Most of the time, I consider myself a good mom. I’m dedicated to my kids in so many ways and I love spending time with them. I’m fairly patient and rarely raise my voice. My kids feel safe around me and express their feelings freely. They are good kids, good friends, and are well adjusted. I know I am doing something right.
Being their mom brings me joy each and every day. I cherish these kids. My love for them is so enormous and all-encompassing, it brings tears to my eyes.
I have dark thoughts sometimes. I’ve had them since my kids were babies, and I have grown to accept them, mostly. The thoughts are not about harming myself or my children. But they are deep, dark, sometimes terrifying thoughts about resenting my life as a mom.
Lately, now that my children are a little older, these thoughts come mostly on the weekends, when I spend the most time with them. They build up slowly, and then start to consume me.
Let’s take a typical Saturday: I’ll be woken at 5am by my 6 year-old who really, really needs a plate of nuggets RIGHT AWAY. I’ll growl under my breath, feeling horribly sorry for myself that I have been walking around like a sleep deprived zombie for the past decade.
I will think about how, if I don’t go back to sleep after this rude interruption, I will spend my entire Saturday in a shitty mood. I probably won’t exercise (my one chance to get a nice long jog in). I will probably not have the stamina to finally read that novel that has been sitting on my bedside table for three years, and goodness knows I won’t get any poetry writing in (my one true passion, since I was in high school).
Then, as you guessed it, my woke-up-at-5am child spends his day screaming and crying at the littlest things. My tween is having none of it, and starts acting like a jerk right back. My husband and I – exhausted from the work week, the early wake up call, and the cranky kids – become cranky, mood and impatient ourselves.
The whole thing reaches a crescendo, and it suddenly that’s when it feels like my whole entire life as a mom comes crashing down on me. What if I’m just really not cut out for this? I consider if having kids was possibly the most horrible decision I’ve ever made.
I think about how I expected parenting would get easier as my kids got older, but that hasn’t really been the case. Maybe I will never be able to spend time on exercise or other kinds of self-care. I will never have time to pursue my dreams and goals – you know, the ones that make my heart sing. The ones that are just for me, who I am at my core.
Nope. Because ever since my first child was born, every goddamn detail about my life has been about my kids. I have lost my true self, and I may never get it back. And even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have the energy to rescue her. Anyway, she is probably gone.
Typing all of this out, I see how absurd and over-the-top it sounds. I can (almost) laugh about it now. But these thoughts are real. When they take over, my mind is filled to the brim with them and they consume me. They cast a dark shadow over everything I see.
The worst part is the guilt. You know what I’m talking about, right? As soon as you have these resentful thoughts about being a mom, that little asshole guilt takes a seat on your shoulder, yelling and pointing fingers right at you. Here are some of the things they say:
Other moms have it worse than you, so STFU.
Remember how badly you wanted children? Now look at you.
Oh, get over yourself. Life isn’t supposed to be glamorous, and all about you.
Well, I’m going to give you permission to tell all that bullshit guilt to shut its mouth. Because here’s the thing. Yes, having those “dark thoughts” about motherhood isn’t pretty. Yes, it can be depressing sometimes. But it’s normal. We all feel that way sometimes. It’s okay to think those thoughts. It really is.
The question is what do you do once you have the thoughts – and telling yourself you are a shitty mom is not the only option. Now, if the thoughts are making you anxious or depressed enough that you are finding it hard to function, then by all means, please see a therapist, a counselor, your doctors, whatever works for you. Don’t suffer in silence.
But for the rest of us, here’s my advice. When being a mom is filling you with resentment, disgust, hatred (fill in even the worst words here, by all means), the first thing you should do is practice a little kindness or empathy for yourself. How would you address your child if they came to you with those kinds of feelings – if they said, “Hey mom, sometimes I really hate being a kid.”
You’d embrace them, tell them that they are amazing, that we all have bad days, that being a kid is just hard sometimes, and that you are here to listen to all of their feelings. Then, because you are a mom (a good mom!), you’d try to problem solve with them, to come up with things to help boost their mood.
Do the same thing for yourself. Yeah, self-care can be hard to come by as a mom. Trust me, I know. But deciding to throw iPads at your kids so you can take a nice, long, warm shower is awesome and often very necessary. Skipping out on that PTA meeting so you can finally get that hair cut you’ve been putting off for weeks will make you feel like a million bucks. So just do it.
Do something small, or big, whatever it takes for you to put the focus back on yourself for a bit.
Then remember that as totally bonkers as motherhood is right now, it really, truly will get easier. Your little one will sleep through the night soon. One day all of your kids will be able to wake up, make themselves a bowl of cereal, and leave you the hell alone. Heck, there will be a day when they’ll all sleep in on the weekends, and you’ll be the one waking them up.
And there really will come a day when your house will be empty and quiet. I don’t want to sound like one of those people who says that to guilt you into living in the moment and remembering how #blessed you are. But it’s true, and is something to keep in mind when you are finding yourself thinking that whatever sucks about motherhood will always be this way.
It won’t. It sucks now, and you’re allowed to feel that. But it will get better, I promise. And whatever gloomy, messy thoughts and feelings you have do not define you as a mom. Really. You can be a good mom and still hate it sometimes. We are allowed to feel whatever we feel.
The truth is that the moms who are aware of these things are the ones who are going to do everything in their power to show up for their kids despite how hard it can be. They are the warriors who push through it all, and still parent their asses off.
See that? You can hate being a mom sometimes, and still be a badass fucking rock star mama. Because that’s just what we moms do.