Breathe. Just take a deep breath and you’ll feel better. Things will get better. It really isn’t that big of a deal. Don’t worry, everything is fine.
I feel like I say these things to myself a lot…and I’ve been saying them for the past 10 months. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son more than anything. He is the best. His smile lights up the world, his snuggles melt my heart, and his innocence gives me hope in humanity. But some days, it’s hard. In the beginning, there were more hard days, and it definitely has gotten easier as the little guy has gotten older, but some days are still hard.
I work part time, four 8-hour shifts a week with an hour lunch to break it up, plus an occasional Saturday and an hour-long exercise class each week. Each work day I try to wake up at 6 am to get myself ready, put together the diaper bag and my pump, pack a lunch, get the little guy up (if he doesn’t wake up on his own), get him ready, bring him to the sitter’s, and then be to work by 8am. Living less than 10 minutes away from my place of employment, this sounds like it would be plenty of time, but each morning is a struggle. I’m so tired when my alarm goes off, I’m lucky to pull myself out by 6:30. If baby wakes up early, that means fighting through two diaper changes (he just can’t lay still on his back), feeding him breakfast, and multiple nursing sessions since he gets so distracted with everything in the morning. If my husband is awake and helping (which is probably a little over half the time), there’s miscommunication about what the diaper bag needs and he makes me a wonderful big breakfast that I don’t really have time to eat. If it’s the other time, when he isn’t awake, I’m struggling to get things together on my own, cursing myself for choosing to go to bed a little early over getting things ready the night before, and quickly putting something together that I can eat for breakfast at my desk at work. And of course dropping the little guy at the sitter’s isn’t a quick pit stop either. It’s either one of his grandma’s or my friend’s daycare, and there’s always chit-chatting, unpacking the cooler, letting them know how much milk and what solids he has for the day and when he last ate and had his last diaper change. After all that, I get to work about 15 minutes late. Only 10 if I’m lucky, but some days it’s 20. Then that means I have to stay late to make up my time, or I could take a shorter lunch, but that doesn’t work because I go nurse him on my lunch hour, and transport him back home if my husband is taking him for the afternoon or to a different sitter sometimes. I often find myself coming back from lunch break late, again, and with lunch to eat at my desk because I didn’t get to eat.
(And yes, I work. I’m not a stay-at-home mom. And I may have the opportunity to work full time in the future, which means health benefits for my family, but an extra day away, too. Does it make me a bad mom if I went full time? Does it make me a bad mom if I don’t?)
Mornings before my exercise class are the same hectic scenes, only I bring baby with me to the Kid Zone while I teach, but I’m still 10 minutes late no matter how hard I try. At least the ladies that come to my class don’t mind.
And then there’s the unexpected things, like getting a terrible stomach bug earlier this month which destroyed my plentiful milk supply. I spent two weeks with either my son or my pump attached to my boobs and drank so much water I was dangerously close to having a pee accident every hour. (My pelvic floor still isn’t the same as it was.) Rebuilding my supply has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had in my life.
I’ve gone out once, for my work’s Christmas party. I believe I can count the number of times I’ve been out to meet with friends, without my baby, on one hand. Yes, one hand. Just five times, and two of those times were work related (Christmas party and department gift exchange). One was to make homemade laundry soap. Does that count as “meeting up with friends”? I feel guilty if I even ask to go out. I asked my husband once if he could take the little guy one night so I could go to the gift exchange, and although I’m sure he didn’t mean to offend, I will never forget his response. “I just thought you’d want to see him.” Of course I want to see my little boy! I look forward to seeing him every day after work! But that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t like to hang out with some of my co-workers to have fun for a little bit, even if I was half zombie-like with terribly bloodshot eyes from being so tired at the end of the day.
Can I see my friends, too? Do I still get to have a life as Kristen, or now is my life just fulfilling designated mom duties? I’d just like some time to myself, but am I being selfish? Am I going to regret writing this blog post, publicly acknowledging that I find motherhood challenging and hard?
I’m still breastfeeding, and plan to for quite awhile yet, but my son still isn’t sleeping through the night. He wakes up at least once every three hours to eat, sometimes more, and of course I am the one who gets up with him. I haven’t had a solid night of sleep in so long. Maybe I’m just overtired…
I’m so tired that I’ve mixed up the brake and gas pedal. I used to read stories of people who did that, and always thought, “How could you do something like that? How could you mix up the pedals?” Well, I did it, while I was going to park. I slammed on the brake pedal for real when the car began to accelerate onto the sidewalk in front of the parking spot. I was so mortified and just started to cry. I’ve noticed a steady increase in the number of stupid mistakes I make due to being tired, but that one tops them all.
I tried reaching out to a fellow mother before when I was having a particularly stressful day. She responded back with “babies take 100%,” which left me feeling even worse. I felt like I was being told motherhood was too much for me and I couldn’t handle it.
But I love my baby and I love being a mother. And I was so relieved to talk to a co-worker who also felt mental exhaustion from motherhood. And I know we’re not the only two. There’s more of us out there. Mothers who love being mothers, but also feel overwhelmed. I just want to do what is best for my baby and keep my sanity. I don’t want to feel alone and judged. I want to feel loved and supported. It just gets to be too much when you go for too long without feeling the latter. Then you lash out and get angry. You say things to your spouse that you regret, and these things just make it worse. I try to express to my husband how I’m feeling. He tells me to stop being so hard on myself and reminds me that our baby loves me and tells me that I’m doing a great job, and it helps…sometimes. The biggest help comes from talking to other mothers, and letting myself be available for other mothers when they need help, too.
I’ve always had high anxiety when I have a lot of my plate. Which is why I find it so surprising that a majority of people think I am really calm. College was really stressful for me, finding the balance between school, work, relationships, and me-time. I remember crying my eyes out multiple times because of the stress, and now I’m back in those shoes. I find myself pulled in multiple directions, going by everyone’s schedule but my own, like I’ve lost control of my own life, and I don’t like that feeling. It’s like I have “one of those days” where things just don’t go right for a week straight at a time. And then I wonder, is it normal that I’m feeling this way? Is this postpartum depression? Wouldn’t it already happened by now if I were to have it? Won’t I just get over it? Am I just not seeing that the good days outnumber the bad because I’ve been having an extra rough month? Am I still okay? Will I feel better in the morning? Is it just all in my head? Is the problem just me? Do I need to re-prioritize my life and how I see and do things? Should I just accept that certain things are the way they are and that’s it? Do I just need to find my balance? Will I find it?
It’s all so hard to say, so hard to explain, and I find that people can be so quick to judge and make accusations. So I guess I’ll end with a list of links to posts or other things that I have found encouraging.