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.