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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Rest of the Truth About Motherhood

"Motherhood is wonderful."

"Being a mom is so fulfilling!"

"I wouldn't trade jobs with anyone in the world!"

"Being a stay at home mom is the best/easiest/most fulfilling job there is."

"Motherhood is the highest calling a woman can have."

I think we've all heard these statements and others like them. But how many times have we heard other mothers say these sorts of things:

"Sometimes I think all I do is wipe snotty noses and poopy butts."

"I feel like I'm losing my mind."

"I don't really know who I am anymore."

"I am so tired of being the nanny, cook, and housekeeper!"

"Some days, I want to lock myself in my room and cry."

"I can't even pee by myself!!"

"I'm so scared that I'm going to mess this up."

"I can't do this anymore."

I think that we, as women, have done each other a disservice. We've painted the picture of motherhood with pastels and left out the dark, ugly colors. When we were younger, before having kids, other women told us all the wonderful parts about being a mom and we got the impression that that's all there was. When life showed us that that was only half of the picture, we felt like something must be wrong with us. Like we weren't doing it right. But instead of accepting this as part of the equation, we just kept perpetuating the one-sided perspective that was handed down to us. And the myth of pastel-painted motherhood just kept on going.

Nobody told me I'd go crazy for lack of sleep. Or I'd feel overworked and left out and forgotten. Or that there'd be days I don't want my kids and wish they'd just go away. Or that I'd turn into someone I don't even know. No one talked about how scary it is to be responsible for the life of another human being. How my house would never be clean. How hard being a mom is. How tedious and painful and depressing life can get. All I ever heard was sunshine and roses and high calllings. And if there was anything bad, it was masked in humor and dismissed.

We feel like if we complain, we are selfish brats. That if we even think "what about me?!" we're self-centered and need to gain perspective. We are afraid of even asking other women "is it normal to feel this way?" for fear that what we believe about ourselves will be voiced and proven true: that there is something wrong with us, that we are a bad mother. Or we feel guilty because so many women desire to be mothers and can't and look how much we've been blessed. We feel like we must be missing something because having kids isn't the sunshine trail that other women said it would be. That other women sit around and talk about. Our Facebook statuses are supposed to be all about how wonderful our husband is and how amazing it is to have beautiful kids and how we just adore our life. And we just keep painting in pastels and roses while the darkness builds in our souls because we are ashamed to let those bold, dark colors show on our canvas. Because every other woman's canvases are only pastel and light.

Ladies, we need to be honest with each other. We need to stop giving an unbalanced view of motherhood; stop passing on the myth that motherhood is all rainbows and tell the rest of the truth: that sometimes, often, stormclouds are part of the picture. And they can be nasty. We need to release each other to be sincere, open, and honest with our feelings and struggles about motherhood by being honest ourselves.

So let me be the first. Motherhood sometimes sucks. Really, it does. Sometimes I wonder what in the world I was thinking. I wish for my life back. I wish for my body back. I wish for unlimited time with my husband back. Sometimes I scream at my kids and stomp my feet because one of them smeared poop all over the wall, one wiped spit all over the coffee table, one is pitching a fit, and everyone is crying. Sometimes I can't do anything but cry because I'm so tired and so lonely for adult interaction and so fed up with poop and I haven't eaten anything all day or slept in months or had a shower in days. Sometime I'm jealous of my husband who leaves for work for days and who isn't enslaved to school schedules and meal times and poopy diapers and laundry. I feel like I've lost myself and my life is in shambles and I must be doing everything wrong. And I desperately need to know that there isn't something wrong with only me. That other young mothers go through this too, and they survive and I'll survive. That I'm not the only mother in the world who's put my hands over my ears and yelled "Go away and leave me alone!!" I need someone to tell me "Yes, this sometimes sucks and it's hard when your kids are little. Yes, it's worth it. Yes, I've often felt that way. You're not the only one. You can do this."

Girls, we need each other. We need each other to be real. We need to stop telling one-sided stories and own up to our fears and failures. We need to stop feeling like we don't measure up as mothers because we don't always like being a mom. We need to encourage each other and love each other enough to tell it like it is. I'm guilty. I find myself trying to dress up my kids and my life and look like I have it all together when I know I will be around other people. I catch myself only telling the good parts like I'm trying to impress someone. I'm afraid of admitting my convoluted, confused, unsettled, stormy thoughts. I want to look like the other moms I see who seem to glow and float along gracefully though their mommyhood.

