Being a millennial mom in the age of Instagram can be difficult. I know, for example, that parenting really is hard, and I also know that I’m definitely not the only one who struggles to handle the messes and the tantrums and the never-ending exhaustion. But the seemingly infinite stream of photos on social media depicting incredibly stylish, happy-looking mamas living effortlessly in trendy homes with multiple, impossibly-adorable and well-behaved children often lead me to second-guess my own mothering skills (honestly, how do they do it?). But recently, a mom of three wrote an honest post about being an exhausted parent, and it’s been a much-needed and valuable reminder for many parents that having messy, stressful, nightmare days isn’t just acceptable — it’s actually an entirely normal part of raising children.
Writer Sarah Cottrell often shares photos and stories about the funny side of parenthood on her Facebook page and on her blog, Housewife Plus, but in one particularly heartfelt post, she instead opted to open up about the kinds of days that don’t feel even slightly enjoyable. Posting a selfie of herself looking like she'd officially had it with motherhood, Cottrell wrote that she was “trying not to pull [her] hair out,” because in addition to being behind on the dishes and laundry, her kids were really trying her patience. She wrote,
My oldest son is bouncing off the walls (literally, there is a frigging dent in the wall), my middle wild child just bonked his head while spelunking in the linen closet and now has an ice pack on his developing egg, and the baby … is either starting to teeth or is testing out the theory that if she screams loud enough and for long enough that I will actually cry. CRY.
Cottrell goes on to explain that she hasn’t “showered, eaten, or even gotten dressed” despite it being 2 p.m., and admits that, actually, contrary to what the perfect Instagram moms might have you believe, she “[doesn’t] feel #blessed … [she feels]l frustrated and tired.” Chances are that’s something all parents have felt at least once, especially if they have more than one child, or if they aren’t Beyoncé (although, let’s be real, I’m pretty sure even Beyoncé has her moments). But she wasn't using the post to try to fish for sympathy, or to make a dig at those who try to pass all of motherhood off as perfect and fulfilling. Instead, Cottrell just offered up an explanation, and it was totally on point.
While difficult motherhood days might make women feel bad or inferior, Cottrell emphasized that, honestly, they're just an inevitable part of parenting. And even though that point should probably feel kind of obvious, it's one that many parents don't hear nearly enough. Cottrell wrote:
But that's what parenting is, right? It's this crazy journey that is mostly rewarding but pock marked by sh*tty days like this one. These are the if-it-doesnt-kill-you kind of days. I file these moments away in my heart for when I need to remind myself that I am only one person. Like every other mom, I am trying my best to do this right. And I totally screw it up at least a dozen times a day.
What's more, Cottrell said, is that even on the days when everything seems to be going wrong, it's still possible to feel connected to the good stuff — the stuff that really matters. She wrote,
I won't ever color neatly inside the lines of motherhood, but I love my kids with all my heart. And right now while the sink is full of dirty dishes, at least one kid is whining, and I smell faintly of pee and spit up (don't ask) that big feeling of love is all I got.
Cottrell's post definitely resonated with commenters, who wrote about how much they could relate to what she had to say — and some even shared stressed-out mom selfies of their very own. And while it might not exactly feel super enjoyable to lament all the ways that we feel like we're totally failing at motherhood, it seems like it's definitely something that a lot of parents could benefit from being a little bit more honest about. After all, not only do posts like these serve as a reminder that what we're going through is totally normal, they also help push back against the expectation that we aren't supposed to struggle so much — or maybe that, if we tried a little harder, we too could be the flawless and happy Instagram moms who make raising kids look so easy.
It might not be a secret that parenting can be a challenge, yet so much of what we see — from celebs and lifestyle bloggers certainly, but even from our our friends on Facebook — is often only a highlight reel of their best moments. And with all the pressure that moms often face, it can feel like a lot to live up to. But raising young kids can't possibly be fun or easy or fulfilling all of the time (and maybe not even most of the time). Cottrell's message is a reminder that that reality doesn't mean we're doing something wrong. And it definitely shouldn't mean that we're supposed to feel bad about it.