It's Time Motherhood Got a Reality Check
I’m just going to get really real here for a minute.
I'm always flattered when someone tells me that I’m “such a good mom.”
But behind my humble “thank you,” I'm usually thinking, “You have no idea how frequently I most certainly do not feel like a 'good mom'.”
I say it’s time we change the conversation about what being a good mom really means.
I appreciate it when people see photos of activities I do with my kids or witness a positive parenting moment and recognize my efforts as a mom. But those times are only the highlight reel of our journey. Reality is not nearly as glamorous. I change loads of diapers, make snacks, get them dressed, clean up puke messes, wipe noses...
I don't post those things on Instagram and I receive no recognition for them.
In photo after photo we are smiling, happy, and active. But, I have days where I just can't shake being grumpy. I get frustrated at every little thing. I forget to take care of myself, feel rundown, and take it out on other people. I frown, complain, and disapprove. I have days when I just don't feel like doing anything.
So, what about those times? Am I only a “good mom” when I'm happy, energetic, peaceful, positive, and encouraging?
What about the times when I snap at my 4-year-old to 'just go play'?
When I can't reign in my frustration and slam a door instead of taking a deep breath?
When everything is just too much and my family feels helpless to stop my tears of overwhelm?
Those are the things that happen more often than I think we’d like to admit. And, I’m sure they happen to every cheery, smiling “good mom.”
I say it's time we turn the "good mom" status on its head and show our children what it means to be a good person instead. I'll sit with my vulnerability for a moment and share an example of how we do that.
The other night, triggered by normal, difficult preschooler behavior, lack of sleep, and too much caffeine throughout the day, I had a relapse of postpartum anxiety-fueled rage. This doesn’t happen often. But, when it does, it comes out of nowhere and I feel powerless to stop it.
There was yelling, crying, and door-slamming that frightened the entire family, including me.
After the storm subsided I just wanted to give up. My mind was swirling with self-loathing thoughts of the irrevocable emotional damage my mental illness, which is usually kept wrangled quietly within me, has caused my family.
I convinced myself I couldn’t quit.
I dried my tear-streaked face, managed a few deep breaths, and went to talk with my son. I gently rubbed his back and stroked his hair away from his face.
I found my courage.
I could choose to stay guilty and ashamed which wouldn't help anyone. Or I could be courageous enough to show that I am human, feelings are difficult to manage, and we all make mistakes. I needed to turn this scary situation into a valuable emotional intelligence lesson. I used my courage to tell my shame and guilt to shut up.
I kept my apology short and simple. "I'm so sorry I yelled. I was feeling really tired and angry. Sometimes when I'm angry I yell. I shouldn't do that. When I'm tired and angry it feels like my yelling button is broken and I can't turn it off. Next time I'll remember to take a break and a breath instead. I'm very sorry. I love you."
He seemed to understand, accepted that explanation, laid his head on his pillow, and settled into bed. I breathed a much-needed sigh of relief. I still felt terrible. But I was blessed with the reassurance that I was forgiven, so I was able to forgive myself. I rested in the hope that the positive actions I took would prevail in my son's mind over the negative situation by remembering this quote,
Do you have a 'keeping it real' motherhood moment? Share it in the #motherhoodunfiltered campaign courageously led by reproductive psychiatrists Dr. Alexandra Sacks and Dr. Catherine Birndorf.