Have you ever noticed that most people talk joyously about becoming moms but after they become mothers, all anyone talks about is how to survive motherhood? Like marriage, we spend a whole helluva lot of time preparing. We register and have parties. We buy all. the. things, but nothing prepares you for what’s coming. No amount of stuff can shine a light on the dark side of motherhood…
Welcome to the dark side…
It starts with the labor. You’re literally pushing another human being out of your body, and yet everyone from your spouse to your doctor (including your own mom) is more concerned about the baby than you. Hell, you’re more concerned about the baby too and that’s weird. After all, this kid is warm, safe, eating organic whole foods, getting tons of water, and has been listening to classical music for the last 6 months, you know, since she could hear.
You, on the other hand, have been nauseous, vomiting, slow, moody, riddled with heartburn, and haven’t slept well for the last 30 some weeks. Now you’re gearing up to push a watermelon out of a dime, and you’re so confused about why you’re literally terrified for your baby NOT for yourself. And that’s the easy part. Once you meet your beautiful new precious baby, you’re not prepared for what hits you next.
Holding that beautiful child in your hands, you’re faced with the fact that you—YOU of all people—is responsible for this helpless sweet precious child. And at that moment, all the stuff in the world can’t teach us how to BE mothers. With all of your flaws and hangups, sore and exhausted as you are after spending 40 weeks growing and carrying this little human in your body —then pushing her out—are responsible for her.
It’s in that moment that we really become mothers. From that moment on, everything becomes about this kid. And whether you breastfeed or bottle feed or you stay-at-home or go back to work, your life no longer revolves around you. Your life becomes a service to your child.
You sacrifice your body, your sleep, your ability to be on-call 24/7 at work. When you become a mom, your life gets hijacked. And I get that it’s probably in some way wrong to just put that out there because well, it doesn’t seem we’re supposed to talk about it. It’s this secret dark side of motherhood. But here it goes…
Your life gets hijacked.
And I’m not complaining so much as I’m just being honest. When you have to eat your Snickers bar in the bathroom and you just can’t for the life of you stop worrying. I can’t even hang out on Facebook anymore.
Then there’s the work dynamic. I’ve talked about the dichotomy of choice mothers have when it comes to working at length. What really gets me is how somehow no matter whether you choose to be a working mom or you choose to be a stay at home, you feel guilty. And that whole mom guilt thing is dangerous.
When you become a mom, many times your priorities shift. You’re no longer the employee who can get the work at the crack of dawn and leave later in the evening or go out after work. No matter how hard you work or how effective you are, you’re no longer the ideal employee. You have other priorities, like being with your kid.
And there isn’t anything wrong with that, except when it comes to finding a job that gets it.
So, it must be said that I feel absolutely horrible actually admitting this, but it’s true (for me). On the one hand, I absolutely love being a mom. It’s a miracle and it’s amazing. And on the other hand, I miss MY life and I don’t understand why we have to choose between having an amazing life (which MUST include sleep, ladies) and being moms.
What about daddy?
This is the part that gets me. Whether you’re a single mom or you’re happily married to a wonderful man (or woman), most of us get to a point where we really resent our husbands (or partners), at least I did.
And I had to do some deep work that involved a lot of praying and patience mostly because the stuff I was experiencing (all the stuff above), my husband didn’t get.
He still had his job. He still got to use the bathroom with the door closed and without interruption, and he generally felt like he was making a difference outside of the four walls of our home.
Sure, I get that men and women worry about different stuff. My husband worried (and still does) about keeping his job and making sure he can provide for our family. That’s his thing.
Granted, he also worries about me and I appreciate that, but he doesn’t seem to understand, how I’ve literally lost my own identity… And why would he? His experience of parenthood is different.
But you’re still you
Right. I personally think pregnancy, labor, and childbirth are a unique kind of trauma. My grandma used to say, “giving birth is the closest thing to death you ever experience in life.”
Hearing her say those things honestly used to annoy me because bless her heart, she’d always say it when I was heavily pregnant. But it’s true. Having a human being grow, develop, and pass through your body (no matter how serene the pregnancy and the birth) into this world is traumatic, especially for the mom. Hopefully, our little babies have the experience mercifully wiped from their memories.
Then all of a sudden, you’re someone’s mom. You’re entirely responsible for this little sweet person and you feel so much love for your baby that you can’t wrap your brain around how your heart could hold so much love for another human being. Then there’s the urge to protect her at all cost. Being a mom is the closest I’ll ever feel to a lioness.
So…how are you the same person?
Yes and no, but really no. This experience of motherhood changes you and it takes YEARS to figure out who this new you is but again, no one talks about this dark side of motherhood.
We have names for it; there are drugs to help numb it but to actually talk about this shift that you’ve experienced, this transformation (for lack of a better word) is hard. There’s literally no place to have THAT discussion.
There’s no safe place where you can hold your utter joy and your complete confusion about how to now be this person’s mom AND still be the woman everything thinks you still are.
No one allows you to just be who you are—completely confused, extremely sleepy, and in love with a new little human. You’re also sometimes just sad at the loss of who you used to be, but hopeful that you’ll figure it all out.
Then there’s the emotional exhaustion because it takes so. many. thoughts. to get through your day and you hold ALL. THE. THINGS. in your head ALL. THE. DAMN.TIME. It’s no wonder you can’t remember where the car keys are or how long you left the milk on the counter.
Why do we have to pretend?
We have to pretend to be the same person we were—pre-kid—because no one expects us to be anyone else. Hell, we don’t know we’re going to become someone new after we become moms.
It’s so unexpected. We spend most of our time trying to figure out how to go back to who we used to be instead of adjusting to who we are.
It would be so wonderful if someone, anyone, could help moms understand that motherhood changes us, forever.
We don’t have to pretend but sometimes it’s just easier to hold on to what used to be.
At the end, the dark side of motherhood is really only the vice gripe of our pre-kid years that we cling to and try unsuccessfully to recreate. We don’t mourn the end of our pre-kid phase and celebrate the possibilities of each phase of our lives as moms. No, we bemoan motherhood and long for the freedom, flexibility, and opportunities of our pre-mom days.
And isn’t that just a disservice to ourselves? Doesn’t that just ruin the present and keep us a little less than happy all the time?
Sure, moms need more career flexibility to hold careers while being amazing moms. But let’s be real, a lot of the angst we face as moms isn’t just a lack of flexible jobs. The majority of our frustration is our own expectations of our new mom lives.
It’s pretty much a sick, depressing cycle set to exhaust, isolate, and depress moms (in that order), and we’re just adding fuel to the fire, moms. Look, it’s time we talk about this. Let’s shine a little light on the dark side of motherhood. Are you with me?