I WISH SOMEONE TOLD ME IT WAS OK TO STRUGGLE
Editor’s Note: This post was first published on the blog, Mothering Beyond Expectations.
By: Brittany Rollins
Before I had kids, I was an expert in parenting. I’m not sure what gave me such confidence in it because I hadn’t been around babies all that much, but I was certain that it would come naturally. There was some nervousness, but I wasn’t nervous about being a good mom.
Of course I would be a good mom!
I read all the books. I had my philosophy on sleep training and discipline. With that wealth of knowledge under my maternity belly support belt, I was ready. I was an expert at parenting and was going to nail this “good mom” thing.
The problem was with my mental definition of what a “good” mom was. There are the easy things: good moms don’t smoke crack, good moms don’t shake their babies. But I also had it in my head that being a “good” mom meant having a “good” baby. Good babies sleep through the night. Good babies aren’t fussy. And good moms could easily soothe their crying babies.
Then my first child was born. This isn’t shocking information, but being a mom is hard. I know, so profound, right? I don’t know why I thought it would be easy for me, but it wasn’t.
It was hard to wake up every two to three hours and get that baby back to sleep.
It was hard to be the sole provider of food for that tiny human.
It was hard to walk around the house holding her because she screamed whenever I sat down.
It was hard to not feel confident in what I was doing.
My friends’ babies were sleeping through the night, but mine wasn’t. My baby was fussy and I couldn’t always soothe her. In my mind, that meant she wasn’t a good baby and I wasn’t good at being a mom.
I remember telling my husband “I don’t like being a mom.” I hate to say that but that’s honestly what I thought. It was harder than I expected and I didn’t think I was good at it. I couldn’t make her be a “good” baby and I didn’t enjoy it like I could have. The days were long. I wasn’t even struggling with post-partum depression, but motherhood just wasn’t living up to my expectations.
The problem was my expectations were ridiculous. I thought getting the baby to sleep would be as simple as letting her cry in her crib for a couple minutes. I thought breastfeeding would be a quick 15-minute feeding session every few hours and she and I would both be right back to sleep.
I thought many things that just didn’t happen and I struggled with that.
And I struggled knowing that I was struggling because I never expected to struggle in the first place!
I wish someone told me it was okay to struggle. That it was okay if my baby was fussy and it didn’t mean I was doing anything wrong. Struggling doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you human. And having a fussy baby who likes to be held doesn’t make her a bad baby. It just means she’s a baby!
In the midst of it, there was no end in sight. I couldn’t see it because the bags under my eyes and piles of poop-stained laundry clouded my vision. But now that I’m on the other side of that phase of motherhood, where my kids can wipe their own bottoms and pour their own bowls of cereal, I can say that my babies were good babies.
They weren’t great sleepers and they needed more hands-on time than other babies, but they were still good babies. They loved being held and they loved falling asleep in my arms. In those moments, I might have said I would rather be doing something else besides bouncing and swaying and rocking, but oh, to hold them as babies once more would be so sweet.
I enjoyed the infancy stages of my second and third-born daughters much more than my first. They didn’t fuss any less and they didn’t sleep through the night any sooner. But I had realistic expectations for them (and me).
I knew it would be hard.
I knew I would be sleep-deprived.
I knew that I would feel the weight of being needed 24/7.
But I also knew how short those months would seem on the other side and knowing what was coming prepared me for it. I survived it once before—I knew I could do it again.
The standard for being a good mom isn’t thriving. I didn’t thrive during the newborn stage. But survive? I can manage that. Babies don’t always respond the way you want them to and they don’t always sleep when you want them to. But that’s not what makes him or her a good baby and that’s not what makes you a good mom. Survival is an attainable standard and sets realistic expectations.
Surviving tells you that it will be hard, but you can do it.
Surviving is just fine.
Because motherhood is just plain hard. And that’s okay.
I hope that this story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you.
Mothering Beyond Expectations is trying to grow!
Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please like and share!