In my first year as a mother I spent a lot of time comparing myself and my baby to others. It’s not all bad, sometimes comparison is useful. You can get great new ideas by looking at your neighbour. Or you might realize something you’re doing is harmful. Or you might end up sharing some great tip with them. And it can be so comforting to see they’re going through the same stuff. But the differences can be discouraging. Why does her baby sleep through the night? What am I doing wrong? Why does she have so much milk and I have so little? What is wrong with me? A lot of self-doubt creeps in. And it’s made all the more messy by the filter through which we see what others are experiencing.
We see curated posts on social media, and we sometimes get fluff when we ask a mom, in-person. It seemed to me like most people had it easier than I did, though I did suspect I wasn’t getting the whole story. Sometimes I would share something hard in hopes that other moms would say “me too!” but sometimes I got crickets. Nothing. Oh. So just me then? That’s hard.
When friends ask me how I am doing with my girls, I have a tendancy to share the struggles I’m going through. For one thing, I want to be real and not give a fluffy answer. But the problems are also top of mind a lot of the time because I’m trying figure out what else I can do. I’m trying to find better ways to cope with the toddler tantrums and constant limit-pushing. Or I’m trying to figure out what Mallory can eat without gagging or how to get her to sleep better at night. The gears are always turning. So that’s what I share.
Maybe there is also a fear of anyone thinking I have it easy. I want it to be known how hard my day is. I want my frustrations validated. I want support. I want my husband to know that even though he had a long workday, I too had a long, arduous day.
But that leaves out a huge piece of motherhood. There is also a lot of joy. It’s harder to sum the joy up as a digest to share though sometimes unless it surrounds a developmental milestone. I can hear myself saying “Mallory is working hard to figure out crawling” or “Madison is potty trained” or “we’re working on sharing”. Those are good things but they’re also all work. Somehow it doesn’t occur to me to share the purer joyful moments where we’re just playing. Or maybe I think it will sound boring to other people. Nothing much happened. There’s nothing to work out. It was a fleeting moment. We laughed. We built a tower out of Duplo blocks. We went on the swing. There is a lot of fun stuff. It just doesn’t bubble forward in a share, for me.
Then there are moms who go a completely different way, especially on social media. I see so many posts, often from new moms, that go something along the lines of “You are the light of my life” “You are perfect” “You give my life meaning” “You’re the best thing I’ve ever done”. Those are beautiful things to say. They make motherhood sound dreamy. And I don’t relate. I don’t think my kids are perfect and I had just as much meaning before they came along even though I always knew I wanted them. Being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I have no idea if it’s the best. I’m not even sure those moms posting that stuff feel that way or if they’re compensating for how lonely and exhausting motherhood can be.
Those posts are most of what I saw from other moms for the first two years or so. More recently I started following more relatable (for me) Instagram accounts and they offer more perspective. I’m finding validation in seeing the honest shares. Some accounts focus on negative shares which can get you down too. I like a good balance. I’m working on a more balanced way of sharing, myself. I think it helps my own perspective.
What I Learned
It’s okay to vent. Everybody has hard days, weeks, even months. Yes, even the moms who say their children are perfect.
There are absolutely other moms going through the exact same stuff I am. And they are sharing about it. I might just have to look a little harder.
It’s important to share the good stuff too. It helps me feel more gratitude by getting me to focus on it more. I don’t have to always be solving a problem. I can enjoy my kids.
I find it’s easier to share the good stuff in a picture or a video. It’s really hard to put moments into words, for me. I hope to get better at that.
In sum, this motherhood thing is challenging AND rewarding and I wouldn’t trade my experience for anybody else’s. So I’ll practise gratitude between waves of problem-solving and I’ll let the useless comparisons go as much as I can.