I did not set out to fail. I set out to be a no-nonsense, strong mama bear who would stand for her children and herself and be a beacon of feminism and maternity. I was planning on being a bold, brave, accomplished, stay-at-home-mom who would dazzle friends and family with her ability to not care about the occasional messy house, the occasional tantrum, the occasional mistake. I would laugh as I learned, I would embrace my husband for all the work he did, I would not ask for help because I wouldn’t need it.
Then I had a baby.
All those ideals, those plans, those perfections I was going to embody started slipping away. At first, I just figured it was the shock of sudden and binding motherhood, or my hormones, or the lack of sleep. It probably was for some of it. The real crux, of course, is that no one can live up to those expectations, and once the grace period of the first few months was over, the realization that I still wasn’t the mother I had envisioned darkened my experience, like a blemish on a piece of fruit that will rot the entire thing.
Outwardly, I was the loudest voice of acceptance for all motherhood flaws. Don’t know what you’re doing? No worries! You’ll figure it out! No one will judge you! You’re a beautiful, masterful mother! There’s no such thing as motherhood fail! Your child is so lucky to have you!
This was in stark contrast to what I told myself; that I wasn’t a good mom, because if I was a good mom I wouldn’t be so turned off by the repetition that comes with staying at home. I wouldn’t be annoyed with my husband when he remarked (one time) on the cleanliness of the house (and then I became neurotic about it). I wouldn’t rile at the slightest provocation that I was doing something ‘wrong.’
I told myself I wasn’t a good wife, because if I was a good wife I would listen to my caring husband instead of immediately resenting him because I knew I was going to have to be the one getting up that night to nurse our child. I wouldn’t resent that he gets public recognition for his work and all my work is behind closed doors and it’s never over.
You guys. My husband is incredible. He works so hard, he does so much. And I am a great mother. My child is happy and healthy and I am always striving to improve his experience. There’s no fail in that!
But my thoughts are heavy, they are mean, they are accusatory. I understand that I need to be kinder to myself, but this transition into full-time mom has been harder than I ever thought it could be. It scares me how much my life has changed, and how little I feel it resembles what I thought it should.
My child is not even two, so I realize that I have a lot of time to hit my stride, but it’s discouraging that I haven’t hit it yet. Even more confusing is everyone around me seems to feel that I have; my friends, my husband, my parents, my in-laws. They all can’t help remarking on what a good job I’m doing, so I must be doing something right. I just wish I could trust that. On some level, I clearly know that. The hardest part is letting yourself internalize that praise.
The internal struggle to accept your ‘new normal’ as a mother is weighty. It’s worth it, but it’s weighty. We are all doing the best we can, some of us know that and some of us need to know it.
I see you, moms who are unsure, moms who don’t resemble their aspirations, who feel they fail; moms who can’t seem to get out of their mental rut. I see you and I am you. We will hit our stride, but we have to weather some crap first. The good thing I’ve realized since becoming a mom who changes a whole bunch of diapers is crap isn’t that big a deal anymore.