I’m tired. My 4-month-old is inconsolable and screaming at the top of her lungs. My boobs hurt from nursing around the clock — it’s the only thing that consistently calms her down — and I have a lingering headache.
All I can think about is how in this moment, motherhood is draining me of all my life force. And I’m pretty sure I’m on the verge of losing it. But, unlike before, I’ve learned that, as a mother who’s struggling, I don’t have to keep everything to myself.
Accepting that I don’t have to pretend to be okay has made my life so much easier.
I’ve seen so many moms, especially young ones, who are regularly told we made the choice to be parents — or at a minimum to have sex — so we deserve to silently deal with the obstacles we face as parents. The messages suggest to us that we should be “surviving instead of thriving” and that we shouldn’t seek help when we need it.
It leaves mothers on the verge of breaking feeling alone and lies to them by saying motherhood should be synonymous with struggle. Trying to process those experiences alone, while thinking no one understands is painful. And it makes it harder for us to be good mothers.
There’s an indescribable amount of space dedicated to discussing the love and pride of motherhood. The world around us loves and even exalts the unwavering sacrifices that moms make for our families and other loved ones.
We’re told that motherhood is beauty, smiles, and roses. Yet no one mentions the thorns. On the rare occasion that we openly discuss how motherhood can feel like drowning, we’re ignored or chastised.
I’ve even heard people suggest if you’re frustrated in motherhood, maybe you don’t deserve to be a mother at all.
None of this is true.
It took a long time for me to understand that the freedom to address the obstacles I face as a mother is even more important than the freedom to discuss the fun of it. By neglecting to display the ways that motherhood can cause an equal number of sorrows and joys, we hurt everyone — including children, parents, and folks who may become parents.
Raising children is beyond overwhelming. It is terrifying to know that you’re responsible for making a person capable of self-sufficiency. But it’s so much more than teaching them to provide for themselves. It’s holding a child’s hand through their most impressionable stages and doing all you can to make someone who doesn’t contribute to all the bad things we hate about the world.
It’s a huge responsibility, and frankly, it’s scary as hell! And many of us have hardly made it to a place that we understand ourselves, let alone understand a child.
That’s a lot of weight to put on our shoulders. It requires acknowledging that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. I’ve finally started coming to terms with the fact that my journey for self-understanding does not make me any less of a good mother.
On the contrary, the more I learn about myself, the more it becomes painstakingly clear that I owe it to everyone to ensure I am doing all I can to learn from these rough patches.
It is okay for me to wake up and take myself to lunch. There’s nothing wrong with me planning a 48-hour trip with the girls so I can reset.
At the same time, we have to remember, self care isn’t always about spending money on massages and bubble baths. If you’re struggling and can’t afford a formal getaway, try to schedule a 15-minute walk. Start journaling if you aren’t feeling heard — that way you know YOU hear you if no one else does. Start volunteering, head to a place with hardly any people and scream at the top of your lungs. There’s always something accessible we can use to de-stress.
It can also be as small as knowing when to tell your family to handle things on their own. Mothers are humans, not pack mules; we can’t carry everyone’s weight on our shoulders. So why do we keep trying?
We’re people with aspirations and goals. Some of what pushes us over the edge is repeatedly telling ourselves our passions don’t matter.
Still, these days, one of the most overlooked aspects of motherhood is knowing when to ask for help. Not just “I need support in a co-parent like fashion.” A deeper “I’m reaching out to a professional because I feel like I’ve been a detriment to myself or my children” type of help.
It’s okay to not be okay. Stepping away for that help isn’t failure. It’s proactive.
In order to do that, you have to spend time with yourself and look for the warning signs. A level of stress and anxiety around motherhood is normal. It’s okay to feel depressed from time to time. However, if you find yourself waking up in physical or emotional pain day after day without knowing why, you need to seek help. Similarly, if you feel like you want to hurt yourself or someone in your family, you need to seek help.
But so many of us miss the warning flags on the way to tragedy because we’re drowning in motherhood. Not to mention, the idealized image of the sacrificial mother convinces us we shouldn’t need time to stop, evaluate, and reset.
It doesn’t work. We can’t keep waiting until we’ve reached our breaking points to seek assistance. As mothers, we must learn to practice preventative self-care.
We have to accept that it’s okay to feel like you’re on the verge of a breakdown. But it’s not a feeling to be ignored. It’s a sign to be acknowledged in the same way that a check engine light on our vehicle means it requires maintenance.
If you feel like you’re always struggling, do some soul searching to put your finger on why. You owe it to yourself to stay in good shape.
Motherhood shouldn’t be all sacrifice and struggle. It’s okay to hate it sometimes. It doesn’t mean you love your children any less.