I’ve been floundering through motherhood since the moment I got this gig, and I suspect most mamas feel the same. To me, motherhood is like walking through a strange, dark room trying to find the light. You stumble around aimlessly, your arms out like a zombie, praying you don’t hit your head or bang your knee on anything sharp. You feel all at once like a huge klutz and a complete a-hole, with a little irrational fear thrown into the mix. But then, when you find that light—a-ha! All is right in the world. You can conquer anything.
Raising kids is a game of the highest stakes. We all want to do the best job we possibly can and we push forward, even though we are faced with daily experiences that humble us, terrify us, break us down, or make us want to vomit.
Before having kids, few of us realize there is a complete identity shift that accompanies motherhood, and even still, we expect we will know exactly what to do and how to do it perfectly. Every mother I know feels the exact same way, yet few of us feel connected to or buoyed by the women around us experiencing the very same changes. So many of us wonder if we are getting this parenting thing right, and most of us don’t know where to turn for support.
Generations ago children were raised communally, and women relied on one another to thrive. But motherhood today is an increasingly isolating experience; we have lost the village that we so desperately need. And without acknowledging the truth—that motherhood is hard and messy and sometimes ugly—we isolate ourselves even more.
I wish someone would have told me the reality: that I would be constantly outsmarted and tested by a three-year-old, that I would never be able to run more than one errand at a time ever again, that I would be so exhausted I would try to open the front door with my key fob repeatedly, that I would spend countless midnight hours rocking a sick baby in a steamy bathroom, that I would bathe in projectile vomit and even projectile poo. That at every stage of my child’s growth there would be more questions, more sleepless nights, more learning curves.
And someone could have told me that despite all of it, I would be just fine. It would have been nice to know that the picture-perfect image of motherhood that we aspire to is nothing but an illusion.
The truth isn’t so scary. It’s pretty hilarious, actually. The imperfect moments are the ones worth remembering. They are the moments that make us laugh (eventually) and show us our true strength. They are the moments that bond us to other women. They remind us that we can, indeed, conquer anything…well, almost anything. There’s wine for the rest.
A few years ago I posted something adorable my kids did on Facebook, and a former colleague of mine that I haven’t spoken to in years left a comment. I heard she had been struggling: she was newly divorced, in between jobs, and trying to navigate her new life as a single mom. She said, “Man, your life looks so perfect.” And let me tell you, that comment stung me in a strange way.
I knew that she had the best intentions and that her sentiment was a kind one. But in that one-line Facebook comment, I could also feel her pain, her grief, and her frustration. Suddenly I was acutely aware of the fallacy of social media. My life is far from perfect—in fact, most of the time I’m just doing the best I can to get by. But of course, we only share our best moments with the world. Our social media profiles are highlight reels of our triumphs, full of warm-fuzzy feelings and the photos that most closely resemble the curated look of the ubiquitous Instagram mommy blogger. We don’t often share the truth about what lies beneath: a whole slew of mistakes from which we’ve learned, junk drawers we never clean, and epic meltdowns—both from our children and ourselves.
So I made a pact with myself that I would be honest. I would share the truth about my challenges, and when another mom was struggling, I wouldn’t judge. I would only say, “I hear you.”
Without being honest about the challenges we face, we can’t truly overcome them. So let’s agree to that. Let’s agree to be honest, and to recognize we are all doing the best we can. None of us really know what we are doing, and maybe it’s time we start sharing that truth. Motherhood, after all, is the ultimate Fake It ’Til You Make It.
Interested in what other moms think about motherhood?
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