Motherhood is full of disappointment. It's something many women, including myself, have imagined and dreamt about since girlhood. I always knew that once I had children I wanted to stay home with them so I could make their world (and mine) magical and amazing and perfect.
My imagined future life at home included elaborate crafts, prepped the night before and cleaned up before the glue was dry. I fantasized about all the beautiful afternoons building castles out of blocks on a freshly vacuumed rug and playing dress up in my organized big girl closet. It would be the most fulfilling time of my life, and I was determined to be fully present and to cherish each moment. Life would finally make perfect sense.
For me, the disappointment of motherhood started before my son was even born. Instead of loving every minute of my pregnancy, my anxiety skyrocketed and for the first time in my life I was deeply depressed. I hardly left the house. Eventually I had to go on medication, which made me feel like a failure.
The birth itself was also a disappointment, in a way. Yes I had a healthy baby boy, but I also couldn’t deal with the pain and ended up opting for the epidural. I had to have some other medical interventions that weren’t ideal. It wasn’t perfect and only marginally magical. The two weeks of recovery it took before I was able to sit down without lifting up one butt cheek were not anticipated or appreciated.
Once the visitors left and my husband went back to work, the true reality of my new life as a mother made itself known. Every day, with each new milestone, the ridiculous fantasy of my expectations made things even harder than they should have been.
Expectation: With a proper latch, breastfeeding is a pain-free, natural process that women have been doing without trouble for millions of year.
Reality: Breastfeeding is the actual devil. It is bloody cracked nipples and searing pain that makes you involuntarily yell “FUCK!!” at a two-day-old infant. It is sitting shirtless in a lactation consultants office, sobbing. It is sleep deprivation that drives you to the brink of insanity. It is the realization that almost anything that might make your life easier (bottles, pumping, formula) could possibly fuck up your precious supply. Best case scenario, you do this for 12 months. (It DOES get a lot easier, but the road is paved with tears and nipple cream).
Expectation: I will sleep when the baby sleeps. Normal babies start to sleep through the night around three months. How bad could it really be?
Reality: Sometimes I get so tired I have to consciously remember to focus my eyes so that I can see. I can’t even talk about this right now the wound is still too raw.
Expectation: I will be cool, calm and collected. Consistency is key. My child will be well behaved.
Reality: I have a temper and becoming a mother did not magically cure me of this personality trait. When I’m running low on sleep, which is always, my fuse is even shorter. I have also been blessed with a son who enjoys seeing my reaction to his antics like I’m some sort of behavioral science experiment. He recently got kicked off the big rig truck ride at Mall of America for repeatedly licking the steering wheel and hanging his body out of the window. I wish I could say he gets it from his father but that’s all on me (my primal reaction to anyone telling me what to do is to scream “leave me alone!!!” and run away.)
Expectation: I was never a particularly neat and tidy person, but I’m sure I’ll get it together once I become a mother.
Reality: I should not be in charge of a household. I’m pretty sure my friends practice their non-shocked face when they prepare to come to my home. This also extends to my car, which is essentially a mobile garbage can. I recently found a chicken nugget on the floor of the passenger seat that was at LEAST a month old. I felt very accomplished when I threw it away.
Being a “fun” mom
Expectation: I will spend most of the day engaged with my children on the floor. I will amaze and inspire them with my creatively and energy.
Reality: Mothering is not a full time job, mothering is a inescapable state of being. Even when away from my children, all I can think about is how they are doing, and whether I forgot tell the babysitter something. The last time I went out drinking I decided that taking care of children while hung over is 100x worse than pushing a baby out of my vagina.
Most days I do play with my children on the floor, but I also have to do laundry, make and clean up endless meals and snacks, discipline, grocery shop, sit on hold with the doctor, get the baby down for a nap, take the toddler to the bathroom, change diapers, get everyone ready and out the door for preschool and also perform the basic necessary tasks to keep myself alive. I’m exhausted and my back hurts from carrying the baby around on my hip. Therefore, I have a finite number of hours each day that I can lay on the couch while my son puts 100 bandaids on my legs.
So what’s the point of all of this? I’m certainly not saying that motherhood is terrible. I love being a mother and I don’t regret having children. I also like staying home with them, even though I do miss a lot of things about working (like client dinners and occasional travel and wearing heels).
I guess what has struck me on this journey are the ways that motherhood doesn’t change you. You don’t become some angelic, perfect person just because you get yourself knocked up. In fact, I think motherhood brings your faults and issues to the surface even though you’ve probably spent a lifetime burying them as deep as you could. Sleep deprivation is basically a truth serum.
If you are reading this and like me, have had some disappointments along the way when you realized that despite procreating you are a still a deeply flawed human, then know you are not alone. This shit is not what we signed up for, even if we wouldn’t change a thing. Its okay to be disappointed. Its okay to mourn the perfect mother we will never be. In fact, we should all drink a glass of wine (or bottle) to that poor, delusional woman right now. Its what she would have wanted.