I remember the first few days and weeks (and even maybe months) after the birth of each of my boys. I remember being overwhelmed, emotional and stressed (and a lot of good things too). I felt like I’d never be able to manage everything. After Liam was born, I posted to Facebook something like, “I have no idea how you other moms all do this with more than one child. This is so hard!” and the first response I got back was a friend of mine from college who has two kids: “It’s supposed to be hard!”
It was not what I wanted to hear in that moment. I wanted to hear some kind of magic formula for managing everything, or at least reassurance that it gets easier (I did get a lot of that). I wanted to hear how I could become a better mom, because surely a “good” mom wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed or incapable. But she was right, and looking back on it, it was exactly what I needed to hear. This is supposed to be hard. It isn’t about figuring out how to make it easy, it’s about figuring out how to make it wonderful and hard at the same time. The sleepless nights, the messy house, not being able to make both kids happy at the same time, the worry, having little to no time to myself, the guilt, the insecurity — they all add up to things being hard. I spent a lot of time during Liam’s first few months trying to figure out how to make it easier, trying to figure out how other moms did it all and didn’t freak out.
Now, I’m learning. Everyone freaks out sometimes. Everyone feels tired, disorganized, frazzled, worried, guilty and insecure sometimes. I read this blog post a week or so ago, and it really resonated with me. I try to remember to appreciate all the little, wonderful things that happen (there are so many of them) but I, too, feel a lot of pressure to constantly “enjoy the moment” and a lot of guilt when I find myself thinking, “Just go to SLEEP! Mommy needs a coffee and 5 minutes to herself!” And, like the author of that post, I also find that whenever I dare to express these feelings — that it’s hard yet wonderful, that I’m stressed and frazzled yet happy, I get negative reactions. I love being a mom. Admitting that it’s hard doesn’t negate that. In fact, very many of the things that I love to do are hard. Perhaps there are moms out there who don’t ever feel a negative emotion . . . no, wait, I don’t think there are. I think there are people who say that because they’re so invested in this idea of moment-to-moment joy being a quality of a good mother that they can’t admit, even to themselves, that they have hard moments too. (Either that or they’re heavily medicated.)
I agree with my college friend — it’s supposed to be hard. The only way I can conceive of it being easy would be to check out, not pay attention and not care so much, or maybe to drink copiously during the day, none of which I intend to do. I’m letting go of trying to be perfect, which eliminates a lot of stress and pressure, but I think that trying to make parenting not be hard is just another way of trying to be (and make each other be) perfect. It’s not for me. Being a mom is hard, and wonderful — I love it.