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.”

The Reality of Mom Life


This blog post has been two days in the making.  Actually longer than that because I came down with the stomach bug from HELL this weekend & am just today feeling more or less like a normal human being again.  I would seriously take pneumonia or the real flu (you know, the respiratory one) over the stomach bug ANY day of the week.  I know some people say “But the flu lasts a week; the stomach bug is just 24-48 hrs.”  HA!  Maybe for some folks but for me it’s always taken 3-4 days minimum to truly recover from a stomach bug, & it was MUCH harder this time because I was breastfeeding & caring for a 12 week old baby the entire time.  Thank goodness for my husband for helping to care for me & Rachel & for my parents for coming down on Monday to help me when my husband had to go back to work.  It’s been my nightmare ever since Rachel was born that I would come down with a stomach bug.  Well, it happened.  And it sucked.  Royally.  But I lived to tell the story.  Which brings me to the point of this post.Lavendar hanging from an old vintage door, room for copy space

Motherhood is a lot of things.  At moments it is the most glorious, wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced.  At other times it’s so incredibly hard that I wonder what I was thinking getting into this.  The good news is, as the weeks have passed, the former moments far outweigh the latter moments.  And I’ve learned that I am SO MUCH STRONGER than I ever thought possible.  So in honor of that I thought I’d post some of the realities of being a mom, at least for me, many of which are really quite humorous.  If you’re a mom I think you’ll find yourself smiling & nodding along.  If you’re not, hopefully this post will make you want to join the club.  Or not; that’s a totally acceptable choice as well!motherhood-quote

(FYI, I used feminine pronouns throughout this post simply because my baby is a girl so it was just easier for me that way . . . Also, this post is most applicable to moms with infants.  As I only have one child myself, who is just 12 weeks old, I obviously can’t yet speak to motherhood beyond this point.)

Being a mom means . . .

  • Learning to do almost anything & everything one-handed.  This includes cooking, cleaning, using the bathroom, signing for pizza delivery, texting, typing, etc, etc.  The list could go on forever!
  • As soon as you finish laundry for the day the baby will have a poop-splosion (i.e. an explosion of poop) that soils her entire outfit & possibly yours as well.  So then you have to decide if you want to hand-wash everything or run the washing machine for just a handful of items.  Usually I go with the former & figure I’m getting a taste of what motherhood must have been like for my great-grandmothers in the days before washing machines.
  • As soon as you take the burp rag away thinking for sure the baby won’t spit up on you, that is the exact moment the baby will spit up on you.motherhood not for sissies
  • As soon as you change the baby’s diaper, get her outfit on her, & put her down for a nap or to play in her bouncy seat, that is exactly when she will have yet another poop.  Babies are not economical or efficient.  But they are born with a sarcastic streak, I swear!  I know mine has one . . . But then again, how could she not with parents like me & my husband?
  • Googling everything under the sun at all hours of night & day, scouring the interwebs for any sign that whatever “strange” or annoying thing your baby is doing is normal . . . or for how in the world to make her STOP CRYING?!
  • And eventually figuring out that, despite all of your doubts, you really are the expert on your own child.  After a while you recognize patterns & pick up on cues that in the early days were all just a mysterious blur.  And when you realize how far you’ve come you feel like a TOTAL ROCK STAR.  And you are!!motherhood grocery store
  • Never eating a full meal in one sitting (or at least very rarely) because the baby always needs something as soon as you sit down to eat.  You soon get used to either eating cold food or reheating things a bunch of times.
  • Taking the fastest showers of your life because you’re scared to death the baby will explode while she’s out of your sight . . . until you realize she actually won’t & you WILL hear her crying over the sound of the water . . . So then you start taking longer & longer showers just to have some time to yourself.
  • Making up excuses to drive places just because the baby loves her carseat & takes some of her best naps while you’re in the car.
  • Loving & appreciating your own mom more than ever because you realize just how amazing she truly is.daughter quote
  • Feeling a sudden, however slight, connection to every mom you meet just because you know you share so many of the same daily struggles & delights.
  • Being willing to make career changes you never considered before becoming a mom.  For some this means becoming a stay at home mom.  For others it means changing careers completely or going part time.  For me it has meant leaving hospital nursing to pursue part time clinic work. (I was originally planning to go back to the hospital part time but decided the schedule as well as the hectic, often stressful shifts there just didn’t fit with my priorities anymore.  That’s a whole other blog post that I’ll get around to writing eventually.)
  • Experiencing a love like you’ve never experienced before.  It really is indescribable.birth-of-mother
  • Loving (& often missing) sleep more than ever.  I’ve almost always been wise enough to choose sleep over housework or any other task when I know I really need sleep . . . And I know I’m saner for it.  Trust me, if you have any doubt, the best choice is always sleep.  Husbands, moms, dads, & friends can all help with housework or caring for the baby.  But none of them can sleep for you.
  • Learning to love your body for what it can DO as well as how it looks.  It means learning to embrace your “flaws” & knowing that even if your stomach is never quite as flat again (Who am I kidding?  Mine was never super flat anyway.) & even if the stretch marks never fully fade away, you’d still choose your precious child over your old body a thousand times over.
  • Learning to give yourself a lot of grace.  I learned very fast that there were certain things I just wasn’t going to be able to do as a mom, at least as a new mom.  For example, using cloth diapers is just not going to happen any time soon.  I need my sanity, & there is no way I could handle all the work that comes with cloth diapering & stay sane right now.  It also means learning to forgive yourself when you find yourself getting frustrated & angry with your own child sometimes.  We have to learn that none of us is perfect & we all have our less than stellar moments, but it’s all just part of the journey.children-work-quote
  • You can’t watch/read the news without feeling like your heart is going to break.  Every tragedy in the world is suddenly magnified a thousand times because you realize that was someone’s BABY who was hurt/killed.  So, if you’re like me, you decide to filter most news through your husband & friends & otherwise be the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.
  • Every time you start to think about having another baby in the future, something happens & you’re convinced there is no way you could ever handle more than one child.  At least not for another 3 or 4 years.  But then you worry that if you separate your kids that much they won’t be “close.”  But then you remember that having them close together in no way guarantees that they will be close to each other, just as having them further apart in no way guarantees they WON’T be.  Basically when it comes to having kids there are no guarantees.  Ever.  Which brings me to my final point . . .
  • Being a mom means learning to laugh at the chaos, to “roll with the punches,” to take whatever life throws at you & find a way to not only survive but thrive.  As I said at the beginning, being a mom means learning that no matter how hard things get, you somehow find the strength to keep on trucking because you are SO MUCH STRONGER than you ever thought possible.

    'Hey, half my chromosomes are YOURS, you know.'

    Considering my husband is a geneticist by trade, our daughter may very well say this to us someday.  Ha!