Motherhood is hard, this we all know. From sleep deprivation to challenged relationships, learn why and the ways to make change.
Quick question: Do you know any mom who isn’t overwhelmed with her role?
Probably not too many, and for an obvious reason: Motherhood is hard work.
So much of our lives change with having a baby. Former hobbies and schedules replaced with a demanding baby. Marriages challenged. Jobs compromised. And our happiness tested to the brink.
No wonder they say parenting is one of the most difficult jobs.
But what makes this job so difficult?
Why motherhood is hard:
No other change in your life comes as suddenly and quickly as welcoming a new baby. Jennifer Senior, author of the stellar book All Joy and No Fun, writes:
…[T]here’s little even the most organized people can do to prepare themselves for having children. They can buy all the books, observe friends and relations, review their own memories of childhood… Prospective parents have no clue what their children will be like; no clue what it will mean to have their hearts permanently annexed; no clue what it will feel like to second-guess so many seemingly simple decisions, or to be multitasking even while they’re brushing their teeth, or to have a ticker tape of concerns forever whipping through their heads. Becoming a parent is one of the most sudden and dramatic changes in adult life.
You don’t gradually transition into motherhood. An intern might dip his toe into a prospective job before deciding to work in that career. Partners court and flirt before committing to a relationship. Even daycare staff or nannies still won’t understand what it’s like to be a mom until she becomes one.
Granted, we can do much to prepare.We can shadow and care for a newborn for several hours. We can research and pore through books. But that still doesn’t prepare us for who we’re meeting. Because until that baby comes out out of your womb, you have no idea who this person is or what her needs are.
You’re meeting for the first time, and it’s overwhelming.
During my first pregnancy, I kept a green binder for articles I’d print out. The stuff I write about now, such as how to instill a love of reading or raise a thankful child. I clipped activities and crafts and read books about brain development and growth stages.
I wasn’t uninformed.
But the day my son entered the world, I didn’t have time to touch that binder. And most of the articles I saved applied to him at a much later age (how exactly do you raise a thankful newborn?). I also didn’t have time—I was in full survival mode.
I found that binder a year later and chuckled. I did my best to prepare for this role, even imagining how I’d interact with my future baby. But only to realize that parenting is a learn-on-the-job role.
Center of the universe
Modern parenthood introduces us to a new childhood: The center of our universe.
History buffs can tell you that pre-World War II, children weren’t the focus of their parents. People had kids because it was just what they did as part of their moral and community upbringing.
They also had them by the handful. One reason was because parents saw kids as economic contributors to the family. Kids work to keep the family afloat.
This isn’t to say that parents didn’t love their children then as we do now. But their dreams for their kids aren’t the same as ours. They raised their kids to continue the same family career. A farmer raises his kids to tend to the farm, just as an aristocrat raises his sons and daughters to follow suit.
But we raise our kids with limitless possibilities. We don’t know what they’ll become. And this unknowing can make it difficult for us. What tools do we need to make our kids the best in whatever they’re supposed to be doing? What if we miss a window of opportunity and they’ll now fall slack compared to their peers? How many classes do we need to sign our kids up for so they know their potential?
Motherhood is hard because we’re also having fewer kids. I have three, but compared to my peers, I have a whole troupe, when the norm around me is about one or two kids per family. With less kids, we have more time to devote to each one. These precious one or two kids now become the purpose of our lives. Pretty different to the six or eight that generations in the past would raise.
Motherhood is hard when we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our kids. We feel obligated to entertain them every minute lest not doing so marks us as inferior parents. We shuffle them to enrichment activities and strain our schedules. But we ourselves can’t seem to carve out a measly 30 minutes to work out or pursue a hobby.
I don’t disagree that parents should focus and sacrifice for their children. We’ve been doing that for centuries. But we take it to a new level, making our lives more difficult compared to those with no kids.
When was the last time you had at least a full hour (though preferably more) of uninterrupted time? If you’ve been spending time with your kids, my guess is… it’s been a while.
Psychologists attribute much of our happiness to the feeling of “flow.” It’s that frame of mind where you are so focused and challenged by a task that time seems to pass. You emerge from that moment feeling refreshed, accomplished, and happy.
