There is so much about early motherhood that rocks a mom’s world. Unfortunately, these unexpected realities are not talked about nearly enough. We are more willing to talk about external struggles like sleep deprivation and how to breastfeed while the internal struggles get neglected. I want new mothers to know they are not alone in feeling like their reality is different from their expectations. Just feeling understood is a key part of coping with these unexpected realities of your new life. Let’s talk about the things you can expect during motherhood that we don’t talk about enough.
1. Missing your old life.
This one is a biggie. I was so excited about being a mother that I did not expect to miss my old life. We often feel as though if we miss our old life, we are not grateful for our children. PARENTHOOD IS HARD. PARENTHOOD IS TIME CONSUMING. PARENTHOOD CAN MAKE US FEEL TRAPPED. These are normal thoughts to have. Who doesn’t miss the freedom of doing whatever they want whenever they want to?!
2. Conflicting Feelings.
As a mother, you will most likely feel the strongest love you have ever felt in your life. You will most likely feel joy and happiness as well. What society doesn’t talk about enough, is all of the other conflicting feelings you will experience at the same time. A few examples include grieving your old life, resentment that you can’t do whatever you want anymore, confusion over your new identity, and uncertainty about how you want to parent. The juxtaposition of all of these emotions can be confusing and overwhelming. An experience so common it has a name! Motherhood ambivalence! Ambivalence is normal. HEAR ME. You are not alone.
3. Mom Guilt.
I am confident in saying that 100% of moms experience mom guilt at some point, if not often. Whether it’s about breastfeeding, or getting bored playing with your child, or not feeding your child enough variety of organic foods, or snapping at your child, or going to work (and enjoying it), there is no shortage of things to feel guilty about!
I’m not talking about just being tired. I’m talking about an exhaustion palpable in your entire body. You are “touched out” and physically beat from holding your child, playing with your child, feeding your child, and transporting your child. Your brain is mush from dealing with your child’s behavior and all the daily to – dos, planning, and prep. I have had nights where I am so exhausted, I can’t even watch a tv show or browse my phone. All I can muster is lying on the couch and staring at the ceiling.
5. It’s hard to do everything “right.”
Before I was a mom I, I was confident that I would “know” the right thing to say to my daughter in every moment, “know” how to deal with her behavior, “know” how to feed her well, “know” how to get her to sleep, “know” how to always comfort her, “know” how to control my own emotional triggers, etc., etc., etc. Somehow, as soon as I became a mother, my expectations on how I would handle most things flew right out the window. Whether it’s due to the temperament of your child, or the exhaustion of everyday life, or the pressure to be “perfect,” finding and trusting your intuition during motherhood proves way more difficult than expected.
Being home with your child can feel lonely and isolating. I thought I was destined to be a stay – at – home mom. I have always loved children! I worked with children my entire career. I am nurturing and caring. I was made for this, right? Believe it or not, it’s not that simple! Being home with your child can feel incredibly isolating and lonely. This can lead to feeling depressed, anxious, meaningless, and like your losing your sense of self. You’ll want to complain about it! Get mommy friends that want to complain about it as much as you do! Join a mommy group with like – minded women! Feeling like you want to complain about the challenges and struggles of motherhood can again leave you feeling guilty, but once you share in these struggles with other willing mamas it is a relief like no other.
6. Complete lack of time for yourself.
Who knew you would be peeing while reading a book to your daughter, or your son would be pushing the shower curtain open in order to hop in and join you? Somehow after having a child, privacy and time to yourself become mere memories. Does this leave you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and disconnected to yourself and what YOU need? I cannot stress enough the importance of taking care of yourself. Ask yourself a few times a day “what do I need right now?” and take 30 seconds to connect with yourself. Get someone over for an hour or two and do something that brings you joy. (More on this in future blogs)!
7. You will need support.
I got this. I can raise a child by myself (and/or with partner). Nope. Don’t do it. Don’t try to do it alone. Advocate for yourself and what you need. Whether it’s the family or friend giving you an hour off, or the neighbor bringing you dinner, or socializing with parent friends during playdates, or your partner helping you with tasks around the house, seek out and welcome support. There’s a reason they say, “it takes a village.” I am a strong believer that we are not meant to do this alone. Your mental health and overall well – being will thank you for it.
8. It’s not ALWAYS the happiest time in your life.
(Even though society, your friends and your family may tell you otherwise.) You are told by society, social media, friends and family, that becoming a mother is the happiest time of your life. Of course, there are moments of joy, but as pointed out by everything above, parenthood is HARD. It is a life transition like no other. You are dealing with hormonal changes, 24/7 responsibility for another human, loss of freedom, and so much more. It is many things in addition to happiness and just being aware of that is half the battle.