Mama Myth Series: Mothers Always Love Motherhood
What you see vs. what you don't see
All the pictures we see that involve motherhood show a mom with makeup, clean clothes, organized surroundings, a fit physique, an effortless smile, and a laughing child. They seem to be enjoying the moment and relishing in all the sweetness and joy motherhood can bring. What we don't see is all the work, sweat, and tears that came before and after that moment. We don't get the chance to see the meltdowns, the constant questions and endless negotiations, the fleeting moments of silence where she can take a deep breath, the mother's fatigue, or her wavering confidence. We never see or hear her question whether or not having children was a good idea, if she was "cut out" to be a mom, or if she actually likes parenting. All we see is wistful happiness and ease captured in a moment, and we forget there is always a "before and after" that moment.
Mothers are on the receiving end of an endless stream of disillusioned messages that parenting is the "best thing ever" and "you will miss these days" or being your child's consistent playmate is the only way to set them up for success in the future. Not only is there pressure to be fully present and loving every minute, but we add to the mess of emotions by tacking on guilt if we are not living up to a standard we did not even create in the first place. We tell ourselves that motherhood will always be fulfilling and that struggling with it is not okay, or worse, we make it mean we are bad mothers.
The real, raw, au~natural picture of motherhood is quite different than what is portrayed and fed to parents. Looking into the homes of families, you would see tears, you would hear raised voices, you would see chaos, you would feel some tension. You would also sense a flow of love that is so deep and strong, it can't be broken by the stress of parenting.
I was overcome with affection aggression as a new mom (I promise this relates to the topic). I wanted to literally take big obnoxious bites out of my baby's cheeks and thighs. I could not hug her tight enough, kiss her enough, or hold her enough. With every breath I took, I was completely enraptured by her presence in my life. I loved her so much I thought I would burst....and I often did....in big explosive tears. In fact, if I would have know it was okay to primal scream at that point in my life, I would have. I loved her with every ounce of my being and more. AND, and this is where I bring it back around, I sometimes want to run away. I sometimes get so scared that I won't be enough for her and I want to escape that feeling. Sometimes I am so mind-numbingly bored I could spit. Sometimes I don't want to do all the things. And *most* of the time I feel bad about it. I wish so hard I could love this parenting thing all the time, but that is like asking myself to like going to work all the time. I love my job but sometimes, I would rather watch Netflix, cook without interruption, go somewhere without timelines and curfews, or just do what I want, when I want and how I want.
Guess what!? You are not alone!
According to Pew Research Center of Social and Demographic Trends, many parents report that they are moderate on their parenting satisfaction. It is normal and healthy to not be 100% satisfied with parenting all the time. I don't know about you, but I am not loving when my kid tantrums, or when I have to remind them to pick up their toys for the 10th time, or the endless pressure to be anticipating their needs. I also don't like being yelled at, cleaning up crayon on the wall, or picking play dough out of carpet. I know I am not the only one. We escape these parenting challenges by "checking out" or fantasizing about something else. We then feel guilty because we are not "fully present." What we are actually saying is, "I don't like this moment and I want to escape it, but I can't actually leave so I will create some space between myself and this hard situation." You ARE present but NOT loving it, and that is okay. You don't have to. Wanting to be somewhere else, even if it is in your own head, is protective.
Please remember that parenting is a job
Loving your children and the job of parenting are two different things. The first is a deep, unwavering commitment to your little people that is unique and complex, while the other comes with a set of guidelines and requirements, much like a job. Feeding, toileting, keeping them safe, helping them with their homework, making appointments, providing an emotionally and intellectually stimulating environment, and schlepping them to activities (plus much much more) all fall under the job description of parenting. Just like how there are days where you don't want to go to work, there will be times where you do not want to parent. Just because you don't want to parent sometimes, or a lot of the time, has absolutely NO bearing on how much you love your children. People will try to equate and compare the two, but they are in fact, separate.
Affirmations and Visualization
If you find yourself telling your heart this lie, particularly in times of difficult parenting moments, please take some time to center yourself and go through this exercise...
1. Relax your body
2. Breathe deep into your belly, hold for a beat, then slowly release all the air out through an open mouth (relax your jaw AND your pelvic floor)
3. Name the lie you are telling yourself; "I'm telling myself that mothers should always love motherhood."
4. Ask yourself, "Is that ABSOLUTLEY true?" and allow yourself to contemplate the answer.
5. Humanize yourself and repeat realistic expectations of humans liking/loving their jobs.
6. Acknowledge and affirm what you are not liking/loving about motherhood right now.
7. Fully accept that you get to not like or love this part of motherhood.
8. Keep your body relaxed and soft as you do this.
9. Allow for whatever emotions come up to the surface with out judgement.
10. Give yourself permission to keep feeling and stay present until the emotions subside.
11. Once complete, take a deep breath into your belly again, hold for a beat, then slowly release through your mouth. As you exhale, let go of any tension or judgement about the experience.
12. Share your experience with another mom you trust.
Being realistic about your relationship with motherhood, makes it healthier and ultimately more enjoyable. Mothers are allowed to have off days, days where you struggle, moments where you would rather be somewhere else, and times that you would rather just skip altogether if it meant the chaos would stop. Take some space to recognize the messages you are internalizing about how enjoyable mothering should be and question if they are true and/or realistic. Ask yourself if you are enmeshing the job of parenting with the love you have for your kids. Separate them....do your job....and love them like something fierce. Remember that you are more than parenting, just like you are more than any other job you would have. You get to decide how you show up to your job everyday. Sometimes it will be hard and suck, and other times it will be very fulfilling. Give yourself permission to have both and be present with it all.
About the Writer
Danielle is a mother, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a writer, a woman's empowerment advocate, and dedicated soul seeker. Writing has been a natural form of expression that originates deep within each of her experiences. Her purpose is to provide validation, encouragement, and support for every mom through her blog, the Motherhood Empowered Facebook Group, and in the therapy room.