The Struggle Is Real
"You're going to miss this"
Older moms have been saying this to newer moms since the beginning of motherhood. As a mom of infants I never understood it. My youngest sons are 20 months apart and for 3 years straight the infant/baby stage was all I knew. How would I miss sleepless nights and praying for a stretch longer than 2 hours? How would I miss constant seclusion in a dark room rocking a baby? Or planning everything around a nursing or pumping schedule? Or my favorite… wetting my shirt because, in a total daze, I left the house without nursing pads. No way.
When everything else seemed so foggy it was very clear to me that I’d never miss being a mom of infants.
And just like that it was over. The next stage arrived and I was suddenly missing the stage that I couldn’t wait to be done with. I admit it now! I definitely miss my snuggly babies that slept most of the day and couldn’t walk or talk. I’m now the older mom telling the newer moms, “Hang in there. It’s only a moment in time.” I could almost punch myself for it. The fact is that for new moms the feelings of exhaustion and even depression are real and acceptable. We all rally behind new moms because we know what a difficult adjustment it can be.
Now I Have Toddlers
They’re independent(ish), defiant, feisty, and struggling with sensory and knowledge overload. They fight me when I dress them, bath them, feed them, or even try to hold them. Most days feel like an intense game of wack-a-mole: change a diaper, save a kid from falling off the bed, wipe a nose, have a tantrum, have a time-out, another diaper, save, nose, tantrum, timeout. It never ends and I feel the physical pain of it all. While I’m told that this behavior is developmentally normal I constantly wonder what I could be doing differently to make our lives more peaceful. Because apparently it’s not normal to lose my mind and throw in the towel.
I’ve found myself falling into a total funk. At an all time high: Feelings of inadequacy, stress, frustration, anxiety, exhaustion, and guilt. At an all time low: My physical appearance (perception or not), patience, time, and sex drive. It’s the perfect recipe for disaster. It’s no wonder kids take such a toll on a marriage. I’m fortunate to be blessed with an amazing partner in life who supports and still loves the not-so-hot mess I’ve become. But unfortunately I don’t think that’s the case for all moms - especially outside the home.
When "Tired Mom" Doesn't Count
I’ve noticed that once you’ve climbed out of the infant stage the support system and tolerance for “tired mama” dwindles. You now have kids that sleep through the night (huh?), after 3 you’re done with diapers (lol), and you’ve got more time to dedicate to yourself, work, and other things (if this is true for some then I really hate those people). Okay so I’m not making the cut for any of that. I’m up multiple times a night, my kids think the potty is a water toy, and time is a just an ugly four letter word. Most nights I’m in bed between 8:30 - 9:00 because not only am I physically and mentally wasted, but because I just need the day to end.
It’s a jagged little pill to swallow but I believe I’m suffering from some form of situational depression and anxiety. But unlike postpartum depression it’s not widely acknowledged or accepted. For several reasons I get why that is.
- Pregnancy and postpartum hormones have worked themselves out by toddlerhood so we can’t use that excuse.
- Kids are supposed to bring us joy and it’s hard to admit that the opposite is possible.
- As moms and working moms, we’re supposed to have our shit together.
Happy Parents on Facebook
So instead we load up our newsfeeds with happy moments because who really wants to hear that your 18 month old pooped in the tub for the second time this week? Or that you’re seeing a chiropractor because carrying kids around is back breaking?
Despite my own struggle to come to terms with it I will say that acknowledging your feelings, however horrible, is one of the boldest things you can do. It’s liberating and I’ve found that doing this myself has given other moms permission to do the same. Be honest with yourself and with those in your network. Along with wine and therapy, we can find comfort in knowing that this too shall pass.
There, of course, will always be those who don’t understand. I know there are probably many who will read this and wonder why I ever chose to have kids. To those people I would say that while nothing could’ve prepared me for how challenging parenthood would be, I would never take it back. Even when I’m at my lowest point I love all the people that fill up my house, make it a mess, and make it a home. There’s no doubt that I’m going to miss this.
Every moment of it.