Mama Thoughts: The Struggle

Photo credit:  J E Theriot

Motherhood can be isolating.  Each time I’ve had a baby, amidst all all of the intense joy and wonderment I’ve felt at the fact that I created this tiny human, there has also been an equally intense feeling of being overwhelmed and isolated.  After all, no matter how much anyone else wants to help, most of my baby’s care is up to me.  We’re mammals, that’s how we’re designed.

But the fact that the demands of motherhood are natural doesn’t mean they’re comfortable.  This is a lesson we’re re-taught time and time again as our children grow up.  And despite so much attention being given to the younger generations’ stress levels due to the differences between what they see portrayed on social media vs the realities of their own lives, very little attention is paid to how this same, strange modern day dichotomy is playing out in the lives of mothers.

I’m fairly vocal about the struggles I experience as a mother.  Anyone who knows me, knows my true story.  But I am still acutely aware that the perception of my life, my experience as a mother, can be perceived completely differently by outside observers.  Perhaps it’s something as simple as the fact I try not to leave the house without getting properly dressed or that I wear makeup 99% of the time.  People who merely see me out and about probably think I have it all together.  “Look at her!  She still has time to take care of herself!  She must be so together!”.

But how wrong they are!  There is one truth above all others:

We’re all a hot mess, some of us are just better at “hiding” it.

For me, I often have days of small victories.  One of them is putting on an actual outfit.  It’s how I make myself feel like I’m still a member of the outside world, even if I’m hanging on the edge of the cliff by my unmanicured fingernails (seriously, I haven’t had a manicure in over 4 years).  I put on makeup every day (usually at stoplights) because I am too insecure with my skin to go without (who has time for a dermatologist?).  These facts are my actual reality behind what might make others think I am someone who “does it all”.

Because I definitely do not do it all.  There are at least 40 concrete things I could rattle off to you right now that I could be doing better in my life.  For myself and for my children alike.  But I’m making a concerted effort to keep doing what I can and allowing my goals to be fluid.  Because the individual scales of my life (children-spouse-career-self) are never going to be evenly balanced.  Ever.

I’m learning every day to accept that certain areas will have to take up the slack for others in order to survive with as much grace and joy as is possible.

I’m also learning to find the beauty in having a life that often, internally, feels scotch-taped together. It is providing me with the opportunity to grow and mature, to lean on and confide in my girlfriends and my husband, to steer my beautiful children through life despite not always feeling like their confident Captain.  And to find love in unexpected places.

Through the experience of motherhood, I’ve found a new, profound feeling of connection to other women, even when I feel entirely, utterly alone.  As I lock eyes with another mom at the store who’s having “one of those days” – I know her struggle.  I get it.  I hope she’s OK.  Or I witness an older woman watching my children, suddenly being transported to memories of her own.  I see her, I actually physically feel her love and her longing.  It makes my heart simultaneously swell and break for her.  I hope she’s OK, too.  Or when I see a pregnant woman, staring at a baby aisle with so much excitement about the future but also so overwhelmed by the weight of this new journey.  I want to rush up to her and hold her hand as she becomes part of this crazy, messy tribe.  I hope she’s going to be OK.

Not one of us is perfect, not as a person and not as a mother, no matter what we see in various posts or pictures on social media.  We can’t fall into the trap of feeling inadequate or less than what we erroneously perceive as other people’s perfect lives.  The more we lift the veil on this perception of perfection, the more real and raw and connected we are to one another, the more we will flourish.  We’re in this together, girlfriends.  Scotch tape and all.

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