In general I think I am happy, but when someone asks, I do have to pause for a minute and consider what it even means to be happy. The next time a mom asks “don’t you just love being a mom?”… try responding with a “no, actually I am pretty unhappy and stressed out and I often feel like I’m not good enough.” Watch their disgusted faces as they switch park benches to sit next to a mom who says, “yes, I have it all together all the time and couldn’t be happier.” There, that’s the answer that makes people comfortable.
Some of the days that were supposed to be the happiest of my life, were actually some of the saddest. Like high school? Who peaks in high school? It’s rediculous to think that high school could be the happiest time in one’s life. And planning a wedding? It was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. Now, the day of the wedding was in the top five of the most memorable and happiest days of my life, but planning it was a nightmare.
Being a mom. Hmm. I love my kids in ways that I can’t express with words. I want to raise my kids and I want to be happy doing it, but I also want to fall asleep without a sleep aid each night and that isn’t happening either. Let me be clear… I am choosing to be a stay at home mom. My husband would be perfectly supportive if I choose to work out of the house. And I have come back to the idea of doing so a few times, but I do want to be a stay at home mom. For several reasons, none of which necessary to explain for this post.
The thing is, being a mom, I’m expected to be happy and on top of things, but some days I don’t even brush my youngest child’s hair. I don’t want to feel so drained by my children all the time. How I feel is not a reflection of the love I have for my children, so let me make that clear right off the bat. When I gave birth to my oldest son, I had never felt so much guilt in my entire life. I was told it would be hard but that I would feel so much joy and it would be such a blissful time. Looking back, I had every single precursor to post-partum depression and my midwife should have noticed (the signs were quite obvious), but no one told me what PPD was or what to watch for. When I read Brooke Shield’s book Down Came the Rain about 2 years too late, I knew why I felt the way I did for a year and a half. When my son was born I loved him more than anything on earth, but I felt like he got the short end of the stick with me as a mother. I was happy to get away and go to work and was secretly happy when I got to stop breastfeeding. But in general, all I felt was separation and guilt. All the time. The birth was violent and my bedroom was moved downstairs for about two weeks after coming home because I couldn’t walk up stairs. I understand now that it’s not normal to have that kind of pain for 8 weeks after giving birth. I was probably anemic as well due to all the blood loss during those weeks. It was not a good start to an already confusing and sad time in my life. But how could I let anyone know how I felt without seeming like an awful person? I had this beautiful baby boy and the love I felt for him was real, but I was not “happy.” I was not even okay. In fact, I wanted to begin using drugs again, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. I loved my kid too much.
Questioning my happiness has always felt like failure to me, so I have hidden, and never opened those floodgates. I understand that I am not alone and there are a lot of other mommies in the world like me. And so it’s about time to write about feeling like I am not a good mom. Because a it’s a lie that a good mom is only one who would be happy to be with her kids all day long and would have them tying their shoes by age 3 and reading by age 5 and a only good mom would not put her oldest child on medication for ADHD. A good mom would not find reasons to run errands just to have alone time. The truth is, good moms can feel normal human emotions, like the need to use the potty without being disturbed, and the crazy thing is that we are shocked by them.
Instead I feel pressure to be happy. No one gives moms permission to admit that we are not always completely happy. We practically get burned at the stake by some for claiming that although we love, love, love our kids, it can be overwhelming more than joyful.
Just like with any new beginning the first step is admitting weakness. And the next step is (for me) turning all my fears and guilt and stress over to the Lord and taking solitude and finding rest in the knowledge that I am good with Him. My kids will be okay. I will be okay because I am doing the best I can. And He will handle everything else. Yes, I need more breaks from the kids than I care to admit. Yes, when my husband gets home and I get dinner on the table, I head into my office and close the door. But, I love my family more than myself.
I am redefining what it means to be a good mom because the Lord has shown me my strengths and what He can do in and through me. Motherhood is not easy and those who seem to have it all together (whatever that means) are in the same boat as me. No one has perfect kids. And no woman can give so much of herself to the children she loves without feeling somewhat drained. So I am going to give myself a break from feeling guilty- and so should you. No more pressure. I appreciate the Hand the Lord places on my kids and the capability He gives me to raise them. So don’t be horrified when I let you in on this, but I have started putting myself first each Saturday afternoon. I don’t need family time. I need a break. I have scheduled time for myself each week, a sanity-keeping, peace-keeping break. I go to the library and I read and lesson plan (only because I truly enjoy it, and it relaxes me) or I stroll through the shelves reading the prologue in every book that looks interesting. My husband understands that this time off is non-negotiable. Sometimes I go to Starbucks if I happen to have a gift card. This me-time is different from my time with the Lord… that is daily time and it’s more of a date with Him that time for myself. Both leave me refreshed, but only one is completely selfish and completely needed. And I highly recommend it to all moms.
I may continue to write on this because there’s so much more I want to express, but it’s getting kinda’ long. Maybe another time. Enjoy your day friends!