Recently I was asked to participate in a night of women reading essays about motherhood, called Listen to Your Mother.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I actually don’t talk a lot about motherhood. It’s because I don’t like to open myself up to the comments really. I open myself up a lot, in a lot of ways, and I have to draw some lines in this Internet sand! But it was interesting to me, to think, “If I had 5 minutes to tell every mom, one thing, what would I tell them?”
So I sat down, and I wrote this. And I wrote it for myself as much as I wrote it for anyone else. But I mean it with all my heart, and I wish each and every one of you moms a very happy Mother’s Day.
What we all have in common.
by Alison Faulkner
There are so many women who want to be pregnant, dream of being pregnant, and are suffering so much emotional and physical pain because they cannot get pregnant.
And that’s why I feel super guilty, when I say with all the fiery passion of my soul that: I HATE being pregnant.
And I tried to keep my good fortune in mind as I waddled around in constant pain, and when I got a random condition that made me itch uncontrollably and when I had weekly panic attacks, I’m still not sure why I had those. Because really, even though all that stuff is not great, I had healthy babies, and so many other women have it worse.
But honestly, pregnancy traumatized me. And I’ve noticed that when that other mother’s speak of fondly pregnancy, and its joys and fun little nuances, it makes me defensive, and if I’m not careful that defensiveness can turn into annoyance or even anger.
Yet, I just can’t FATHOM how we could have the same experience and feel so, so differently about it.
That right there is the hardest part about being a mom: We all have the same job, but we’re all doing the job so differently, that it’s hard not to assume that one of us, (and I usually think it’s me) isn’t doing the job right.
It’s starts with pregnancy, something so many mothers experience, but all experience differently. I’m fully aware that a person who doesn’t feel the way I do about pregnancy, has to think I’m just being melodramatic. One of us, must be faking, right?
And so it continues. Some mom’s think a home birth is the only way to go, and those who were ripped in two and stitched back up, are left feeling almost personally attacked for their choice of a hospital stay when a mom casually mentions she gave birth in the living room. Some moms love nursing while other’s bodies make it hell on Earth.
And no matter how cautiously we talk about our mothering decisions, it’s inevitable we’ll strike someone’s insecurity every once and while.
Another one that was hard for me, was the newborn phase. After my first child was born (and I just have two) I was baffled that so many people were dying to smell her head, and willing to hold her for more than 10 minutes at a time. I loved my baby, but at the beginning I was more obsessed with the concept of her, than the reality of her.
She cried a lot, and only liked her dad. She didn’t love napping and was super annoyed by people bugging her—and by “bugging” I mean they wanted to look at her.
And so when those other mother’s would want to hold her more than I did, or discuss how precious the newborn phase was, it made me think I must be doing something wrong. I felt guilty and self-involved. But I just couldn’t devote that much-undivided attention to a person with literally no vocabulary.
I didn’t realize it was just the hardest part of being a mom, creeping in again.
We’re all doing the same thing, but it all affects us differently.
Recently I’ve decided that if I want to continue working as much as I do, I have to hire at least some childcare. Until now I’ve gotten by with my husband’s flexible work schedule, the fact that I hate sleeping, and a generous Grandma that lives nearby.
My husband has been stretched and stressed beyond belief trying to accommodate his growing work schedule and mine. And can’t understand why I don’t want to just hire more help.
He doesn’t get that if we hire anyone to help, for ANY amount of time, I’m admitting to everyone, I’m admitting to myself, that I can’t hack it as a stay-at-home mom, and that I like working as much as I like my children.
And that makes me want to crawl in a hole in shame.
I respect OTHER working mother’s with all my heart, I don’t look down on them. But I can’t seem to give myself permission to do what I honestly feel is going to keep me sane as a mother.
And then I ask myself, why do I feel so differently than those mom’s who are happy at the park, and making dinner, and remembering to help their kid’s brush their teeth? Maybe I don’t feel that differently, I think. I’m probably just more selfish, weaker, maybe I’m just a bad mom.
And that, that right there, is the hardest part about being a mom. Because when we feel differently than others, or feel differently than we thought we’d would, we’re worried we’re doing something terribly, horribly wrong.
And so I just wanted to say to myself and every mom I could get to listen: we’re going to disagree, we’re going to feel threatened or attacked when someone who has shared our same experiences feels differently than we do.
But it’s all ok. Because all of us moms, the ones who are worried they are doing a terrible job, have one thing in common, we’re all doing the best we know how.
So without getting preachy, maybe just cut yourself some slack, I’m going to try to do the same, and cut that hippie next door who let her children watch her water birth some slack, because we’re all in this together, we’re all at times feeling horrible about it, and we can all turn to one another, a little more often and say, “Hey mama, you’re doing the best you can. And your best is good enough.” And that’s one thing we all have in common.
Happy Mother’s Day!