Motherhood is wonderful. But sometimes it's not. It can be amazing and joyful. But sometimes it's awful and sorrowful. Sometimes it's lonely, isolating, and hard. It's beautiful and fun. And sometimes not. It's messy and full of poop and snot and spit-up. But it's also full of color and love and excitement. You're not always, every minute of the day going to enjoy it. You may even hate it at times. You'll miss long showers and peeing by yourself and eating hot food. And that's OK. We need to stop trying to be super-moms and just be normal, human, and imperfect. We need to admit our fears so that other women will feel free to admit theirs and maybe those fears once spoken won't seem so scary and insurmountable. Those tears we cry in secret need to be cried in the open so they can be wiped away by understanding, laughter, comradery, and grace. And maybe, just maybe, the hard things won't be so hard, the ugly things won't seem so ugly, the storm clouds so ominous, and the dark colors will be allowed to mix with the pastels to form an exquisite picture of life.


  1. Maybe you need to get some more honest friends?? I hear those things often.....usually we laugh about it....but I am a doula, so I tell new moms alot of things to try to help them prepare. I am enjoying your blog! Your top picture looks like someplace near where I live.....

  2. I don't know if this installment will get you invited to any homeschooling conferences but I can hear a multitude of mothers cheering the post as we speak!

    Jim K.

  3. There is one oppression in society which I know no woman who has managed to fully escape, the idea of women not being human but perfect. We need to reprogram ourselves to realize that we are not perfect and that is OK. We are not bad just because we are not perfect, we are just humans.

  4. This post was good. I like your honesty.

  5. Martha, it's Paradise Valley, MT. :) And I have great friends, but it's like everyone's still afraid of voicing what we really think and feel.

    Jim, lol! Yes, I will never be invited to speak at homeschooling conferences. I'm too brutally honest. The biggest perpetuators of these fears of inadequacy come from that camp. :P

  6. Love this! So real and so true. The most honest thing I did for myself was admit that I was battling depression and allowed myself the freedom to be put on meds for it. Not only have I benefited from it, but so has my family.

    As my kids have gotten older, I'm not afraid to tell people they scare the scrap out of me most days. ;)

  7. Yes! Getting rid of perfectionism has changed my life. Incidentally, a book that really helped me break out of the "Motherhood is God's role for women, and we are designed to do it perfectly and with a smile" was "The Mommy Myth". Seriously, well worth reading. I loved these ladies real takes on life and society and motherhood. It was the breath of fresh air I needed to break out of the stupid mindset I was raised in.

  8. Lol. I always thought it was weird that other moms told me to enjoy the baby stage because I would be wishing they were back there in a few years. I think today that perhaps that was their way of saying, "Having kids never turns out the way you think. We liked them better as live baby dolls." I have never missed the baby stage. To be honest, it wasn't that enjoyable. Lots of lifting and carrying and wiping up messes and waking up in the middle of the night, etc. I love watching them grow up. Isn't that the whole point?

  9. I'm not a mom yet, so I know I don't really have a right to make a call on this, but I have to say I agree with Martha A.'s comment above.

    Frankly, many of the moms I have known, particularly those I grew up around (I did not grow up in a Christian context,) as well as many of the moms I have worked for (I've been babysitting and nannying for years,) are often *very* honest about how much they sometimes hate motherhood, how their kids constantly drive them crazy, how they wish they could get away from their families and just be left alone. I've seen moms yell at their kids all the time. As a kid, all this made me feel pretty awful- knowing that these moms really felt caring for their own children was such a terrible job.

    Now that I've gotten older and gotten married myself, I have had moms respond to me sharing my desire to be a stay-at-home mom one day with comments like, "Why in the world would you want to do that??" followed by them encouraging me to go out and pursue a career and "put myself first."

    As is the case with pretty much everything in life, it's all about your own personal experience. In this case, ours differs, and that's fine- i just think it's helpful to recognize that not everyone feels the same pressures.

  10. I feel that way a lot. I wasn't as shocked by it after I had my baby as I was during pregnancy. I spent most of my pregnancy waiting for the warm fuzzy feelings to show up. They never did. I was happy, undeniably so, and eternally grateful that my pregnancy was healthy, but I never felt glowing and gorgeous or anything. I felt tired, and frustrated by my constantly changing body and appetite, and trapped in the death grip of nightmarish hormonal mood swings. And I felt guilty, like I was a freak of nature or something, like there must be something wrong with me because I wasn't gushing about how wonderful the whole experience was.

