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Motherhood Expectations

Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After cradles her daughter Marlowe on the floor of their new home in Connecticut

I have long maintained that the steepest barrier to entry when it comes to enjoying our role as Moms actually comes from within– and has a lot to do with expectations of what Motherhood should be, or how we are as a Mother.  Whether or not we are aware, I really believe that as women we come in to Motherhood with a whole set of beliefs or assumptions about what it will be like, feel like, look like– and who the ideal Mother is.  With Mother’s Day right around the corner, and those pressures at the forefront of people’s minds right now, it’s made me feel like sharing my own experience with Motherhood expectations, as well as how my husband’s expectations of my role as a Mom really played in to a lot of our relationship issues as we got used to new Parenthood.  As always, I feel that the best way to tackle big parenthood concepts is to hear a lot of different viewpoints to complete a greater picture– so I’m so happy that today our Mom Talk community is tackling this topic! You will hear my own story below, but make sure to scroll down to the bottom of my post afterwards to see what some other bloggers I love have to say about these same dynamics.  Spoiler Alert: There Ain’t No MomBoss Without Some Tricky Motherhood Expectation Issues.  LOL. 

Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After plays with her kids Marlowe and Major on the floor of their new home in Connecticut

So, I’ll start by saying that being a Mom was always a topmost priority for me.  If you ask my friends from High School, they will all tell you that I talked about how important it was for me to be a Mom one day all the way back then.  I always knew it was something I wanted to do, and that I really wanted to do it well.  I dreamed of having a big family, with four kids, and envisioned working at a fun, creative job that I adored while also having a tidy and chic home, sweet children who were also funny and smart and well-behaved, and a home life that always worked itself around everything I was doing.  I mean why COULDN’T I be Wonder Woman if I wanted to be?! Easy! LOLLLLLLLL.  I knew to expect compromise from my future relationship with the future husband I hadn’t met yet, but I never ever conceived of a world in which I would have to compromise when it came to Motherhood.  I figured that I could make happen whatever dynamic I wanted to make happen.  I’m a pretty Type A personality (and the sky is blue by the way), so I always assumed that the effort I put in to Motherhood would work itself back to me, and that nothing was impossible if I put my mind to it.  

Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After lies on the floor of her new house in Connecticut while her kids Marlowe and Major gaze into an unhung wall mirror

As somebody with Anxiety, I also expected that my biggest obstacle as a Mom was going to be my anxiety surrounding my kids.  That I would have the hardest time contending with my desire to just keep my kids in a bubble at all times.  I also expected that as a working Mom, it would be super easy to co-parent with my future husband, that we would split the parenthood responsibilities 50/50 and that our biggest issues would be finding alone time to spend romantic time together.  I couldn’t have been more wrong about all of these things!

Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After plays with her kids Marlowe and Major on the floor of their new home in Connecticut

From the moment I became a Mama, the one thing I realized the most strongly was that this long journey was going to be an experiment in letting go.  From everything to mystery rashes, eczema, acid reflux, strange sleep patterns, breastfeeding ups and downs– Motherhood quickly taught me that there is no way to control what is going to happen with our children, and that surrender is the first step towards actually finding a solution. Go figure.  I also didn’t expect that the beginning of Motherhood would be… kind of boring.  I wrote a post about this already (read it if you are feeling the same) but the cultural billboard of early Motherhood as “the happiest days of your life” really effed with my perception of myself as a Mother.  It took me a long time to realize that loving differing stages of Motherhood is ok– and part of what makes each one of us Moms unique.  And that it didn’t make me a bad Mother if breastfeeding around the clock made me feel a little trapped and frustrated.  

Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After plays with her kids Marlowe and Major on the floor of their new home in Connecticut

Another shocker? The conflict that a preconceived notion of the Mom Role would cause in my marriage.  My husband grew up with four siblings and a stay at home Mom who ran the show.  His Dad earned the money, and his Mom raised the kids, pure and simple.  As many times as Kyle and I had talked about kids from the dating stages of our relationship (and as much as I had drilled home that I always planned on being a working Mom) it took him literal YEARS (and lots of therapy) to really internalize what that meant.  For a long time in our relationship, he just expected me to pick up whatever slack needed to be picked up when it came to the home and to the kids.  And it was mostly totally subconscious.  Rolling over and going back to sleep when the baby woke up screaming for a bottle, when somebody had an ear infection and needed tending to, when our childcare cancelled or an appointment needed to be made.  I ended up having to do it all.  And my full time job.  

Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After lies on the floor of her new house in Connecticut while her kids Marlowe and Major gaze into an unhung wall mirror

And this made me so resentful that it really ended up poisoning our relationship for several years.  Every interaction I had with him had the glow of that resentment in the background of my heart.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was hard for me to confront him about how I was feeling because in many ways I felt ashamed of my drive and desire to work.  I had told myself that of course I could be the MomBoss of my dreams and also have great relationships with my kids– but I didn’t truly believe it.  It wasn’t until we started working on these issues in therapy– separately and together– that we realized how much of our identities as parents were effected by our experiences as kids, our insecurities or fears, and our lack of communication.  This dynamic had led to our biggest fights as a couple, and our deepest misunderstandings.  I would tell any couple wanting to have children together to REALLY REALLY REALLY discuss your expectations of parenthood, division of responsibility, and your own childhoods in the greatest detail before you take that next step.  The more understanding you have of one another, the greater your relationship can be as parents, friends, and partners!

Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After plays with her kids Marlowe and Major on the floor of their new home in Connecticut

On the other hand, my greatest fear of being an “anxious Mom”, didn’t even end up being an issue.  As it turns out, my natural instincts went towards being more of a goofy Mom, weirdly.  LOL. Save from my stint with Postpartum Anxiety after Major’s accident, Mom-centric anxiety has been the least of my issues.  I’m always telling my kids that they’re ok, to dust themselves off, and that a piece of food is still good if it’s only been on the floor for five seconds.  LOL. I’ve definitely walked through the fire in terms of my kids getting every virus, bug, and contagious preschool affliction possible– and come out the other side stronger and more seasoned.  Even if slightly battered! I still let them snuggle when one isn’t feeling well.  The virus will pass, but the bond they are fostering may not have endless opportunities– if they want to be loving with each other, I always let them. 

Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After plays with her kids Marlowe and Major on the floor of their new home in Connecticut

So what do I struggle with? Patience, time management, compartmentalizing my stress, the work/life balance.  Things I thought would be the easiest.  I’m almost five years in to my Motherhood journey, and I work a little harder every day at letting go of the expectations I place on myself as a Mom and towards accepting myself for exactly the Mom I am.  I wish I had spent my time before kids cultivating more self acceptance, a good self care routine, and more complex communication skills– instead of fixating on what Motherhood would be like.  At the end of the day, the birth of a child didn’t automatically change me in to a new perfect person.  I took my baggage with me in to my new role, as most of us do.  And it ended up coloring my experience as a Mom for many years.  I share this because I think it’s important to acknowledge that we all have our strengths and weaknesses as parents– and our preconceived notions of who we will be as parents, who our partners will be as parents, and even what our precious children will be like. It’s natural to have expectations, of course, but I really do think the beauty of the parenthood journey lies in having to constantly reevaluate, to grow, and to change.  

Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After plays with her kids Marlowe and Major on the floor of their new home in Connecticut

My relationship is far from perfect, my kids are far from perfect, and as a Mom I’m far from perfect.  I’m not an expert, and I don’t have all the answers.  But I think that’s where the self-love starts: dropping the need to have the answers and just living the experience.  At least I hope so! I’m curious if your expectations of motherhood were very different than your experience and if that created obstacles for you.  Please share in the Comments below!

Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After cradles her daughter Marlowe on the floor of their new home in Connecticut

Don’t forget to read pieces from the other bloggers participating in the Mom Talk:

*Lemon Stripes*

*Danielle Moss

*Isn’t That Charming

Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After plays with her kids Marlowe and Major on the floor of their new home in Connecticut
Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After cradles her daughter Marlowe on the floor of their new home in Connecticut
Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After lies on the floor of her new house in Connecticut while her kids Marlowe and Major gaze into an unhung wall mirror

Photographs by Julia Dags

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25 Comments

  1. Dami says:

    This was a really great post Eva! You and I could not be any more different in terms of our backgrounds and cultural upbringing, but this article really resonates with me. No one is taught how to be a good wife or mother, we have to learn as we go along. It is easier if you have a partner that is also willing to learn with you. One thing I have learned from your blog is that as women, some struggles are universal, and knowing that you are not alone, makes it easier to push on.

