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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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Don’t forget to read pieces from the other bloggers participating in the Mom Talk:
Photographs by Julia Dags