    By the time I got to my third trimester I finally accepted that it was what it was. This was just my unique experience and it was okay. I could be open with people about the fact that no, I wasn't having the time of my life being pregnant, but I was very happy and looking forward to meeting my baby. I still got looked at like I had two heads. But it prepared me for when those feelings would come along after I had the baby. I have days where I long for life before baby, I have days where I wonder what the heck I was thinking, but I try not to beat myself up for it and move on. And I'll never judge or condemn another mother for feeling whatever she feels (as long as she's not a danger to herself or anyone else, but I hope that goes without saying). We're all different creatures with different emotions and we've gotta have each other's backs, or the world will just be that much more miserable.

  11. This is just what I needed to hear and I needed tonight. Thanks! :)


  12. All I heard growing in the '70s was that motherhood was for mindless drones, one unending toil of poop and sleepless nights for ungrateful brats, a drudge and a curse that would ruin your figure and your mind and your marriage.

    Maybe that's why the next generation went all out about the positive aspects of motherhood. It was a revelation to us! We were expecting the sleepless nights, the messy house and the lack of privacy. But no one told us about the enchantment of those sloppy kisses, the peaceful moments nursing a satisfied baby that fill your heart with you, and to treasure those moments our children wanted to be around us because too soon they would rather die than hang out with mom.

    And so in typical American fashion, we over-corrected and wound up in the other ditch. Sorry little sisters!

    We growing up in the 70s knew those stories about horrid little children draining a mom's time and intelligence and ruining her body was US!! WE were the children they hated. And many of us grew up determined that our children would NEVER feel that way!

    And so we rejected careers and the feminism that had rejected us- embracing being a SAHM and making a career out of it by home schooling.

    And now, America is in the other ditch, with ATI, the Pearls, VF, et. al.

    Sorry little sisters! Hope you can find the balance in it all and be the first generation NOT to overreact, and I mean that in all sincerity. :)

    Peace and good will, SS

  13. * fill your heart with JOY* sorry bout the typo

  14. I think you're on to something, shadowspring. Our culture does tend to rush to extremes!

  15. Just found your blog, but I wanted to say YES! Especially to your point that after how we're raised we end up thinking that if we resent our kids at all, even for a moment, we're somehow selfish terrible people. This happens to me all the time! But it's not just me!

  16. Awesome post! I needed that. I get so overwhelmed spending the majority of my day listening to crying and struggling to get my baby to eat even though he's in pain. Then I go to the store, he's sleeping in his stroller, and someone comments about how "Isn't it just the best thing that ever happened to you?" I don't know how to respond. Yes, it's wonderful sometimes. But when I'm an emotional wreck by the time my husband gets home from work, and so tired of watching my baby in so much pain so much of the time...it's not so wonderful.

  17. Amen sister!
    Now I need to find someone who's brave enough to admit that marriage isn't all rainbows either..... x

  18. Marriage isn't all rainbows. ;) Sometimes it's pretty stormy. But, for me, it's been wonderful, even through the storms. So I guess I'm not much help there. :P

  19. Have just found your post on '10 truths about marriage' - spot on! Thank you x x

  20. Sometimes I feel like I'm crazy because of how much I love home-schooling and being with my children. They and my husband are my greatest treasure and I honestly absolutely love to be a mom. I would not want to return to just me. Sometimes I feel like I must be a wierdo because a lot of my friends talk about how much work children are. Sure they are work and my life isn't perfect. I get frustrated and sometimes feel like all I do is work. But the joys by far surpass the work and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I think it all depends who are friends are. It sounds like you are scared to be honest about the hard side of motherhood. I am almost scared to be honest about how much I love motherhood for fear people will think I'm crazy. Children are an inheritance from God and I feel so rich in being given the priviledge to take care of that. But I do still agree that a mother isn't all a bed of roses. I just think it's all in how we deal with the situations. Motherhood is the highest calling God could give in my opinion but that doesn't mean it's all easy. But it's such a joy to me! I think we just all need to be honest and accept each other the way we are.

  21. This was an amazing post. So very much what I've been going through lately. Thanks for sharing!