Motherhood is hard – so let’s stop keeping mum
Being a mum is like entering a secret society, or parallel universe, if you will. Despite being an aunt ten times over (big family), having my own baby showed me a world I never knew, even though it was hidden in plain sight.
When you see other babies, you might witness the odd meltdown, smell a pooh-ey nappy or hear those rumours about the fabled sleepless nights. But mostly it’s roses.
Most mums tell you about the unconditional love, the flood of happy hormones and the intense, euphoric joy. Social media will attest this too, as many a mum’s Instagram is littered with gushing posts paired with equally adorable pictures.
And a lot of the time, this is absolutely true. My baby is my greatest achievement so far. Her sunny sociable nature makes me beam with pride when out and about. Her smile melts my heart. I am fascinated seeing the world through her inquisitive baby eyes.
There is another side to motherhood that is HUGELY downplayed. The hard side. The side that we don’t really discuss. Especially not with non-mums or new mums.
Yes, there is a current trend towards honest motherhood online these days, with many mums vying to share the most ‘real’ picture (cue a candid shot of mum on the toilet seat while breastfeeding). However, this is often supplemented with the almost apologetic ‘oh, but it’s amazing and intense and I’m a warrior, so I really don’t mind poohing with my baby in my arms’.
But I think it’s time to tell it like it is. Motherhood is amazing, intense and we are warriors.
Yet it’s OK to own the fact that some aspects of motherhood are just plain and simple hard-ass work. And we don’t need to feel bad or apologise for saying so. It doesn’t make us bad mums. It just makes us real and human.
In fact, by not talking openly about the, well, sometimes s**t side of parenting, we intensify the guilt of others mums (especially new ones), who may feel bad that they’re finding the whole experience pretty damn tough.
And as a mother to a one-year-old, I was totally in the ‘feeling guilty’ camp. Every mum around me reminded me that they’ve all had babies, and they lived to tell the tale and that I should cherish every moment. I therefore felt wrong in occasionally finding motherhood to be anything but ecstatic happiness.
So I’m laying down the gauntlet right now. Here are some of the not-so-rosy sides to motherhood that every new mum goes through, but seldom discusses…
Being a mum is feckin hard work
Before I had my baby, I kind of thought ‘how hard could motherhood be?’ Well now I know. The days are long. The nights are longer. And whether your baby is clingy or independent, they’ll always keep you on your toes.
I remember the newborn days when my bubba would be glued to me at all times. I remember crying with her in one arm, and holding a plate of tortellini in the other. You see, my baby gave me the grace of allowing me to make my pasta. But the moment I sat to eat it, she needed to be cradled or fed.
One year on, she is her own woman and can entertain herself to a point (except when she’s teething). But now I’m the one having to chase her as she’s finding loopholes in all my baby-proofing efforts. Plus when I try to carve out some me-time, or simply to do some work on my laptop, she wants a piece of the action so I can’t do anything.
You take everything personally
Along with the physical, manual side of motherhood (ie. cradling and multitasking), there’s the emotional head-spin.
You see, with motherhood comes inevitable comparisons, comments and judgment. See examples below…
‘Oh your baby’s quite small for her age’
‘She only napped 30 minutes?’
‘She should be eating more than that’
These seemingly passive innocent comments are like a dagger to the heart for any new mum, who is already questioning everything.
And why are these seemingly innocuous points such a sore spot? Well, your hormones are mental. You are beyond tired and you are tasked with the biggest job of your life. Growing a tiny human into a fully functioning member of society that eats well, sleeps appropriately and isn’t too small is no mean feat.
And when any aspect of this small person’s demeanour or development is questioned, it feels like a direct attack on your parenting.
You’ll cry over spilt milk (literally)
Post-baby, anything can set you off. From the lack of sleep to the frustration when things don’t go to plan (read: they rarely do. Babies are born rebels), tears — from mum, not baby — are never too far away.
I found myself crying when talking about Hannah’s birth, blubbering when my sister presented me with a personalized pram blanket, and whimpering when my girl wouldn’t nap on schedule.
But the biggest thing to get emotional over? Spilt milk. That’s right, when I tipped my expressed milk, I was distraught to lose my liquid gold.
You’ll do gross things that would make the I’m a Celebrity bushwhacker trials seem tame
Motherhood makes you develop a strong stomach for all things grubby. I’ve dealt with projectile pooh. I’ve wiped a snotty nose with my bare hand. And I mean the runny full-on-cold nose, not the dry bogeys. Nothing is off limits.
Pre-motherhood, I wouldn’t eat from someone else’s plate. Now? Heck I polish off my baby’s leftovers like it’s a Michelin meal.
It can be bone-achingly lonely
Ah… the bit we discuss the least, but should share the most. The beautiful irony of motherhood is the loneliness. On one hand you’ve got a constant companion. On the other, this new friend means everything else has changed.
Suddenly going out and about on a whim to meet friends isn’t possible. When babies are tiny, their constant and often unpredictable feeding schedule makes simple jaunts a logistical nightmare. As they get older and into a routine, you find yourself working around naps. And of course, naps often fall during mother and baby groups and meet ups, so you end up missing out on key social activities which can save your sanity.
If you have a baby like mine that’s possibly allergic to sleep, you find yourself desperately carving out a routine. This inevitably means you spend about 70% of your day in the dark rocking, feeding, shushing and patting.
Like most mums, the contrast between being a social butterfly-come-career-woman, to spending your day obsessing over sleep (or lack thereof) is jarring. And along with this comes the loneliness. Gone are the work colleagues and office camaraderie. Instead, this is replaced by daily trips to the supermarket for things you don’t need to break up the day.
So there it is, motherhood can be lonely, gross and hard work. Now I won’t footnote this with ‘oh but it’s worth it’ as that goes without saying. And as I stated, we shouldn’t need to apologies or justify moaning about the bad bits. But I will say this… the hard bits will get easier, the nights will become shorter, and you’ll feel better overall. Like all challenges, this too shall pass. But in the meanwhile mamas, support each other, get through it together, and never feel guilty for finding it hard. You’re doing just great.
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About the Author
I’m not a makeup artist, chef, lifestyle guru or stylist. I’m just me. And like you, I’m trying to make the best of most things, only I’m sharing my warts-and-all thoughts along the way.