I became a first time mom not only at the age of 40, due to infertility, but also right smack dab in the middle of a national pandemic. My son was barely six months old when the entire world shut down in March of 2020. All of the socializing we were out doing, the mommy and me groups, the story times, and all of it came to a screeching halt. It was already a lonely and tough six months before Covid-19 showed its ugly face in the U.S. Then, our world became very quiet, lonely, and dark. I silently struggled behind the scenes and longed for a life that was filled with people, activities, and fitness again.
I have put together this list of raw truths to be real with you about what motherhood is truly like for many of us. Having a child is one of God’s greatest gifts. However, I am going to be REAL and explain that it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, even when you have struggled to conceive like me. The journey through motherhood is different for everyone. Some women appear so flawless, while the rest of us are disheveled most days. It makes you question what you are doing wrong or if you even deserve to be a mom. This is why it is time to be authentic and candid about motherhood so you will know that you are not alone. You do not have to be perfect to be considered a great mom.
Here are twelve raw truths about motherhood that are rarely talked about:
1-The Judgment-There are always going to be those who think they can do it better than you or you aren’t doing this or aren’t doing that right. Listen, YOU know your baby better than anyone else, so if people cannot come to you with compassionate and non judgmental advice, tell them where to shove it. I can’t tell you how much judgement I received from those closest to me about my choice to breastfeed my child. It hurt to my core, because I am a people pleaser. I stuck to my guns because I knew breastfeeding was what was best for my son. In addition, my son had these loud outbursts of colicky crying in public and I’ll never forget the way this woman gave me the stank eye when I stopped at a gas station to try and calm him down. Another time, a whole family came to watch and be my audience as I changed my son’s diaper on the floor of a Cabelas one day (pre-Covid). The judgement is terrible and can come from all directions. Stand strong mamas.
2-Postpartum Anger-This affects almost 22% of women. It’s like being on the edge constantly and every “little” thing just strikes a nerve within you. The anger can quickly turn into rage, which is scary. Looking back, I truly believe the anger part, in addition to the fluctuating hormones and sleep deprivation, is due to an unmet need within moms and feeling unheard. Moms, be sure to speak up and seek help if you are experiencing postpartum anger. There is help for this in the form of counseling, exercise, and more.
3-Sleep Deprivation-This can wreak havoc on so many areas of your life. To some extent, moms know that they will endure many sleepless nights, but no one talks about what it’s like if you have a colicky baby who will not sleep. I honestly wanted to smack those moms square in the face who said their infants slept through the night. I was on the struggle bus for almost 16 months of my son’s life. Why is it the norm and expectation for moms to suffer through sleep deprivation for extended periods of time? It wreaks havoc on your health, your relationships, and your self-image. Everything healthy stems from adequate sleep, so seek help for your family in the form of support so you can get rest and find an infant sleep specialist if need be.
4-The Torturous Car Rides-If there is one place that I consider to be equivalent to a torture chamber, it is being stuck in the car with a screaming infant. Riding in the car and listening to music used to be a great escape for me. Not anymore. These tortuous car rides were my life for over a year and still at times, even though my son is now almost nineteen months old. Nothing makes me want to crawl out of my skin more than being stuck in a vehicle with a screaming child. It frustrates me and hurts my heart all at the same time, because there is nothing I can do for him when I am behind the wheel. I have done the whole checks (clean diaper, fed, comfortable, has toys and entertainment), but when my child doesn’t want to be in the car, he’s done and nothing I do helps, except to get him out of the car. When my husband worked long hours during his infancy and no one was nearby to watch our child, menial tasks like running to the grocery store, bank, or post office, became huge trigger points of rage for me. Therefore, I became fearful of leaving the house with my child.
5-Your Mama Bear Instincts-This develops as your bond with your baby and as time goes on. I have watched it come over my thoughts and reactions to people and situations as fast as a quick witted comedian. I never knew I had that in me. I became bolder after Covid about asking people who came into my home to take off their shoes, to wash their hands, etc. These are all common things when you have littles in your home, but you would be surprised at how many people will forget. Another instance happened recently at a playground, when a little girl (who was maybe four years old) picked up a handful of pebbles from the ground and was about to throw at my son, who was in a swing minded his own business. My adrenaline began to kick in and I quickly stopped her action with my firm words “Excuse me, if you throw a rock and it hits my baby, you are going to be in big trouble little girl. Where are your parents?”
