand what this little human you’ve been baking will mean to your life. You will only know once you’re in it.

The message here is: Let’s just take it easy on them. On us.

Parenting is sometimes described as juggling where some of the balls are glass and some of them are plastic, and sometimes you have to know which ball you can drop. But what does a mother do when everything seems like it’s made of glass?

One thing I’ve learned is that some balls are made of week-old shit and need to be thrown meters away. Like the ball that holds all the critiques of yourself, made by yourself.

Many women, myself included, work two full-time jobs. One is where you’re making the money, building your career and feeling productive, while the other can drain you, cost you money and leave you feeling both mentally and physically exhausted after a long day. Yes motherhood is a very full-time job with no overtime, sick days, mental health breaks, annual leave.

My once calm and totally dependent little baby is growing and with that comes growing feelings that she nor I can understand. Every book or article or piece of advice tells you to practice patience but how do you do that for 12 hours a day? You simply cannot.

Motherhood is sudden. No matter how organized you are or how much you prepare, you will never fully understand what this little human you’ve been baking will mean to your life. You will only know once you’re in it, once you’re multitasking, getting yourself ready for the day while they’re undoing everything you just did to get them ready or trying to cook dinner with a toddler grabbing onto your legs and crying for something they don’t have to have that minute.

All this while there is a never-ending list of concerns running through your mind. Becoming a parent is one of the most drastic and sudden changes you will experience. I’m still trying to adjust to my new normal.

I still wake up multiple times a night, while she’s sleeping soundly to make sure she’s still breathing. This seems irrational when I think about it but the reality is once you’re a parent, your mind never rests.

From early days when you’re feeding and burping every three hours to when they’re being babysat and you constantly have this thought that the sitter doesn’t know your child like you do. Then why leave your child with them? I know on a much much deeper level that my child is perfectly safe with this person and that I need whatever help I can get, but that isn’t always at the forefront of my mind when my focus is trying to be a good mother.

While battling COVID and isolating with only her, we reached a point where we were both crying out of exhaustion and frustration. It was then I realized it’s okay to feel these things, it’s okay to feel tired, angry, sad and everything else on the feelings wheel. It doesn’t mean I love her any less; it means I’m human. I am a mother.

My child needs to be fed, clothed, kept safe and loved. I am doing these things. I am going above and beyond to ensure she is happy and healthy. I couldn’t do these things alone so I am grateful to my partner, my family and friends who play integral roles in her life.

It truly takes a village to raise a child and I have multiple so why is it still so easy to feel like something is wrong? My best guess is because even with all the help, all the evidence that she’s okay right in front of me, there is an innate feeling that is forced into me by society that there is always something missing, something I’m not doing well enough.

I am on a journey to learn to be kinder to myself, as a parent. To accept that I am doing the best I can. To realize that the little things matter, she’s happy, healthy and above all loved. It’s time for me to stop looking around me, looking at the lives of others and focus this energy inwards.

To keep doing what I’m doing – it seems to be working. I have to take the time and energy to remind myself that I will make mistakes, I will forget things, I won’t always be my best self but that’s okay. I’m choosing to hold on to the joy and accomplishments of being a mother. When she’s a kind human, when she learns new big words, when she shows her independence and compassion I can take a step back and know that this imperfect mother did that.

So, this Mother’s Day I implore you to be kind. Be kind to yourself, be kind to your mother, be kind to any mother you know.

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