Recently I asked my email list* what they were struggling with.
I don’t have all the answers but I want to know my readers better and write about the things that are on their hearts.
I was overwhelmed by the response and felt so privileged that so many took the time to share their stories with me.
There were a few themes that emerged, common threads between the responses. So often we think the things that make us feel ashamed or scared separate us from everyone else, when actually it is these struggles that unite us. If only we knew how like each other we are, we would not feel so alone.
One reader, we’ll call her Sarah (not her real name), wrote this short email to me. As I was writing my reply it occurred to me that maybe there are others who could do with reading these words and so, with her permission, I am sharing her letter and my response here.
At the moment I’m a mom of a 2 year old (who has never slept through) and I’m struggling with the mom guilt – am I doing enough; I’m doing it all wrong etc
When the kids were little I always thought I was getting it wrong. I found spending time with them exhausting, and although there were moments of pure unbridled joy, a lot of the time I was bored and resenting how trapped I felt, resenting how much I felt my life had been taken over and resenting the way I couldn’t remember who I was anymore.
And the guilt! Was I doing enough? Was I getting it all wrong? (I was sure I was) Did anyone else feel like this? Surely everyone else was enjoying it more, doing it better, being more present, having more fun…
And, although at the time I was depressed and struggling with anxiety – which definitely made it harder for me to just go with the flow and enjoy the fun bits of being a mum, I was not alone. Actually I realised later nearly every Mum I was friends with had many moments (often every day) when they felt they were falling apart or couldn’t do it, or were letting their kids down. Some of them were better at holding it together in public and their mask was shinier and more impressive than mine, but they all had moments of feeling like they weren’t enough too.
The problem is our expectations of what parenting , and being Mum is and should be like, are so out of whack. We see romanticised ideals on films or tv shows. We scroll through Instagram at the carefully curated moments that are shared, and we believe that everyone else has it all together, that we are the anomaly.
But we aren’t. We’re the norm.
Everyone feels like they are failing, everyone feels they should be doing more, or doing it better.
And most people think they should be enjoying it more too.
Parenting is bloody hard. Sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture for a reason. Why we think we should be full of the joys of Spring when our nights are interrupted numerous times over is beyond me. And babies and toddlers aren’t great conversationalists. When your day consists of a continual barrage of requests and demands being made at you, is it any wonder you get frustrated? When the day ends with the house a mess, and dried weetabix/ pureed fruit on the floor and the walls and you know you have to tidy up just for it to all happen again tomorrow is it any wonder you feel dispirited?
So don’t beat yourself up for not being some imagined idea of what a Mum is. That person doesn’t exist. Your son does not need you to be anyone other than yourself. What he wants most of all is to know he is loved. That’s it. He doesn’t need elaborate activities, or expensive outings, or a fancy place to play, he doesn’t need constant entertaining, or even to be clean all the time. He probably likes some sort of routine, and regular feeding. Apart from that, it is all up for grabs.
So how can you make it easier for yourself? How can you let yourself off the hook? Is there anyway you can get a break- anyone who can offer you a morning or afternoon to yourself?
If there is anyway you can make your life easier – do it. Make sure you are looking after you first, That is what is best for you and your son.
And remember the good bits: snuggles and bad jokes and jumping in puddles. Focus on them. Remind yourself of them at the end of the day when you are shattered and feel like it all went wrong again. Remember how he looked when he woke up and the surge of love you felt as he became sleepy in your arms. Remember the random, particular nonsense he talked and how you pretended to understand him. Remember how soft his hair is and how strong he is becoming.
I can tell you love your son very much, or you wouldn’t be worried about getting it right. There is not much to get right apart from love him, and relax – you are doing just great.
* (that’s you if you receive a weekly(-ish) from me with links to my latest post – and if it isn’t you you can sign up below)
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