Thursday, September 1, 2016

When Motherhood is Lonely

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Motherhood is isolating.

Amidst the laughter, toothless smiles, and sticky, sweet fingers, there is a loneliness that pervades and snatches a bit of the sunshine.  So often a thankless job, we get paid in boogery kisses, paint smeared on papers, and meals devoured for their yumminess.

The creation of motherhood is trying. Opening our hearts for a child, whether it be our first or our sixth is an easy task.  But there are the anxious, gnawing questions that invade our minds and rattle our confidence. "Will I be a good mother?"  "What if I mess this child up?" "Can I really do this?" No one talks about the anxiety and stress that can overcome mothers-to-be. 

When our child is born, our lives cease to be just ours in a way that is unique from our partners. As mothers, we look into those little eyes and think, "You are my world." And we are theirs. And for those first few months of life, our care is their shelter from harm. Daddies can help, but sometimes Momma is the only one who'll do. And in those moments, we are alone... the sun in their universe. Despite the fatigue, the postpartum depression, the feeling of being touched out, we submit ourselves to serving these tiny humans.

We are surrounded by people who offer advice on childrearing. It's often ancient and doesn't align with our parenting perspectives. We have to learn the dismissive smile-and-nod to these unsolicited helpers who want to know whether or not we have a "good baby" who feeds on schedule and sleeps through the night in his/her crib. I want to rent a billboard that confronts these untruths. It's okay if your baby doesn't sleep through the night. It's okay to feed on demand. It's okay to bed share with your baby (following safe sleep guidelines). These unrealistic, socially sanctified milestones only serve to make us feel as though we are failing as mothers, that listening to that womanly voice inside of us is wrong.  They make us question whether or not we are doing right by our children.

And then, the babies grow.  They spread their wings and go out into the world to start preschool or kindergarten and we are left with handprints on the wall, dirty breakfast dishes in the sink, and a stillness in the house that is maddening.  We have to struggle to redefine ourselves from being constant caregivers, to being simple shepherds.

Motherhood is isolating.

Regardless of our children's ages, there's a force constantly pressing down on us as we weigh the effects of our every word and action on their little worlds.  The question changes from, "Will I screw my child up?" to "Just *how much* will I screw my child up?"  We live in the era of mommy-shaming where you have to selflessly do it all with no complaints or acknowledgment of the mental burden that comes with being a mother. Why can't we be real? Why can't we admit that sometimes we yell at our kids or are too short with them because the pressure is just. too. much?

I blame social media. We put our best foot forward, posting cute Back to School pictures and updates when our children do something we consider amazing.  But we don't post after we've had to haul them out of Target because of a tantrum. Or when the dinner we worked hard on is slid to the floor in a sign of disapproval by our toddler.  Or when it's the end of the day, we're on empty, and just not sure how we're going to get through tomorrow.  No. Most of us don't.  Because what would people think?  I'm not being sanctimonious... I do it, too. We hide these real and raw events because the world has made us believe that anything less than perfection in parenting is failure.

Motherhood is isolating.

It's not as easy to make friends as it was when we were young and it only mattered that we both liked the color pink and the New Kids on the Block. Differing views on hot topics like breastfeeding, cry it out, cosleeping, and vaccinations, (just to name a few) have served to be divisive amongst the mommying community. It's hard to make friends as a grown up. Is someone is being friendly because they're honestly interested in building a relationship or are they just being polite.  How do you know?

So what we're often left with are superficial relationships through mom groups, library story times, and playdates. We don't want to be the one who is always complaining about the woes of motherhood. Let's face it: we are all battling our own personal demons, be it behavioral/emotional problems, sleep issues, allergies, unsupportive spouses, maternal mental health problems, learning disabilities... The list goes on and on. But there comes a point where *not* talking about these struggles maroons us on an island and we begin to question whether or not we are the only ones dealing with issues.

And I refuse to stay silent and be embarrassed about these struggles any longer. 
Motherhood is not a freaking Norman Rockwell painting. It's messy, and scary, and full of more decisions than we ever imagined.

Which takes me back to my original statement.

Motherhood is isolating.

So do we have to go it alone? My answer is no, we shouldn't have to. But that means we have to start being real, and raw, and talking about the big freaking elephant in the room. We have to be courageous enough to share our motherhood experiences unfiltered. We have to reach out to other mothers that we see might be struggling.  We have to be honest with ourselves and with society and end the stigma that mothers face when they talk about the struggles they face in parenting. 

Be brave. Be nice. Be real.  You aren't alone...

Sidenote: I'm going to share my #isolatedmom moments on Instagram and Twitter as I experience them.  Some of them might seem silly or trivial.  But they're real moments that make me feel alone in mothering.  I challenge you to join me... Let's build a community of moms that support each other through the daily challenges we face. Love to you all.

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