What does it mean to be a mom? Does it need to be a 24/7 all or nothing venture? It’s different for everyone.
Currently, one of my nieces is on maternity leave and loving every single minute of it. She emails pictures regularly and has embraced the role whole-heartedly. Who knows, maybe that’ll change but then again, maybe it won’t. Some new moms, however, are torn about what they want versus what they think society is dictating and the unspoken taboo truth of how difficult it is to be a stay at home mom or SAHM.
I had my one and only baby at age 38. I knew enough not to get sucked into the fictitious expectations of the perfect stay at home mom. You know, the one with the adorable baby cooing as you desperately try not to split the seams of your Lulu’s in the mommy-baby yoga session. Yup, the one where after class you sip rose with other moms, gossip about the latest goings-on, go home cook dinner, clean the house, do the laundry, while baby somehow mysteriously never cries, poops, or makes any demands. Heck, all SAHMs are super-efficient and capable, right?
That front for reality—the one where everyone is doing it all and doing it better—is dangerous.
Soon after we had our son, my husband headed out of town for work. I settled into a daily routine but alone time didn’t come until the end of the day when baby was asleep. Exhausted, I struggled to find time for myself.
I just kept going but when my son was about three I finally hired a sitter every Tuesday evening so I could go wander around the grocery store by myself, grab a coffee, or just go sit at the beach. I needed time away from him. To admit that, feels sacrilege against the mother-child bond, but it’s true. It had nothing to do with love and everything to do with my own sanity. It’s more normal than you may think.
I was shocked once by an admission from a friend who said at one point she’d wanted to throw her colicky daughter out the window when she wouldn’t stop crying. She couldn’t get away from the constant demands of her child. Thankfully, she never acted on those feelings but acknowledged them and that’s more important than ignoring them. She was overwhelmed, tired, and in need of help. **
Suppressing true feelings and lying to the world is like a set up for even more stress. There’s no such thing as perfection— there’s only real life, which is not only intense, but also full of anger, tension, and an instinctual need for quiet, alone time— or adult time, or no-kid time—whatever you want to call it. It’s okay to admit your perceived shortcomings and find a way to deal with them.
Another friend laughed at the whole perfect family notion when she showed me a picture of her two kids and husband smiling broadly, seemingly enjoying the day together. Scroll back to the uncropped photos however and you see a wadded up used diaper on the counter, dirty dishes stacked in the sink, and one of the kids holding a tablet. He looked up from his movie, smiled for a split second at the perfect angle then stared back at the screen. She didn’t include the ones with the baby’s arched back as he fought to get away or the others with the frowns, tears, or life chaos and clutter. Only the cropped reality made it online.
So, keep in mind that nothing is as it seems out there in the world. Some moms, like my niece, are content to spend every waking moment with her baby but for others wanting, and needing, alone time, is normal too. Whether you go back to work or get a sitter once a week to allow yourself the luxury of quiet, both are positive steps for your mental health. There should be no judgement passed for whatever you choose.
**Remember if you find yourself having thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or your child speak to your doctor or go to the ER and tell them honestly what you’re seeing, feeling, thinking. Postpartum depression and psychosis are serious and need to be treated by a professional immediately.
6 thoughts on “A Taboo Truth about Moms”
I had my only child at 40 years old, and we planned that I would stay at home until he started school. In the interim, I became disabled and ended up remaining a “Super At Home Mom.” I loved it and it was inspiring for my poetry. However, I would never describe in those unrealistic terms I hear so many women pining over. Frankly, I wouldn’t want that “perfect” picture we keep hearing we’re supposed to achieve. How boring… what would we ever find to write about?
My son actually never had a sitter. We just couldn’t afford it. Being an older parent, we didn’t have any age-mates with whom we could leave him to play with their children. And, sadly, I didn’t feel I could trust my kin to care for my son as I would – we just have different care and discipline attitudes. My discipline attitudes are rather more lax than those with which I was raised. And, my care attitude is definitely more attentive and involved. But, my child never had a broken bone nor dangerous accident in my care. We did once have to take him the ER as an infant for a high fever. However, the only injury he’s had to be rushed to the ER for was in school when bullies pulled a cartoon stunt and pushed him over someone keeling behind him so that he landed on the back of his head; that stunt left him with a serious concussion from which it took six months to recover.
Meanwhile, my sisters and I had broken bones, stitches, stomach pumping, allergen exposure, etc ad nauseam; my niece and nephews all had various ER visits too. And, we and the niece and nephews all had many instances of bruises down their backsides from belt-whippings or switching.
I have swatted him on occasion, but I’ve never bruised him. He’s certainly not scared of any punishments we dole out. Maybe my boy is spoiled, as my kin have often opined. He’s willful and boisterous… even sometimes turbulent. But, he’s self-assured, kind and brilliant; and, he’s not afraid of anything or anyone. And, he’s not sneaky nor afraid to talk to us about anything and everything. If he’s “spoiled…” well, I’m okay with that.
Hi Denise. Thank you for your comment. I can relate to you in your pragmatic and realistic view of life. Today there seems to be a need to “appear” perfect or at least better than every one else. It’s sad and it sets up an expectation that is unachievable. there are so many young moms who don’t believe they’re good enough or fear the idea of wanting to go back to work.
I’m a firm believer that things are the way they are because that’s what should be. You being able to stay home with your son was at the cost of your health but in another way such a gift. Thanks for sharing your story Denise. I so appreciate it and can so relate.
I think I told you the main difference for our sons–mine and yours–is my son had two broken arms (fell off play thing at Burger King and the other playing soccer) by age six and a broken collar bone at age 11. There were more than a few trips to the ER.
I know lots of kids have one or two accidents in their childhoods – that’s normal. But, I also know my sisters and I had far more than our fair share of such accidents. We spent much of our childhoods without supervision.
I’m glad my comment did send after all. 😎
Love this – there is a saying in South Africa that it takes a village to raise a child. My daughter (lives on our property) is about to present us with Rollo next Friday – I am very much looking forward to being a Granny, not a nanny, but a hands-on one!
congratulations Ginny! Thanks for coming to look at my blog it is so appreciated. I love that your daughter is so close and that you get to be a hands on granny! That’s the best. Please make sure you post some pix!! xoxo
Hi Denise. Yes. Times have definitely changed a lot. The awareness of predators and bullies and all that has parents (some not all) watching more closely. When I was a kid we ran and ran and ran until we heard mom call. As a kid I never had more than a scraped knee. Lol. All different.