6-The Struggle with Identity Loss-Identity loss is hard already for military spouses as military life has chipped away much of what we were and associated ourselves with prior to becoming a military wife. Motherhood chips another chunk out of that identity crisis and it’s tough. You aren’t able to do the things you did before and you certainly don’t even have the choice to without support around you and a spouse who works long hours. My career has always been a big part of who I am. After relocating with my husband and after suffering a miscarriage, I was forced to leave my career behind. I found other ways of working part time and thought that would work when I had a baby. But, as fate would have it, I had a baby who never slept, therefore, once again, I was forced to walk away from two different jobs at two different times during my son’s first six months of life. Luckily, a few months later, I found the perfect remote job, thanks to a Linked In connection, that I had been searching for in my field. It had the flexibility I needed for the unpredictability of my life with an infant too.
7-The Loneliness-I never knew how lonely motherhood could be until I became a mom. I have always thought that you can’t be lonely when you have this little human with you all the time. That’s completely wrong. You miss friends, family, and the freedom to be with people. When your spouse works long hours, you find yourself alone a great majority of the time. Covid really accentuated the loneliness of motherhood and isolated all of us even further-especially from our much needed support systems. When you are an extrovert and used to being around people frequently, then all of a sudden you aren’t, it can be quite depressing.
8-The Constant Worry-You constantly worry, “am I doing the right things? Am I giving my baby enough undivided attention? Is he or she developing according to the norms? Why does my baby cry so much? Is he or she getting enough to eat? Why is my baby not sleeping soundly like other babies?” You worry about every little thing. Exercise, prayer, and time are the only cures for this enormous amount of weight and worry that you feel taking care of a tiny human. It’s what moms do. We worry, then we pray hard every day and night to get us through our times of doubt.
9-The Difficulty Finding Affordable High Quality Child Care-I have toured over six child care centers in my area, called over 20, and searched for what our family needs right now. Unfortunately, many places do not offer part time spaces since Covid. On our current base, they stopped part time care when Covid hit. It has been a very overwhelming process, but not one I take lightly. The early years are crucial for so much in terms of child development. I will take a million tours if it means finding the right fit for my child. While there are set standards for High Quality Child Care, that “high quality” looks different to everyone. To my family, it means highly trained and responsive teachers, adequate space, a separate classroom not a one room house with short divider walls between the ages, a clean environment, adequate security, and Covid precautions in place. We actually ended up having to travel far outside of our assigned base to find what we were looking for, but my mama heart is satisfied. My anxiety has diminished because I found what I deem to be high quality for my son and I can comfortably walk away and leave him there for two half days a week.
10-The Lack of a Village-Military life takes you to some remote and isolating places, where building a village doesn’t come easy. Adding Covid into that has made military families fall short in having that “village” concept, especially when we are forced to PCS and relocate every 2-3 years. When my son was eleven and a half months old, we had to PCS across the country (during the pandemic) far away from family, friends, and any support systems we had established over the last four years.
11-The Loss of Simple Freedoms-Going shopping, going to the grocery store, showering, even exercise are all dictated now by a tiny being. It’s not just a quick trip out anymore but a big ordeal. When Covid hit, I was scared to death to take my baby into a store. So, I had to wait until later in the evening when my husband returned from work and the baby was put to bed in order to buy the groceries we needed from the store.
12-The Social Media Comparison-You can’t help but see all these other mamas on social media making motherhood look flawless and so glamorous. Then, you begin to feel bad since you might be struggling. This was me at times, until I decided to embrace my journey and be real about it-the good and the bad.
Wherever you are on your journey to motherhood, I hope that you too can be real and candid about your experience. Every mom’s journey is unique. That is the beauty of it. Be sure to reach out to that new mama and offer support, share the ups and downs of your journey so that other new moms struggling can find real, relatable, and imperfect moms to look up to.
© Strength 4 Spouses LLC, 2021.
Although my journey to and through motherhood hasn’t been easy, I am here embracing all of it-even the not so great parts. I have been an Army Spouse since 2015 and became a first time mom in the fall of 2019 to our precious rainbow baby boy. In addition to being a stay at home mom, I am a blogger, freelance writer, brand ambassador, and instructional design assistant. I love encouraging and supporting the military community through my blog and especially my Instagram Strength 4 Spouses, where I encourage you to develop your inner strength in military life and motherhood through faith, fitness, volunteerism, and finding purpose. If no one has told you today, I am telling you “You are a good mom, you are worthy, appreciated, and valuable.” Keep going mamas, we got this!