When I was pregnant with my first child, the world was full of advice. It pummeled me from every direction. It didn’t let up once the baby was in my arms, either. Opinions on babywearing, how I fed my infant, the way I dealt with sleep… no matter what I did, someone had something to say about it.
With all this unsolicited advice flying in from all sides, I figured I was prepared for motherhood. After all, I’ve heard it all, from just about every angle.
And yet, that didn’t stop me from being completely blindsided by the weight of it all.
Yes, I felt prepared on when to start solids, my take on co-sleeping, and which diapers I liked. But that’s just the surface of mothering, isn’t it? My pregnant self had no idea it went much, much deeper than that. After all, no one ever talked about anything other than breast vs formula, epidural vs med-free, cloth vs disposable, etc.
The first thing I truly noticed about motherhood was how deeply lonely it is.
Ironic for someone who is never, ever, ever alone, isn’t it?
I thought it was just me. I thought for the longest time that I was somehow doing this all wrong because I felt so intensely lonely. It was the darkest before my Little Bear was born, before preschool, when I had a toddler and an infant and the walls slowly closed in around me.
I rarely left the house. I couldn’t, as it was always close to someone’s nap time. I’d go days without speaking to someone over three feet tall. While the ability to hang out in PJs all day certainly has it’s perks, I lost all touch with the outside world.
I struggled with postpartum depression, which didn’t exactly help in the motivation-to-leave-the-house department. Sleep deprivation ruled the land as my kids were never good sleepers and someone was always awake in a given 24 hour period.
I tried playdates. In my mind, playdates seemed perfect. Relaxing with another Mom, talking about whatever we wanted, watching the kids play together… Fantasy, meet reality. A playdate with a toddler is essentially planning to be in a general proximity of someone, and nothing more. Kicking back with a coffee in hand? Try spending the entire time chasing your toddler further and further away from the other Mom, who is chasing her toddler in the opposite direction. Sometimes we’d wave to each other in passing. My kids were happy because we went to the playground. I was just frustrated. How did I manage to do a playdate WRONG? Where was my conversation?
I didn’t realize that it wasn’t me. That’s just how it is. That it’s actually normal.
I felt a desperation for some kind of human connection.
It did get better. Well, I should say, it’s slowly getting better. I’m still sleep deprived, and my toddler still runs off if I try to have a conversation. Ha!
The preschool routine gets me out of the house. I’ve learned to let go of the nap schedule and my youngest has adapted to nap on the go. And gasp– even if I can’t finish sentences, I do get to interact with other adults at preschool pick up time. As my kids get older and more self sufficient, I realize that I feel like I’m breaking the surface and gasping for fresh air, for the first time in a long time.
It was so easy to lose myself in motherhood. To spend so much time devoting every waking hour to caring for others made me forget that I need to take care of me, too.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though.
I joined a gym, and through that I’ve learned that I am a better mother when I give myself permission to drop the kids in the play room and focus on me for a while. I’ve learned the endorphins from exercise do a killer job of keeping my emotions stable.
I’ve learned that I have an incredible strength that I would not have noticed had I not become a mother.
No matter how overwhelmed, sleep deprived, lonely or depressed that I’ve been, I’ve always been able to put one foot in front of the other and keep it together for the kids. I can stay up til 1am icing a pretty awesome birthday cake, and still manage to get up at the crack of dawn when they come bouncing out of bed. (ok, well, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse helps me with that one sometimes! Okay, maybe more than just sometimes.) I can buckle down and get the job done no matter the task. And as you Mamas out there know, the tasks can get overwhelming.
I have become a master scheduler, juggling a calendar for 5 people and their various activities. I can make sure everyone has a means to get where they need to be, and no one is double booked.
I am no where close to a perfect mother. I lose my temper over stupid things. I am a terrible housekeeper, and I hate to cook. I’d rather do the dishes than play pretend with my kids.
But you know what? I’m a GOOD mother. And I am proud of what I’ve accomplished, what I’ve learned about myself, and how I’ve evolved in this mothering gig.