Not all moments of motherhood are perfect. In fact, being a mom can be downright hard. Here’s what to do when you’re unhappy being a mom.
“Does it get better?”
It’s the question we all ask, whether we’re a first-time mom blown away by this new role, or even a seasoned mom facing different challenges.
We hear other moms who won’t stop swooning over their new babies, sleep-deprived and everything. Other friends seem to have “easy” babies who don’t give as much trouble as ours do. Meanwhile, we’re beyond exhausted.
This is the story of an SSBE reader who wrote in with her predicament. She has two-month-old twins on top of her three-year-old, twins she hadn’t “planned” since she was only hoping for two kids (sound familiar?). And this change of plans—along with the challenges of the newborn stage—is making her feel unhappy with parenthood.
Just as women develop hemorrhages and diastasis recti after delivering a baby, so too can we feel down and unhappy about being a mom. Don’t feel ashamed to bring it up with your doctor, any more than you would be ashamed of other post-partum complications.
It doesn’t hurt to talk to your doctor about your feelings, even if it’s to vent about the hardships of parenthood. Complaining doesn’t mean she’ll slap you with a label and send you off with meds, but she’ll be better able to make a decision.
Like our fellow mom above, I too had wanted only two kids—I was overwhelmed with the logistics of caring for two, much less providing for them financially.
And like any sleep-deprived mom, I couldn’t function on less than eight hours of sleep—I was short with my family, I complained more than I coddled, and sometimes I was miserable.
What to do when you’re unhappy being a mom
So what do you do when you’re pining for your old life instead of feeling overjoyed and blessed?
Grieve your expectations.
You were hoping so much for a girl. Or maybe you only wanted two kids, not three. Perhaps you weren’t even planning on having kids at all—at least not yet.
We don’t give enough weight to the expectations we carry before what eventually befalls us. A pregnant mom might have wanted a girl and must now bury her resentment or disappointment of having a boy. Or the news of a pregnancy might throw you for a loop when you weren’t even trying to have a kid.
It’s no surprise I was a bit shook up when I learned I was having twins. I cried for a week. This wasn’t in my “plans,” and I worried about the arrangements, from finances to logistics to child care.
All this from a time when I was supposed to be on cloud nine and love my predicament.
If you harbored expectations and they weren’t met, give yourself the time to grieve for what isn’t or couldn’t be. You’re not a horrible mom for hoping for something else. These thoughts need to be addressed and accepted, not brushed under the rug.
Understand that things do get better.
As a first-time mom, I was ready to slap anyone’s face who told me it’ll get better. Really? When? Because when you come to dread the evenings and wonder whether you’re even fit for this parenting business, “it’ll get better” doesn’t seem to come fast enough.
Yet it did, and it will for you. Maybe when…
- they sleep through the night (or at least longer chunks of it).
- they can put themselves to sleep.
- you have a routine.
- they can communicate better.
- they become more self-sufficient and independent.
- you’re no longer pumping, nursing or bottle-feeding.
- they don’t have colic or gas.
- they smile.
- your hormones are more balanced.
- they take consistent naps.
And perhaps most importantly, when you’ve adjusted to your new role. Motherhood is hard. You can’t prepare for this role, regardless of how many books or classes or babysitting you’ve done. Not even if you were a nanny, a nurse or a teacher.
So imagine being thrown into this predicament that has been called one of the most difficult jobs. It’s hard to see how things can get any better when every week, every night, seems to stretch forever.
But those days and weeks turn into months and you’ll see one day, your baby slept longer than usual. And you now know how to open and fold the darn stroller, dump it in the car and take your baby for an outing—all on your own.
And when you feel more confident in your abilities, things will become second nature. You’ll find more time to enjoy parenthood and spend time with your baby.
Change your scenery.
Recharge yourself during those first crucial weeks and months of welcoming a baby. What can you do to help freshen your environment?
- Have someone watch the baby. Use this time to do whatever you want or need to do: rest, nap, take a shower, eat at a restaurant, go shopping, exercise. Asking for help does not mean you’re failing.
- Take the baby for a stroll. Getting fresh air and sun will help change your mood.
- Stay in. Feeling pressured and not confident to take the baby out? Stay indoors. Sometimes bundling the baby and the bag and the stroller is more hassle than staying home.
