When I started thinking about asking moms to reveal the most frustrating thing about motherhood, I honestly expected very different answers than the ones I received. When I personally think about what's frustrating about being a mom, I think of the annoying crap my kids pull (all the damn time) and the way society views and judges me solely on the basis of my motherhood. While I think those are totally valid things to find frustrating (as evidenced by the fact that some of the women I spoke to agreed with me), more still highlighted something that didn't even cross my mind: how little control we have over something that is so tremendously important to us.
I suppose such thoughts didn't cross my mind because, well, I try not to think about them anymore than I absolutely have to. But the truth of the matter is, I face this challenge every day in one way or another and, yes, it is tremendously frustrating. I can't physically make my son eat if he has decided not to. I can't make my daughter not be scared of the dark. I can't slow down or speed up time. It's the frustration of simultaneously being in charge of everything but in control of, well, not nearly enough. (I probably also avoided such a train of thought because, on top of being frustrating, it's scary as hell sometimes.)
So, on a serious note: fellow moms, thank you for allowing me to think of this issue in a way I hadn't really considered before. On a sarcastic but still sort of serious note: thanks for reinforcing my near constant state of fear. But really, you've helped validate my frustrations and worries with the following insights.
"When you can't do what you wish you could do for your child — give them the 'best' (whatever that entails in your mind); make them better when they are sick; help them if they are struggling with something."
"I think that in general what's so frustrating is that there is so much you can't control. When you're single/childless you may have your home and your style and your job and life in general perfectly set up the way you like it, but once you add kids to the mix, it is impossible to maintain things exactly the way you want them. You no longer have the time to devote to other things in your life you once did, your kids make a mess out of your beautiful home, they get sick often and at inconvenient times making it really hard to be a happy rock star at work. It's a huge difference."
"One of my huge frustrations is that I've become an excuse maker and a "good enough" person. I can no longer be a perfectionist at anything, because there is not enough time, and so many of my small child's needs take precedent over any other goals I may have. It's hard to live in this way that is so against my nature. I'm just hoping that as he gets older and goes to school, I can compartmentalize a little more and go back to my old work ethics."
"The most serious frustration is not being able to ensure their safety at all times. In the past week, a specific instance of reoccurring frustration is that my 4-year-old son with [autism spectrum disorder] takes off running and he thinks it's hilarious. So it's pitch black and the driveway is a sheet of ice and he rips his hand away while I am carrying his 30-pound sister. I try to run after him but am slipping all over screaming expletive after expletive (not at him, but because I'm almost falling on my face) and he's standing a foot into the road cracking up."
"Right now — teething pain. She's so little, and it's so new, and she gets so mad and frustrated and chomping on stuff just makes it worse for her, and there's very little I can do to help. It breaks my heart and I just can't bear to think that this is only the beginning."
"There are a lot of things that I frustrate me day-to-day as a mom, but the thing that's constantly there to irritate me are the expectations on me as a mom that aren't on my husband. For example, if my daughter isn't clean or wearing matching clothes I get judgment, but my husband would get a chuckle and an, 'Oh, dads.' Or just last week, my daughter's teacher emailed me saying that it was our turn for class chore week. The teacher didn't email me and my husband, she emailed me, 'the mom.' My husband and I both own businesses, both work a lot, both are breadwinners and yet the outside world has much different expectations on my role as a parent than on my husband. And it's not fair to him either, he's a super involved dad (up with the kids at night way more than I am)."
"Selfish b*tch response*: I really miss being able to go out for dinner, travel whenever I wanted to, and even just go for a long walk or get some exercise. I have about 90 minutes in the morning with my son before I leave for work and another 90 minutes when I get home before he goes to bed, and on weekends, I want to make sure to spend as much time with him as I can. I'm frustrated that I can't magically expand my day to 36 hours, or win the lottery so I could give up my job."
[*Writer's note: this should read "human".]
"Definitely that whatever choice I make feels make or break. I could be raising kind, moral members of society or the opposite with every happy meal, time out, compliment, etc."
"How much showering has changed for me. Unless I get up early to take a shower or stay up late, every shower is a big deal. Every shower takes a plan — it doesn't have to be extensive, but at least something along the lines of confirming, 'Hey, I need to wash up. You got this?' Even then I consider it a huge victory if I can get through an entire shower session without hearing the door open, feeling the sudden shift in temperature, and then waiting for the inevitable, 'Um? Mommy?' Last night it was, 'Um? Mommy? I am going to wear my Halloween jammies tonight, OK?' Yeah, great kid. I totally see how that could not have waited seven minutes."
"Bedtime. Why won't they sleep!? Ever?! I love sleep. I miss sleep. If they could both go to sleep on time and sleep through the night (on the same night), my husband and I would be much happier people."
"Having to stand back. You can't make your children do anything even when you see the future and know they are going to get smacked right in the face. Sometimes you have to let them trip and fall to get a good dose of life and hope that everything you taught them, in the end, is enough. That has probably been the hardest thing in 21 years as a mother."