    05.08.19 Reply
  2. I feel like you’re in my brain saying almost all the words I have felt over the last many years as a hard working, ambitious, and fairly impatient mom. My husband was raised in a similar way and is the youngest. In the beginning of our relationship it was fun to follow him around the country as he moved from one pro soccer team to the next, but as I “grew up” and into my career this felt less fun. Once we had kids I could see the dynamic changing as you described AND you’re so so spot on about the subconscious nature of the way some men don’t see the imbalance of responsibility, stress and pressure of parenting. He was always traveling, coaching, recruiting and these are not 9-5 hours. It took me a very long time to tell him how much I resented this pattern, and only after we treated each other pretty bad for a while (after all when you’re in the thick of having a baby and a toddler you literally have no more energy to give). Anyway, I could literally go on forever but just want to say “I’m with you and I hear you completely” and I’m so glad you’re at a more comfortable and peaceful place. Thanks for sharing!!!

    05.08.19 Reply
    • so normal and natural to feel all these things. And so important to acknowledge them in order to heal!

      05.09.19 Reply
  3. Katie says:

    Yes to all of this! In the beginning stages of motherhood I felt like my whole world had done a 360 and my husband’s maybe a weak 180 😂 When something new arose with the baby, he (subconsciously) always looked to me to be the expert because I was the ‘Mother’ and these things should be ingrained in our systems. Now that our babies are three and one we both feel much more confident in our roles which have become more balanced. I always tell my new mom friends, throw out your expectations and it will fall into place!

    05.08.19 Reply
    • “A weak 180” LOLOLOL! So true.

      Also fyi, things got SO much easier for me when my youngest turned two

      05.09.19 Reply
  4. Emily says:

    LOVED this post! I can absolutely relate and identify with all you said, especially dropping the need to have all the answers. Such a great lesson and one that I still work on every day! xx
    Isn’t That Charming.

    05.08.19 Reply
  5. Maren Sullivan says:

    Yesss! So much of motherhood is embracing uncertainty and letting go 🙂 And absolutely connecting with how your own childhood experiences play into your expectations… I love Brene Brown’s communication tool for relationships “the story I’m telling myself is…”, really helps understand one another. Thanks for a great post!

    05.08.19 Reply
    • I need to watch the brene brown documentary! My friends all loved it!

      05.09.19 Reply
  6. Brooke says:

    It truly feels heartwarming to read of other mamas struggles.. to know you aren’t alone means so much! Especially for those that appear to have it all behind those beautiful square photos on Instagram. Thank you for sharing your story like you do and keeping it real! I am living some of those struggles now.. and some days are so very hard. I hope to get it all worked out and come out stronger than ever for myself, as a mother and in my marriage! All my best to you! 😘

    05.08.19 Reply
    • I totally agree, and that’s what keeps me sharing. I feel the same way when I’m going through something and I read somebody else’s heartfelt words about going through a similar life experience. It reminds me we are all in this together! xo

      05.09.19 Reply
  7. Jordan says:

    This post made me cry. I am 29 this year and my boyfriend and I decided that after a trip to Europe at the beginning of 2020, we will try for a child. I’m also an anxious person so all of my fear for now goes into the idea that I will be a “helicopter mom” and just honestly a dud. To hear I may actually just forfeit that position completely and be a joyous and fun mom let’s me breathe a bit. It also makes me question the conversations we’ve had. Albeit the talks have been often and long, I will now consider the content of the talks and that we are hitting the right points!

    05.08.19 Reply
    • Awww. Wishing you the best!!! You’ll do great!

      05.09.19 Reply
  8. Kate says:

    Great post! For me I was actually surprised and how much MORE anxious I became after becoming a Mom! I didn’t realize how much I would get freaked so out or so worried with every virus my kid gets! My husband is extremely helpful, we have one child, and my husband pulls his weight for sure in parenting our son- even more in some ways than I do, and I pull more weight in cooking and housework but I am grateful my husband is so involved and takes as much responsibility for our kid- form day one, as I do. I remember when he was a baby, at night I would nurse him, then hand him to husband who would burp him, then we would take turns every other night being the one who changed his diaper and put him back to sleep! But yeah the anxiety- and what surprises me is the relentlessness of it- my child is 9- and I thought it would be easier at this age- but every age is hard! And also filled with beauty. It has changed my life more than I expected to be a Mom, in that even when I am away form my son, I think about ( and to often worry about which I am working on!) my son most of the day! Like he is so connected to me. Even at 9 he has very constant needs and demands! It has also focused my energy being a mom, as I just dont care about the small external stuff as much- as I am pretty focused on my immediate family. Also, there are so many aspects to marriage- friendship, childcare, sex, communication- love, respect, attraction on and on- it is a rare and blessed thing to have a husband who I actually fit most of those things well with- as I am not really that easy to get along with because I am kind of stubborn and set in my ways and a bit high needs- but I am grateful that somehow my husband and I seem to fit, and our relationship is not the hard part of our life. But parenting is hard for sure- and also the other surprising thing to me is how willful and full of their own ideas kids are! I thought, my kid will be a certain way and I will share such and such with him and teach him this and that- but then he has his total own ideas about life and what he likes and wants and will do- etcetera- . It is a challenge and a learning every day!

