Thursday, August 8, 2013

I Don't Feel Like Being a Mom Is the Hardest Thing I'll Ever Do

Recently there has been a wave of articles and blog posts by moms and for moms that tout motherhood as the hardest thing in the whole wide world. The hardest job you'll ever do, as some writers have put it. Nothing more rewarding, but nothing more difficult. Mothering, clearly, is not for the faint of heart. And so what follows is that if you're succeeding as a mom, you must be so strong and capable.

These pieces are really resonating with my mom friends if the number of links and shares is any indication. But you know what? They don't resonate with me.

For some reason - maybe since motherhood has become a competitive sport you can't win unless you're doing it all, bone tired, and just a little publicly resentful - I feel like I have to confess this. It can't simply be said - it must be whispered, but here I am writing it anyway.

I don't think motherhood is the hardest thing ever, unless you're raising a special needs child or you're living in abject poverty or your baby has a terminal illness or you live in a war zone. And even then there are moms who manage to raise kids for whom childhood is still utterly magical.

I'd rather be a mom than a factory worker in China. Motherhood is easier than picking crops for pennies in the heat of summer. I'm guessing it's overall less stressful than being a pediatric brain surgeon. In fact, it's not only less difficult than what I do for a living, but it's also more fun, more exciting, and more fulfilling.

being a mom is not the hardest job

When I hear someone say that being a mom is the hardest job, I sometimes wonder if I'm doing something wrong. What, exactly, am I letting slide that everyone else is working so diligently at? As I sit here assuming I'm doing a bang-up job as a mama, am I actually failing my little ones because I am not doing that certain something that all the other mothers are secretly doing? I don't know!

What I do know is that getting frazzled... there never being enough time... losing your cool... or conversely, giving your all... wishing you could do more... questioning who you are in the context of motherhood... these things are par for the course. I wouldn't say mothering is easy but it comes easily to me. I try my best, and I do what I need to do to care for my family, end of story.

Another confession: I have never felt like a bad mom. Ever. Am I saying I never have those mothering moments where I feel like I could really use a do over? Heck no. Just yesterday I was nearly bawling because we as a family had 'one of those nights' and I should have cut P. some slack because she had a hard day but instead I was sticking to my guns for no good reason.

Something new happens every day that makes me wish I could ctrl-z in real life, but that comes with the territory.

Moms and dads are people. We mess up. If we're good moms and dads, we apologize. And then we mess up again because parenting is a relationship and relationships are works in progress forever. If we're thoughtful (and lucky) our screw ups aren't too big and a little apology plus a big hug can put things right. Love can go a long way toward healing a multitude of hurts!

So here's the thing. I can't tell you what to feel. If motherhood seems like the hardest job you've ever taken on, then you must be working really hard at it and that's good.

But I hope you won't take offense if I suggest that on those days that being a mom really feels like a grind - so frustrating and exhausting and heartbreaking and never-ending - you step back. Take a look at what you're doing. Maybe you've bought into the idea of motherhood as a competition. Maybe you're trying too hard to fit into a Perfect Mother shaped box. Or maybe your kids are just being total turds that day, because that happens, too.

Could be that it's not the 'job' that's getting to you, but the culture or the pressure or even the miserable half hour of tantrumming you just endured. For the third time in one day.

Cut yourself some slack. Cut your kids some slack. Instead of wallowing in whatever is making your heart heavy, commit to making the rest of the day - even if there's just 45 minutes until bedtime - extra special. Pile in the car for a trip to the DQ. Be naughty and cuddle up on the couch to watch a show even though it's not movie night. Have a kitchen floor dance party. Get out the paints and get messy. Cuddle. Sing. Go for a twilight bike ride. 

You may be surprised at how your outlook changes in the process.

11 comments:

  1. One of the (few) advantages of having my awful parents is no matter how bad the day, I'm doing better than they did. (Once I said to my husband, "I feel like I was raised by wolves." He answered, "Actually, wolves would have done a better job.")

    I survived. Bruised, in need of therapy...but okay.

    My kid is not easy, and I still do not think being a mom is the hardest thing. It is a LOT easier than being a litigator, and considerably more enjoyable. (It probably also helped that I had a boss prone to toddler-like tantrums.)

    I miss being a professional and dressing up (which is why my day-to-day wardrobe doesn't include yoga pants) but I'd rather do this than try a case, any day.

    (Please excuse me--the women's movement is at the door. They want me to return my feminist card.)

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    1. When I dressed up every day, I missed wearing yoga pants. Most days I wear a maxi dress so... no pants!

      I think that the whole 'hardest job' thing is the next step in the whole campaign to get some respect, but frankly I don't care of some random internet people or whoever respect me for working or not working. Who cares?!

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  2. Love your honesty. I agree, I actually think it's a privilege being a Mom. It certainly has hard moments, but there are huge rewards too. i sometimes also wonder if people talk about how hard it is as they are looking for sympathy - or like you said, it's a competition: "I'll look like a better mom if I complain about how hard it is".

