The world’s perception of a mother is someone who is nurturing and patient, selfless and affectionate, warm and kind—with all of it coming naturally.
None of this came naturally to me.
I lack that maternal instinct most mothers seem to have. Instead of being patient, I found myself snapping at the smallest of things—only realizing my mistake when it was too late and the damage was all over my son’s face.
Some of us always knew we wanted to be a mother, but unearthed feelings of regret once we became one.
Some of us knew we never wanted kids, but life surprised us and our children turned out to be something worth living for.
Some of us feel like the sh*ttiest moms on the planet, but in reality are some of the best moms on the planet.
Some of us think we have it all figured out, that we could teach other moms a thing or two, when in reality we’re struggling but could never admit it.
I wish I knew which one of these mothers I am, because more often than not I feel like I am not doing a good job and that my best is another mother’s worst.
And I am ashamed of that.
I don’t doubt every mom who says she loves everything about motherhood. We are all unique, and parenting is so complex that we are all bound to handle it differently. Some of us are just better cut out for it than others, for whatever reason, and that reason doesn’t matter. Good for them. But it still doesn’t make it okay to have a closed mind or expect everyone to handle parenting the same way.
My own mother grew up without a mom, so maybe she was a little less nurturing to me and that is why I didn’t pick it up easily. Or maybe I would have been this way no matter what—maybe getting pregnant by accident at a young age made me resentful. Or maybe it’s a combination of all these things—I have no idea. But I know I am tired of feeling like sh*t about it.
I don’t love every little thing about motherhood, but the world has this idea of perfection cemented in my head, so I stuff it down and hide it.
I hide the pain when everyone else seems to be rocking it, but I still forget my kid’s school lunch sometimes. I hide my shame in the lie of pretending like I will miss them unbearably when I go out for a night, when really it feels like relief so sweet I wish it lasted longer.
When my children complain about me, my rules, my cooking, or the way I choose to run the house, I can’t help but think, “Well, maybe my passion and time would have been spent better somewhere else. Maybe I’d be further in my career, or I’d actually have a career! Maybe I would have had a better marriage.”
Hell, maybe I would just be loving life better than I do now.
Because for some of us, it makes no sense that we spend our lives trying to get our babies to take our breasts just so we can feed them, and it makes no sense that we spend our lives trying to get our toddlers to sit on the potty or eat more than one bite at dinner. We then spend our lives worrying about what’s going on in our tween’s head because they won’t talk to us, the people who have made every sacrifice imaginable, don’t even get to know what we did.
Motherhood is never over, either. It’s not over when they turn 18, it’s not even over when our daughters become mothers and our sons become fathers. We are always their parents.
But if I can somehow find laughter in the moments when I want to cry, my kids would probably laugh too. If I could surprise them by doing something fun, like jumping in the pool or playing one of their video games, I might crave that special time with them enough to do it over again—being more of the mother I want to be.
If I can accept that motherhood doesn’t come naturally to me and let go of the shame, maybe I could be who they deserve—someone embracing her truth.
Sometimes the truth is in the hideous, hiding everywhere. And sometimes all we have to do is peel back the layers of fear, insecurity, and doubt to see how the truth can be beauty hiding behind the hideous. I may be someone who has to work harder than others to find it, but I’m willing to try.
It’s not too late for me, even if I’m guilty of spending my days waiting for the time to pass—waiting for things to get easier as my kids grow older and the stressful memories outweigh the happy ones.
Each time I kick the shame and make the effort, it gets easier.
At first, I thought I would never be able to enjoy it the way other mothers do, but one day I will.
At first, I thought I couldn’t ever function in the office and still be the mother my kids deserved, but one day I’ll do it—and do it well.
I’ll be able to bake a cake, organize a class Christmas party, and play on the floor with my kids laughing. Fully present. Even if only for 30 minutes, that time will mean everything to them. These are the things I never did with my mother, things I said I would do, but never did.
I shouldn’t be ashamed that it took some time for me to figure this out; I should be proud I made the effort to do so.
I’m not starting too late. I’m just beginning again.
Author: Stephanie Portell
Editor: Danielle Beutell