There is no question that motherhood can be the most rewarding part of your life. The love you experience; the joy you can't help but appreciate; the incredible things you learn about yourself, your partner, and what it means to raise a tiny human; I mean, it's a beautiful, wonderful and fulfilling thing. However, there's no denying that there are moments when motherhood is simply overwhelming. While it's worth taking the time to appreciate and celebrate all the good motherhood brings, it's not all rainbows and daisies and it's probably best for your sanity if you don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
There’s a quote out there that goes something like, “The days are long, but the years are short,” and I try to remind myself of said quote when things get rough and I become overwhelmed. In my experience, the parents that aren't quick to admit that motherhood (and parenthood in general) is overwhelming, are the parents with older children who are out of the house and successfully on their own. Time manages to smudge the sharp angles of early motherhood, which is often filled with those overwhelming moments, making it feel like, hey, it wasn’t so bad. That’s actually a really good thing, but it doesn’t make those of us going through it right now feel any better.
I think what makes some of those moments so overwhelming, is the undeniable fact that you're balancing multiples lives (or aspects of certain lives) all at once. Stressed at work? You’ve got it covered. Feeling pressured during an exam at school? You can deal. But when you’re trying to keep a tiny human alive (and you're desperately attempting to avoid ruining them, hurting them or scarring them for life) all the while balancing your needs and wants, it can be too much. Hey, that’s OK. Sometimes, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other, getting from one moment to the next, making it through each day in one piece (and with your kids in one piece, too) and waiting for the other times when motherhood is rewarding and fulfilling and joyful. In ten years, or even five, the overwhelming edges will have softened and you’ll remember them a little less vividly than the happy ones.
Unless you’ve got one of those babies that sleep all the time and never cry and are complete freaks of nature (that's wonderful and completely amazing, don’t get me wrong, but I’m clearly super jealous), the first week of being a mom is insane. Everyone talks about how, as mothers, we can distinguish between all the different types of cries that our baby has, but during my first week, I couldn’t distinguish between my own cries and the baby’s.
Hopefully, this doesn’t happen at home (meaning, hopefully your partner hasn't left you high and dry without diapers and wipes before going to work) although if you’re cloth diapering, I could totally see that kind of disaster going down. It has 100 percent happened to me in the past month, though.
Naturally, it was a massive poop I had to clean up, with zero wipes in my diaper bag (I had put them into a backpack for another trip). I figured it out, but not before I took a moment to sigh dramatically and question whether I would ever be a good enough mother to leave the house prepared.
I know not everyone wants to breastfeed, and of course you do what feels right, but for the new moms who have their hearts set on breastfeeding, the failure they may end up feeling can be more than they can handle. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed, though. A lactation consultant can help guide you through the process, and remind you that you’re not alone.
Do you leave the baby in disgusting, poop-stained clothes, and put them in the car seat as is, or do you strip them down and take them home in just a diaper? Well, they stay warmer in the clothes, but then you have a poop-stained carseat as well. This happened to me when my son was about four weeks old. Only we were up at the family cottage, and I was at a grocery store an hour away from our place when it happened. The best is that I started changing him when I thought he was done, and then I went through another two diapers cleaning up the gargantuan mess he continued to make as I was attempting to clean him up.
My daughter came very close to “failure to thrive” at around 12 weeks old. She just wasn’t gaining weight at the rate they wanted her to, and she was dropping off her growth curve quickly. I had committed to breastfeeding and, thankfully, no one made more than a passing suggestion to add in formula, but I know so many women who were absolutely gutted when the pediatrician told them to start supplementing. It can be an awful moment that is scarring for some moms, so it’s OK to allow yourself to grieve.
Any time you think you’ve gotten into a routine with your baby, another damn sleep regression hits (or they start cutting another tooth). You probably got a night or two, or possibly even an entire week of decent sleep (and by decent, I mean more than five hours and not necessarily in a row). Then the sleep regression hits and it becomes literally impossible to function. Don’t let the parents bragging about their baby sleeping through the night at eight weeks fool you; chances are, they’re in for their own dose of hell at around 12-16 weeks, themselves.
I can’t begin to imagine the terror involved in this scenario, but I’ve seen it firsthand. The unintentional exposure that’s out of your control, and then the realization that something is very much not right with your child, and then the mad dash to the hospital. Then, well, life suddenly changes forever. Everything is a potential threat to your child’s life. Every ignorant person who could unknowingly expose your child to something could kill them. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed if this happens. Support from friends and family is so important to help you through.
Having two kids is way more than twice the work. Trust me. I’m not sure why my daughter thinks that the best time to ask for snacks, a new TV show, a craft to make, or any other number of things, is when I’m putting my son down for a nap, but that is inevitably when it happens.
She can be perfectly self-contained for hours and when I’m available, but if I disappear, she needs something. I've also learned that, apparently, nap time is the ideal time to learn how to jump rope indoors or sing songs at the top of your lungs or do something else completely loud and obnoxious. If you find yourself yelling at your preschooler in one of these moments, take a breath and forgive yourself. After all, you're only human.
Or your coffee. Or rice, that’s even better. Whatever it is that’s hardest to clean up, that’s what your kid is going to decide belongs on the floor. Perhaps this isn’t such a big deal for you, but as far as I’m concerned I’m already a terrible housekeeper, so the idea of having to pick up tiny bits of food that aren’t dry enough for the vacuum makes me want to cry.
I really don’t think much more needs to be said. Unless your child is like mine, and takes closer to a year to potty train, rather than just a few weeks or months. Potty training sucks, for pretty much everyone. I haven’t yet had to clean poop that’s been smeared onto the walls, but I still have one left to potty train and I wouldn’t put it past him.
The number of times I’ve had to sit down and give myself a time-out after my daughter has had an accident, is pretty high. It can be overwhelming to have to harness your reactions in a way that won’t end with you berating your child for something they don’t yet have control over.
I have anxiety attacks before traveling long distances in the car with my kids. Did I mention that we drive up to our family cottage (which is more than two hours away) at least six times every summer? And we go camping? Ugh.
Being glued to your seat when your child is crying inconsolably is probably the worst thing in the world for me, and I have literally sobbed my way through entire drives because I was unable to stop and help my baby. If this is you as well, the only words I can offer is that basically every parent I know goes through this at some point, so you aren’t alone.
You know those insane meltdowns that your toddler usually saves for the comfort of your own home? When they happen at a store or in a public place it can be terrible, as you can't help but feel like your hands are figuratively tied in the reaction department.
In fact, it seems like there’s nothing you can do that’s effective, aside from hoisting them over your shoulder and walking out the door. It’s the worst, and while you may be feeling embarrassed and judged by the people around you, I guarantee you there’s another mom there who is sending loving and supportive vibes your way, because she’s been there, too.