- Talk to other moms. Whether online or in person, discuss the joys and challenges of motherhood with your fellow moms.
- Get your partner on board. Dad is a co-parent, not a babysitter. Find ways to get him involved in the household, freeing you up emotionally and physically.
Don’t feel guilty about your sadness.
You’ll compare yourself to other moms. Moms who have endless patience for their kids or the right balance between parenthood and their other hobbies. Moms who seem so, so happy.
It’s an unfair comparison. We all go through tough times in parenthood, even the ones who never seem like they do. You’re being more honest about your feelings when you say you’re not always happy.
Life with a new baby is tough, and it’s a drastic change from your norm. Even if this isn’t your first, you likely adjusted to a new norm that was interrupted by the change.
Try not to get down on yourself about feeling sad. It’s an extra burden on your already heavy load.
Choose to make the best with what you have.
We’re most unhappy when we continue to pine for what we can’t have. Choose to accept your situation and find the positives.
And treat hanging out with your kids as something fun. They’re not always chores, even if everything we do for them seems like one. Remind yourself that people love visiting babies for reasons you may not be able to appreciate or see—those gurgling laughs, her cute face, the comforting way he sleeps in your arms.
Because childhood goes by fast. Sure, the challenges you face will pass as well. Yet so too will all its joys.
So use this time to make the most of your situation. Nothing is set in stone. Change your mindset and you may find yourself enjoying the moments with your baby, both the good ones and bad.
Bonus tip: Get science-backed tools for a happy family
Something happens in parenthood that few of us don’t openly admit. It may be when we’re up in the middle of the night, sleep deprived from multiple wake ups. Or when we’re packing our kids’ lunches in the morning, as we do every day, knowing we’ll be doing this for a long time. Maybe it’s realizing we haven’t slept past 7am in who knows how many years.
We feel unhappy.
I still remember holding my baby for yet another feeding session in the middle of the night, wondering whether I could handle motherhood. Other times, it was those afternoons and evenings when I snapped at the kids and couldn’t seem to get myself to be more patient.
And if you’re like me, you’ve thought, “I’ll feel happy when my baby can sleep through the night,” or “This will be much better once they’re off to school” or “I wouldn’t feel this way if I had more help.”
Yes, things do change over time, often for the better, especially when it comes to sleep and finding time for yourself. But happiness also doesn’t rely on those things. In fact, it can be dangerous to think you’ll find happiness when such and such happens.
Instead, happiness is within yourself. My friend and fellow blogger Kelly Holmes from The (Reformed) Idealist Mom knows this too well. She believes we can find the recipe for happiness—even in those crazy parenting moments—when we put the right habits in place.
Happy you, happy family
Her book, Happy You, Happy Family, isn’t going to tell you all the things you have to do to feel happy. We already have so many things to do as it is, with hardly any time left. Instead, she’ll share science-backed tools to help you feel happy, no matter how busy or stressed you may be.
Stop feeling overwhelmed and learn the ingredients you need to become your happiest self.
I’d love for you to get the book, Happy You, Happy Family. As one happy mom says:
“When you wrote…‘A bad parent would never buy a book about how to be a happier parent. That’s something only a good parent would do.’ It made tears stream down my face. The ‘mama guilt’ is fierce and it seems to plague me about every little thing on a daily basis. As a mother, I want to do every single thing perfectly, hence the ‘mama guilt’ and feelings of being a bad parent sometimes. Thank you so very much for your time, effort, and research that went into this book.” – Ashley
As an added bonus, when you get Happy You, Happy Family, you’ll also get a FREE printable pack and access to a private Facebook group for support!
Disclosure: I’m an affiliate for the book, which means I get a commission—at no extra cost to you—should you decide to purchase it. As always, I only share resources I truly believe you’ll enjoy and benefit from. Thank you for your support!
Get more tips about motherhood:
- Why Motherhood Is Hard for You
- How I Failed as a Mom… and Why It Wasn’t as Bad as I Thought
- Feeling Lonely? 13 Moms Share How to Make Friends
- Parenthood: Appreciate What You Have
- The Biggest Reason Parents Should Have a Life Besides Kids
Your turn: How do you motivate yourself you feel unhappy being a mom? What changes do families need to make to maintain a generally happy environment for themselves?
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