Friends, it has been a long week. Our little giraffe trio just returned from a week in South Lake Tahoe. I'd call it a "vacation," but as any parents of young children know, any trip with small kids is not a vacation at all. It was wonderful, but also EXHAUSTING. Traveling with a toddler is like babysitting your own child. Our 6 days of nonstop togetherness reminded me in no uncertain terms why I am not a stay-at-home mom.
And while it was wonderful and soul-filling to be with family--and to be in the most beautiful place on earth--a lot of the time I found myself in a big funk. You see, Mother's Day was approaching and I just wasn't feeling it. Here's my truth: I wasn't feeling all that excited about being a mother. Instead, I felt a lot of other things.
I felt exhausted. I spent our "vacation" on constant high alert, making sure my child was safe as he free-ranged around our rental house. Making sure he wasn't stressing anyone else out with his constant movement/activity. Making sure his major meltdowns weren't ruining anyone else's vacation. Motherhood drained me this week - and I wasn't even doing it on my own. My husband was there. My family was there. It was still exhausting.
I felt broken. O entered a phase where dad is THE BEST THING EVER and I am incidental at best. Last week he would push me away. He would cry "Mama! Mama!" constantly, referring to J.He would have massive major meltdowns and I could do nothing to soothe -- in fact, I was usually the cause. I would have to completely walk away, because those moments would take be back to those dark, deep places of despair and desperation, helplessness and anger, reminiscent of the first months after he was born. My inability to mother broke me this week.
I felt disconnected. There were times last week when I looked at my child and felt nothing. Indifference. An inability to access feelings of affection or tenderness. At all. It was like my heart shut down and my brain said, "Fine. I don't want anything to do with you, either."
I felt guilty, because what kind of a mother feels these things? What kind of a mother dreads Mother's Day not because of infertility or loss, but because of motherhood itself?
Friends, here's the biggest truth I've shared so far: all of these feelings are okay. Natural. Totally normal. But no one talks about them because we have been conditioned to only share the good things. We only see the happy posts on Facebook. We only share the smiling pictures on Instagram. Because of this, our expectations for motherhood are completely warped.
Our expectations have become almost entirely influenced by what other mothers want us to see, not what other mothers are actually experiencing. By what we see on Facebook or Instagram. By the blog posts we read. By the moms group we attend. I don't know about you, but I have found that most of what is shared in these places is not an accurate reflection of real life. These are places moms go to pretend life is good. To try to look good in front of other moms. To lie to themselves that everything is actually wonderful, when in reality it's probably a little bit awful, but totally normal.
So when a mom such as myself looks around in the depths of despair amidst a giant sea of smiling babies and perfectly put-together moms, the temptation is there to think, "What is wrong with me?"
The answer, of course, is nothing. There is nothing wrong with me. What's wrong is the cultural trend to only be allowed to give voice to the idealized methods/experiences/elements of parenthood. Friends, this is not healthy. This is not okay.
Because when you're only told about one way of feeling/doing things, you are completely unprepared for the reality of life, which is: there is no one right way of doing, there is no one right way of feeling. Life unfolds in a myriad of ways, and the more sheltered you are - the more focused you are on staying in that one, narrow lane - the more shell-shocked and rocked your world will be when you are forced out of your lane.
Because you will be forced out of your lane of preconceived notions and expectations.
So anyway, back to Mother's Day. Talk about a day of expectations. Moms are expected to be happy. To smile. To gush about how grateful they are to be a mom. To talk about how blessed they are by their children. Cards are pink and sentimental. Gifts are supposed to be chocolaty and floral.
There's no card to acknowledge the truth that motherhood is not always pink and flowery and happy.There's no ad for gifts that tell the truth that motherhood can also be lonely and infuriating and exhausting and miserable. Even when it's going well. But it's okay to talk about these things, to give voice to this side of being a mom. It's okay to say, "This shit is hard and I'm exhausted and I feel broken."
If you're feeling less than enthusiastic about motherhood this week, know that you are not alone. It is okay. It doesn't mean you don't love your kid(s). It doesn't mean you are a bad mom. It means that you are, well, a mom. Don't feel bad about not being excited about this one "Mother's Day" - every day is freaking mother's day. Every damn day.
So crack open a wine cube from Target. Say "F$&@ that" to all the crap that doesn't serve you. Ignore all the posts on Facebook about how blessed your friends feel to be a mom. Watch the new trailer for "Bad Moms." Go do something all by yourself.
The thing about my feelings this week is that I know they are just feelings. Big ones, yes, but feelings nonetheless. Feelings are just indicator lights. Mine lights turn off when I've acknowledged them and addressed the problems. It was a hard week, yes. But everything is a phase. O will eventually realize that dad is not all that great and that I am the best thing since no-spill sippy cups. (I kid. His dad really is the best.) O will go back to day care and I will go back to work and we will actually miss each other. The world will right itself in time.
But today I sip my warm lemon water (just doesn't have the same ring to it as "coffee") in my new Lake Tahoe mug, looking out my living room window, sending prayers of solidarity to all the moms out there. Especially the ones who just aren't feeling it today.