    05.08.19 Reply
    • Isn’t it so interesting how everyone’s Motherhood struggle looks and feels so different?
      So glad to hear that you and your partner have such an awesome connection! That helps a ton!

      05.09.19 Reply
  9. Blair says:

    💯💯💯💯 beautifully written. Exactly how I feel/felt. It’s now 6 years into motherhood for me (my girls are 17 months apart) and finally I think we have (mostly) found our groove. Thank you for writing this. You’ve spoken my own mind.

    05.08.19 Reply
  10. Mary says:

    OMG! It is each mom’s saga and sorry but this will be a saga comment! First of all, congratulations Eva to you and to your fellow mom bloggers for speaking the truth and for addressing the challenging parts of motherhood.Before I had my son, I was COMPLETELY oblivious to what motherhood meant and how it would literally devour almost every aspect of my life! I mean, OK,on my 39, sure I had heard other moms complaining for the lack of personal time, for the constant worry and anxiety (for anything and everything) and for the distance that it could bring inside a marriage but I really had thought that all these were nothing but cute exaggerations.How naive of me, right? I remember one of my husband’s friend telling him “when you have kids your life is over”! I remember shaking my head thinking, is this man serious or funny or what ? Then why is everyone wishing you to have kids as soon as you sign the wedding papers and even before that ? Why are they trying to persuade you not to loose time (LOL) and not procrastinate the whole kid thing ? (Because they resent you being a free woman and man and they want you to enter the same club of misery😫 😆😂).So, when I was young I always thought that i would combine successfully a job and motherhood.I used to argue about that with friends who insisted that it is very difficult if not impossible to work while being a mother especially when there is minimum help from others.I thought they sounded like my grandmother! And then I spent a good 10 to 12 years working in very competitive and stressful business environments and I actually postponed motherhood and came to a point where ALL I wanted when I’d become a mother was to be able to have my baby close, be a stay at home mom, not having to work long hours and not have someone else spent more time with my baby than me and be responsible for everything in my kid’s life, at least for the first 4 or 5 years of his life.It’s exactly what I did and I consider myself lucky for being able to do it although it drained me big time !!! Regarding men all I have to say is that most of them believe that they are not really expected to offer much from their time into raising their kids and this is not a preconception but a determination.Similar to their participation in a pregnancy they think that it’s Ok to be involved in the raising of their kid for 10 or 15 minutes and then leave the rest 9 months up to the mother 😅! I never could believe why couples with small babies split, I used to think that they must be crazy to divorce during their happiest time of their lives 🤔. I no longer have such wonders.When you become parents you become associates (yes!) that need to take important decisions together and men cannot accept that in some matters women are the captains.I mean, most of the time they dont even know where their socks are!Judging and not offering help is as good as crime to a mommy’s psychology.

    05.08.19 Reply
  11. Isa says:

    This is so honest. Well written.

    05.08.19 Reply
  12. Aneta says:

    Beautifully written and I can really tell it’s from the heart. So refreshing to read an account of motherhood! My husband came from a similar background and we always knew that I would work outside the home. But wow, did the babies change our dynamic! I definitely had to learn to tell my husband what I needed and follow through on keeping him accountable. I work in a very flexible bit very demanding finance job and I have to focus extremely well in order to make sure I don’t mess up 😂 I think the work from home adds another dimension to it… we have a full time nanny and people say but you’re home?! Um yes I am but you know I’m WORKING! We still have funny little differences of opinion about our roles 🤪 for example after he read this article I mentioned that he had an upbringing where his mom did everything at home and that has translated to some misunderstandings between us and he says well she just naturally enjoyed being a mother and homemaker 🤦‍♀️🤢 anyways you’ll be glad to know he’s still alive….

    05.09.19 Reply
  13. This is beautiful, Eva! Thank you, for sharing & for this platform. You just gave me “Mom to Mom CPR” & I luh ya for it, honey 🌹 Uh huh

    05.13.19 Reply