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  3. Thank you, Christa, once again - I DO like your thoughts, showed feelings (special thanks to that) and explanations and clearness.
    I am a mother (still, although Max is now 20 and nearly a man at least on his way to) and I have always been working, too.
    Feeling bad sometimes, because I wanted (besides needed) to work for money and for my own good. I felt bad because I did not like to narrow my conversations with all the other mothers of a baby or toddler to diapers and digestionproducts of the kids and such. Sorry. Remembering me as an active, thinking, using my brains and feeling so narrowed by all the (nearly) perfect "only moms". Feeling limited and suppressed. When I started giving Max to a daynanny when he was 8 months old - til this time I worked from home - everyone, including my mother who is one of the best I can imagine, everyone criticized me for this.
    When I decided to prefer to go with him (and one or two of his friends) to the playground instead of cleaning the flat or cooking jam or... I felt being not good enough as a housekeeper but a good enough for this time at least mother.
    When we kuddled in bed instead of rising at 6 or 7 because there was not need to, it WAS egotistic (too) but we all liked and needed it. When I took my "girls" afternoon with his (step-)sister because this we had before he arrived, I had to explain to nearly everyone why it is not bad for him to stay with his father alone for an afternoon a week...
    To cut it short, it is not easy to be a (good?) mother and/or stepmother, and a good housekeeper and a good host and and and - but it is such a pleasure to have kid(s) and to see them grow and to play and to kuddle - and (sorry for that) time goes so fast and they are grown and the situation for both, mom and child, turns out very different - that does not mean worse, thanks to life.
    I wish all of the moms in the world to read your article and to live the life and the love. Most important thing!

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    1. Love your reply from the other side of things - grownup kids, I mean - since most of us still have little ones. I think being a mom and letting the guilt go away is important. Maybe it's feeling bad about things that makes mothering seem so hard to some folks?

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  4. I have never found it to be the hardest thing I've ever done, by far. I think it's hard as anything but like you said, it comes easily for me. I wanted this. We made it happen. I'm really happy about that, and yes, I'm exhausted and strung out and annoyed a lot more than I'd like to be. The hardest part of life for me is to let people in and out of my heart. I love a lot and letting go and saying goodbye - those are the hardest things for me. I lost my father at a VERY young age so I think I approached parenting a little differently than some of my friends who still have their fathers or grew up with them.

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    1. You hit on something important, I think. It's what we wanted! We signed up for it! That makes it a gift :)

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  5. While this is SO TRUE I think it also falls into the category of no matter what the topic/situation someone will always have it worse than you...and that someone will always have their definition of 'their own personal hell.' I admit it - I've rolled my eyes when someone's basement flooded and they've gone on about having to throw out a box of vintage records. Because that's not my version of THE WORST. But mine? I'm sure I get rolled at, too. I don't think motherhood is the hardest thing ever...there are some other things in my life that rank as that. It's the most precious thing to me for sure, though.

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  6. Good points! When I hear someone say motherhood is a job or the hardest thing they've have ever done, I don't draw the conclusion that they've bought into the mommy competition. I actually think it's an attempt to get recognition that mothering is something that we work at. maybe not as a "job" but we do have to work at it like we do all our relationships.

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  7. Wow, Your posting is very well put and I agree with many of the aspects. I also agree and appreciate the perspectives of several of the commenter - (i.e. Attorney at Large, Urban Flowerpot), and like Regina above, my son (16)and daughter (14)are in high school now and I'm feeling as if I've entered the "home stretch" of the mothering journey as far as fostering their care and insuring their good education, providing for their needs & wants, etc. I don't feel that overall being a mom is the hardest thing I'll ever do, but there are some "seasons" of mothering, which combined with my status as single (divorced)woman, plus all the other things expected of me including being a working professional in a fast-paced regulatory environment like investment management compliance, and being homeowner and remodeler to a 3 bedroom house built in 1942, that I do think being a (great) mom is the hardest thing I can do...because it involves constantly prioritizing and juggling heavy responsibilities and financially managing for a lot of contingencies as well as looking ahead to the future and planning for the financial, academic and extracurricular support that my kids need as they build their own "resumes" and college application-worthy lives. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done to agree to allow my son to live with his father (15 miles away) in order to go to a better high school outside the Los Angeles Unified School District, and simultaneously re-arrange my work schedule so I could drop my daughter off at middle school before work (12 miles from house) then travel (15+ miles) opposite direction to 3:00 pm football games (frosh & JV)to support his team. It's also challenging to pay for football training clinics, horse jumping camps, YMCA summer camp weeks, boy scouts, tutors and specialized equipment, plus making sure that your kids attend church or have a spiritual education despite sharing two households. I realize that many moms do try to gain respect and status by saying mothering is the hardest job ever, but I find that it's a combination of supporting my children and rearing them to be academically successful and have admission choices for 4 year universities, all while being a single person & So.Calif. homeowner that's the most challenging thing I've ever done!

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