Giving Moms the Gift of Truth this Valentine’s Day

1

Once upon a time, two young and busy Chicago professionals welcomed beautiful and healthy twin baby girls. This month those baby girls turn eight, and as on all of their birthdays, it has me thinking a lot about the past. I remember how small and cute they were, how much love I had for them, and how unbelievably grateful and blessed I felt.  I also remember how HARD the postpartum stage was, and how my idyllic, fairytale-like version of motherhood was shattered on day ONE when my girls cried endlessly and wouldn’t nurse like I thought they so effortlessly would. I felt blindsided by the realities of actually being a mom, and always, subsequently, I think about how I wish that someone, anyone, had told me the actual, gritty, raw truth about new motherhood.

I know twins are a different experience, but new motherhood is, for most moms I know, much harder than they ever imagined. Right? Isn’t motherhood in general much harder than you ever imagined? And yet, women aren’t given the time or permission to feel all the things–to feel the absolute roller coaster of emotions that is motherhood. What if, as Valentine’s Day approaches, we focus less on flowers and chocolates, and instead, start giving moms a more unconventional, but actually wonderful, gift: the truth about motherhood?

I’ll go first and continue to share as vulnerably as I can. To start and to note, I loved my babies from the minute they were born. My husband and I spent years trying very hard to conceive. We wanted our girls with all of our hearts. But, despite all of that, and in an effort to share what would have made me, back then, feel so much better to hear from another mom, here’s some of the realities I remember:

  • I cried multiple times a day for the first six months. It’s possible I had undiagnosed postpartum depression, but it’s also possible it was due to the utter overwhelm, fear, and exhaustion I felt most of those days. 
  • I wildly missed my life before kids, when my time was wholly mine, and I could freely workout or grab dinner after work whenever I pleased.
  • I didn’t like most of what being a new mom entailed, read: diaper changes, pumping and nursing (which was basically around the clock in my case); cleaning up spit up and poop and any other various bacteria-laden substances; not sleeping, not showering, and not eating anything except protein bars for dinner. 
  • No matter how many texts I sent to my friends, or calls I made to my mom and sisters, I felt anxious and alone a lot of the time.

Momming has always been hard, but it’s harder than ever now. According to a study from PEW research, about 8 in 10 women ages 50-64 say it is harder to be a mother today than it was 20-30 years ago. There are so many factors* for this, from women starting families later in life than previous generations (having opportunity to start a work/professional life prior to having kids but less opportunity to learn about infant care from older family members and friends). Another reason motherhood could be harder is the pervasiveness of social media and its ability to propogate more curated (and unrealistic images) of motherhood. Social media also poses a whole host of challenges with raising kids that previous generations didn’t have to navigate. *Read more on all of this here.

Although I felt alone as a new mom, I’ve since learned that many others share my feelings and experiences. There are a LOT of mamas out there who didn’t love the infant stage and spent many a day wishing for her old life back. And, as my kids have gotten older, this secret-keeping persists. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared a mom-reality of mine with friends only to have those friends not shame me, but mollify me with an emphatic and compassionate “my kid does that too!”  

If you’re a new or sort-of-new mom, or just one relating to this post, here are some more of my truths that will (hopefully) help get you fully prepared to take on mommyhood: 

    • Your body won’t be yours— for awhile…and may never be. Postpartum recovery is typically no picnic for anyone, and even when you do start feeling normal, you may have some lingering effects. For instance, I have to wear a panty liner every day if I want to make sure I still don’t pee a little when I laugh, run, do jumping jacks, sneeze or cough. Lovely, I know. 
    • Even when your kids sleep through the night— they don’t and you won’t. I still get woken up at least once every couple of weeks by a kid with a bad dream or bloody nose, or just to, oh, be up with me.
    • The infant stage isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. Period. I am loving things I get to do with my older kids, like go to the movies and plays.
    • It IS too much. Mothers carry wayyyyy more of the mental load (think: grocery list, doctor’s appointment, school supplies needed, etc.), as well as do more of the invisible work around the house (dishes, laundry, etc.).
    • You will (likely) be the primary parent and decision maker. Your kids will probably go past their dad, up the stairs and barge into the bathroom while you’re pooping to ask you for a snack or bandaid (or answer any number of their must-answer-right-now questions!). 
    • You won’t know what you’re doing at first, if ever, but you do get more confident. 
    • Others WILL judge you. You must do only what works and makes sense for YOUR family. 

It doesn’t get easier but it does get better and better. And, you won’t trade being a mom for anything in the world (#Imeanthat #notjustacliche). 

Dr. Laurie Santos, professor of  psychology at Yale and well-known author and podcast host of The Happiness Lab, defines happiness as “being happy with and in your life.” She makes the distinction between the two categories of happiness because, and she specifically uses the example of a new mom— you can be happy WITH your life (healthy babies, safe home, etc), while not, in the short-term necessarily being happy IN your life (insert aforementioned described days of diaper changes and cracked-nipple feedings).

New motherhood and motherhood in general, is a crazy, wild, frustrating, massively overwhelming, scary, and completely humbling experience. But isn’t it wonderfully comforting to know most moms feel the same as you? And that you don’t need to be happy IN your life to be happy WITH your life? I say all of the above with love, authenticity, and “brutiful” honesty so that on those days where you’re crying and overwhelmed under mountains of dirty laundry and unwashed bottles, you know that again:

You are not alone. 

You are normal. 

You are a DAMN good mom. 

And you probably don’t want flowers or chocolates as much now, do you? But having someone sit in solidarity and truth with you?  Yes, please. 

With love, your friend and fellow mom,

Rachel 

For more on the good, the bad, and all the in-between about motherhood, click here.

Previous articleGo City San Diego: Affordable Tips for Arizonans
Next articleAdamo Microschool: Traditional, Digital, and At-Home Learning Combine
After more than a decade in the Windy City--and a two-year stay in Dallas, TX-- Rachel Bronson is thrilled to be back in her native city to raise her three kids along with her best friend and husband of 11 years, Dan. Life with twin seven-year-old girls and a crazy three-year-old little man is always busy, but Rachel, a former journalist and middle school English teacher, loves to write and is passionate about empowering and helping fellow mamas embrace real and raw motherhood. A longtime anxiety warrior, Rachel is also passionate about sharing her struggles and how she fights anxiety and perfectionism with heavy doses of personal development, mindset work, and lots of sweating to home workouts! When she’s not writing, working out, or momming, Rachel can likely be found meal prepping, baking, reading, listening to another podcast, or watching the next episode of a binge-worthy Netflix show with her husband.

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here