But one of the factors necessary for flow is time—uninterrupted time.
So if you’ve got kids, you know kids tend to interrupt. Even if your kids can play independently, maybe you can read a few pages of a book or unload the dishwasher. You don’t get focus-intensive hours to pursue activities that bring you joy.
This can come as a shock to new moms who, throughout all their adulthood, have led their days with autonomy. At work, you’re provided the opportunity to dedicate time to create, solve or engage. At home, you’re able to choose activities that foster that focus.
With kids, not so much. Motherhood is hard as you spend your time doing a little bit here and a little bit there. You might be able to squeeze in chores while playing peek-a-boo with your kids. Or work on a project knowing you’ll be interrupted any minute.
Parenthood becomes a juggling act. A multi-tasking balancing act between being with your kids and doing what you need (or want) to do.
Motherhood is hard because of the challenges it brings into your relationships. You may have fought with your spouse before your kids, but if I had to guess, you fight a lot more now that you’re parents. You argue about kids and child care more so than money, in-laws, and household tasks.
Moms act like gatekeepers and dads don’t do enough around the house. Couples fight more as parents than they did when they had no kids.
This shouldn’t be surprising.
We may differ in parenting practices. We’re ingrained in gender roles that may or may not work for either partner. Not to mention that the subject we fight about—kids—aren’t the most predictable.
Having kids can be one of the most challenging tests to enter a couple’s life.
But couples who “survive” parenthood are likely to remain strong through the years. Couples with kids aren’t happier than those without (some even say they’re less happy). But parents who are able to weather the storm enjoy a strong relationship once their kids have left the home. They tend to be happier than childless couples in their older age.
Marriages aren’t the only relationships parenthood challenges once we become moms. We might lose ties with our friends, as well. Where we once enjoyed a busy social life, we now feel isolated. That can be physically (from caring for kids) or emotionally (you have less in common now). Having a social life as a mom can be difficult.
Even having friends with kids of their own doesn’t guarantee the same social life as before. You might get lazy about scheduling that play date, or making the trip across town to visit one another. My husband and I both have friends with children that we still don’t get together with often.
Lack of sleep
This reason shouldn’t surprise considering the name of this blog. Me and sleep deprivation don’t go together. I learned that all too well those first few months after becoming a mom.
You can’t prepare for the sleep deprivation of parenthood. You suffer from chronic fatigue while still taking care of a baby.
With lack of sleep, we’re hard-pressed to find the slivers of joy in every day life. We bicker with our partners. We make poor choices. We’re not exactly sharp.
When my kids slept through the night and could put themselves to sleep was my turning point. I was able to catch that solid eight hours of sleep for myself and not rock my baby to sleep. I enjoyed life like I used to, instead of trying to survive.
Kids are challenging
If only the people we parent were able to function on the same organized and linear levels as we do. Yet that isn’t the case. So we’re left with kids who test boundaries, throw tantrums, and don’t follow directions.
And sometimes kids bring out the worst in us. We yell and lose our tempers. We envy others who don’t deal with kids every day. We wonder if we’re even cut out for this parenting business.
And if you’re like me, you find them in the little things throughout the day: The cute quirks your kids do, each one unique to themselves. The feeling of accomplishment from having taken all the kids out all on your own. The pride in seeing your kids grow and become more independent and self-sufficient.
Many of my proudest moments come from those challenges when motherhood is hard. I’ve learned so much from being a mom, especially when it’s not always so easy to be one.
And you? You’re a good mom, even when motherhood is hard. It’s true you wonder what the big deal is with motherhood. You wonder whether the benefits outweigh the challenges.
But amid the “I love you, Mama”s and the smiling faces, the funny antics to their hugs, you realize that they do.
Read these related posts:
- 6 Ideas to Pull Yourself Out of a Bad Parenting Day
- Parenthood: Appreciate What You Have
- What to Do when You’re Unhappy with Parenthood
- 5 Maya Angelou Quotes that Can Teach Us about Parenthood
- Dear Kids, Sometimes I’m a Horrible Mom to You
When are the times motherhood is hard for you? What are the joyful moments that make motherhood so worth it? Let me know in the comments.
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