The Mental Load Of New Motherhood Took Me By Surprise
Before I got pregnant I was convinced that my husband and I were going to go halfsies on everything. I’d breastfeed some, he’d bottle feed some. I’d cook a bit. He’d clean up after. We’d both tag team diaper changes and doctor appointments.
Man, was I wrong.
While my husband is the best man I’ve ever met, not even him could have saved me from the mental load of motherhood. Not only am I not an endless fountain of breastmilk, but the unattainable level of emotional stability motherhood demands was also enough for me to question my career.
I had no reason to believe we wouldn’t be equals. Since the beginning of our relationship, my husband and I have taken pride in our ability to split the difference, to cover each other’s bills, to pick up the slack, to be equals.
While pregnant, I quickly discovered that motherhood and fatherhood have entirely different demands. My husband and I were both going through a new journey together, but unlike wedding planning and home buying, I was the one actually going through it. It was my body that was being stretched and pulled and growing for this little human, not his.
That was hard for both of us. We had been so accustomed to our relationship as equals. He felt bad that he couldn’t truly understand what I was going through. And I was jealous that he didn’t have to.
This disruption of our perfectly-balanced seesaw has tipped exponentially further in motherhood.
My husband is a good egg. He’s in love with our daughter. Our little beautiful baby seems to give her big gummy smile to him ALL the time. While I need to beg and coo and make all the silly faces for one. He helps with feeding her when I can’t. He baths her and plays with her during tummy time encouraging her to hopefully, maybe, someday roll onto her back.
COVID-19 brought unique challenges. I was roughly 12 weeks pregnant in March of 2020. Prior to the start of the pandemic, I had no reason to believe I wouldn’t go back to work after I gave birth. I was Head of Marketing at an event venue.
We all know what the event industry looks like these days. Needless to say, my career suffered a hit. Temporary pay cuts turned into permanent part-time positions. We were at the center of what so many families were going through: do I go back to work after this baby is born?
I was offered the part-time position as Head of Marketing upon my end of maternity leave. But I decided not to take it. Marketing an event venue during social distancing, mask-wearing, and a global pandemic was actually more stressful than the household income loss.
It was a tough decision to make. Why would I be giving up a job now? In this market? When so many are unemployed? Am I crazy? Dumb even? Working part-time at a job that used to be my full-time gig is nearly impossible. How could I juggle this job, taking care of a newborn, and finding full-time work?
One night while lying in bed, I got a surge of jealousy. My husband never once had to question whether or not he was going back to work after our daughter was born. He never once had to reckon with his identity as both a father and a badass professional. He could simply be both, unapologetically.
What the fuck?
And so I cried. I cried for my career and for the road bump it has taken both because of a devastating pandemic and because of my choice to become a mom. Now, tip-toeing back into the job market, I’m still envious of the decisions I have to make to continue to be the badass professional that I like to be.
- Should I transition her to formula? Am I a terrible mom for even thinking that?
- Why do I not feel enough worth as a Stay At Home Mom?
- What if she stops needing me and starts needing a different caregiver?
- Will she even notice that I’m no longer as involved?
- How will naptimes work?
- What if she rolls over for the first time and I miss it?
It’s an endless list of “what ifs, and “how wills.” I sit and dream of being that badass professional again while I rock her silently at night, fantasizing of a world where I can have it all. I look down at her and know that what she needs more than exclusive breastmilk is a happy mom. And reminding myself of that is a daily chore.