The Negative Emotion-Guilt Complex: Mom Edition


Woah, I’ve been wanting/needing to write for a couple weeks now but between working two days a week & caring for an increasingly needy & grumpy baby there has simply been zero time for blogging.  I am desperately hoping I can get enough out in these few minutes while Rachel is sleeping to clear my mind & try to save my sanity.  Warning: this will definitely not be an eloquent post.  It will most likely just be word vomit.  But I’m not writing this for anyone else; I’m writing it to try to save myself from my own mind.

One thing I’ve learned very quickly about motherhood is that it makes your flaws become glaringly obvious- at least to yourself.  And I have long been aware that my greatest flaw is feeling guilty for any kind of “negative” emotion (e.g. frustration, sadness, jealousy, anger, etc).  I thought I had made a great deal of progress on this issue but being a mom has been made realize how much more work I have to do.  Furthermore, I swore up & down I wouldn’t let myself become a victim to “mom guilt” but damn if I am not just as vulnerable to it as everyone else!  mom guilt

The first six weeks of Rachel’s life were undoubtedly the most difficult to date.  But the past two to three weeks have also been extremely challenging, perhaps more so in some ways because I had gotten used to her being so happy most of the time.  Between teething & being in the middle of a huge developmental leap, Rachel has become extremely grouchy the past few weeks.  And because she naps so little these days I think that is making things even more difficult for her & thus for me as well.  Everyone tells me I’m so lucky that she has started sleeping through the night more often than not, but frankly things were much easier for me when she was waking up once or twice at night to eat but then napped more & was in a MUCH better mood during the day.  Besides, just because she is sleeping eight to ten hrs straight a lot of nights doesn’t mean I am.  I’m still getting up to pump, not to mention I’ve never been the kind of person who can sleep more than about five hrs straight anyway.  (Hell, even as a kid I remember waking up at least once or twice most nights.)  In any case I’d gladly sacrifice some sleep to have my happy baby back.  parents quote

Anyway, the point of all this is that I am really struggling right now.  For the first time in my life I am actually jealous of moms who work full time because they aren’t stuck at home with a screaming infant more than two or three days a week (not all day anyway).  And for the first time since giving birth I am truly missing my pre-mom life.  By no means do I regret becoming a mom of course, but at the same time I do miss the freedom I had to go out & do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted (within reason of course).  I knew I was going to lose that when I became a mom but honestly I didn’t start missing that freedom until these past few weeks when Rachel has become so grumpy that even going to the grocery store has become a serious challenge.  Not to mention I miss my alone time when no one needed anything from me.  It’s so hard being needed ALL the time . . . empty cup

Here’s the thing: Rachel has in many ways been a pretty “easy” baby.  Once she got over the ridiculous cluster feeding she did for much of the first six weeks, she has been, all things considered, a pretty happy, “simple” baby.  And compared to some babies, maybe she still is.  But see, half my problem is that I’m constantly feeling guilty for being frustrated because I know that “so many women have it worse.”  In case it isn’t obvious, this leads to a serious boatload of guilt because I’m constantly feeling guilty for “complaining” or feeling overwhelmed when I know that others are facing “bigger” struggles.negative-emotion-motivates-change-dan-rockwell

But the truth of the matter is there are no easy babies!  As a dear & wise friend said to me today “Someone basically handed you a tiny stranger & said ‘Here you go; she can’t communicate either but good luck figuring out everything she needs while you have no time for yourself & are coming to the end of your rapidly fraying rope.'”  Amen!  Furthermore, constantly telling myself I should be grateful because others “have it worse” is incredibly unhealthy.  I thought I’d matured enough to realize that there are no negative emotions:  there are just emotions & then there’s what we do with them, the latter being what really matters.  But apparently I am still struggling with this as much as ever.  The truth is, especially as new moms, we can & do experience a multitude of emotions all at once.  And it’s ok to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, & jealous while also being grateful & in love with the tiny human you’ve created.  In fact it’s not just ok, it’s NORMAL.pema chodron quote 2

It also occurred to me today that I’m doing something that almost no one in my family has ever done.  I’m living in an urban area & one that is several hours away from my family as well as my husband’s family- & trying to raise a baby to boot!  To be clear, I’m not saying I’m better than my family because of this, not at all.  I’m just saying raising a baby is never easy but it’s probably even harder when you don’t have anyone who is “obligated” to help you who is close by & can babysit for you or just help out on a regular basis, even just for 20 minutes so you can clear your mind.  That being said, I am very glad to live where we do & to raise Rachel in a different environment than that in which we were raised, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its own unique challenges.  guilt

It has also occurred to me lately that my husband & I haven’t had any true alone time together (as in away from the baby) since Rachel was born other than a quick trip to Target when she was a few days old & my parents were in town.  And that hardly counts!  Not to mention the amount of true alone time I have had is incredibly small.  And as an introvert alone time is not just precious to me, it’s crucial.  So no wonder I’m feeling a bit frazzled!pinterest mom

One of my friends in college told me several times that I’d make a great Jewish mother because I always had so much guilt, most of which was completely baseless.  Unfortunately he was right, & unfortunately I haven’t made as much progress on this issue as I thought I had.  However, my hope is that writing all of this will help me to remember that whatever I’m feeling right now is valid.  Just because my situation is “easier” than some others doesn’t mean it’s easy.  And it’s ok for me to be frustrated & tired & even angry sometimes.  In reality I’ll be a much better mom if I can just be honest about how I’m feeling & stop feeling guilty about it.  Because as long as I’m constantly stuck in a quagmire of guilt, I’m not actually processing my emotions– & that’s a recipe for disaster.  And I’ll be damned if my daughter grows up to feel guilty for every so-called “negative” emotion she experiences!  So that means I need to stop this guilt train right now & just admit that this stage is hard but that doesn’t make me a bad mom or a bad person.  It just makes me a human being. kidney stone

Anyway, I’ve written all that to say this: I’m in over my head.  But I’m doing the best I can & I know this phase Rachel is going through right now is exactly that: it’s a phase which means, by definition, it will pass.  I’m reminded of the phrase “It may pass painfully like a kidney stone but it will pass.”

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