• Fri, Feb 10 2012

My Love/Hate Relationship With Motherhood

That’s right. I said it.

I have a beautiful and amazing four year old daughter. She is the light of my life, the sparkle in my eye and the extra fifteen pounds hanging around my hips. She’s best part of my day and the bags under my eyes. In a million and one ways, I feel blessed to have a child. I’m love my little girl. But that doesn’t mean that the whole thing is roses, my friends.

Mothers today are expected to love absolutely everything about motherhood. From the spit up on the back of their shirts to the complete and utter disappearance of their personal time. It’s all supposed to be magical. And we perpetuate this myth because we feel guilty for standing up and screaming, “Motherhood is hard! Working motherhood is a lesson in impossible-to-bear guilt!”

I’m saying all this as a relatively happy mother. In fact, I like it so much that I’m trying to start the process all over again with a second child. It’s not like practice makes perfect. I don’t assume that Baby Number Two will be easier than my first child. I think every kid is unique and has their own special set of demands. They also bring their own special type of joy.

So often, when women stand up and admit that the pressures of perfect motherhood can be too much, the general response is, “Well yea, but you shouldn’t say it because you might hurt your kid’s feelings.” The idea is that we should pretend raising little ones is super fun and not a burden at all, so that a couple decades from now, our children won’t grow up sitting on a therapist’s couch discussing their parent’s resentment. For a long time, I sympathized with this outlook. I wouldn’t ever want my daughter to think that I really hated her, even if it’s hard to love a screaming temper tantrum in the middle of Target.

However, it’s possible that opening up and presenting a more realistic image of motherhood will help my daughter in the future. When she grows up and possibly considers having children, I don’t want her to think that a baby can be used an adorable accessory. I don’t want her to assume that it’s all peekaboo and nap time. Just like every great relationship you’ll ever have, parenting takes hard work. Your feelings towards your children will have highs and lows, just like every great marriage tends too. There will problems to work through along the way, and that doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you a committed mother.

Over the summer, a study came out showing that working women who expected juggling their career and home life to be easy had more problems with depression later in life. Those who went in to the difficult situation knowing that it takes a lot of hard work were happier in the long run.

I think the more honest we are with each other about motherhood, the happier future moms will be. They’ll be more prepared for the realities of raising kids. Yes, it includes heart-melting cuteness and a type of devotion that simply cannot be put into words. But motherhood is more than mushy-gushy feelings, it’s a responsibility that you take on all-day, everyday for the rest of your life. That pressure isn’t easy.

I love my daughter will every fiber of my being, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have days where I kind of hate motherhood. That doesn’t make me a bad person or a bad parent, it makes me human.

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  • h

    Is there a fatherhood version of this story I can show my husband?! I love him dearly, but the battle to “Wait to have Children” until WE’RE ready is exhausting! He thinks having a baby seems like the biggest, most fun adventure on earth! And maybe it will be, but I keep trying to tell him – of course you think that – because I’ll be giving up the most and doing most of the work!

    Interesting note – He was raised by a mother who got pregnant at 17 and SWEARS it was the best thing that ever happened to her and wouldn’t ever change it, etc. etc. etc. (Yes – she currently suffers from depression and SEVERE “empty-nesters syndrome”) Though she is a wonderful woman and a natural born nurturer. But let me tell you – telling your child he’s perfect all the time really sets his future (less nurturing) wife up for failure!!!!

    I, on the other hand, was born to parents who waited seven years after marriage to get pregnant and by no means have I ever felt like I am my mother’s most prized accomplishment, it’s never been a secret that I was an exhausting child to raise, even more exhausting as a teenager. I am frequently reminded of this, with a touch of humor. But I have felt extremely loved, valued, and important my whole life.

    I am happy a realistic picture of motherhood has been painted for me. I think I will be a much better mother for it.

  • Diana H

    This is one of my favorite blogs you’ve written. I love how candid you are about sometimes not loving motherhood, and how that’s okay. So reassuring!

  • Eileen

    I did like this article, but I’m going to suggest there’s a difference between saying, “Sometimes being a mother is really tough, and I wish I didn’t have that responsibility” and saying, “I hate my daughter.” I doubt you’re going to damage her there (or make her think you don’t love her).