When I look at this picture, the first thing I remember is how tired I was then.
My youngest was waking up every hour at that point. How long was it before I had an uninterrupted night’s sleep? Five years? Seven?
After years of trying to conceive, I wanted to arrive at this moment more than anything I’d ever wanted in my entire life. But when I finally got there, I felt nearly constant guilt for not enjoying it more. I put immense pressure on myself to be a perfect mom, and then criticized myself relentlessly as I counted all the ways I was falling short.
Since I was a little girl, I fantasized about being a stay-at-home mom. I thought I’d be braiding hair, baking cookies, and down on the floor playing elaborate and intelligent games with my precious cherubs. But for most of the five years I spent as a full-time mom, I was just trying to keep my kids—and myself—alive.
I mourned the loss of my professional identity. I felt reduced to Chief Butt Wiper, and the constant requests—for snacks, toys, even cuddles—left me mentally and physically exhausted. Going back to an office where I could sit quietly in front of a computer sounded like taking a vacation at a tropical resort.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and am so grateful for that time I had with them when they were small. But I really didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have—mostly because it seemed like every other stay-at-home mom was enjoying it, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize at the time that many other moms were experiencing the same struggles as I was. It’s so easy to feel inferior when we compare ourselves to others based on only seeing part of the picture.
In fact, some of you might even see my Insta posts and think I’m one of those moms. The ones with lovely, well-behaved children, perfect marriages, and immaculate houses filled with freshly baked (gluten-free) bread. And I get it—I do post photos of my family when we are all clean and smiling.
But here’s the real deal behind the pics I post:
I take photos of happy memories and store them on Instagram like squirrels store nuts for the winter. I look at them to remind myself of what’s possible when that reality feels far, far away. Happy memories increase serotonin in the brain, which helps to ease anxiety and depression. Looking at photos of happy times can trigger those serotonin-boosting memories, and I need all the boosts I can get.
Being a mom is a big enough job without the added pressure we put on ourselves to be “perfect.”
In my humble opinion, it’s way more important that we model for our children how to be imperfect, and still find joy anyway. That’s my goal every day now and it’s why I wrote a book called The Joy Plan—so I can remember how to find joy when I forget.
P.S. The second thing I remember when I see this photo is how great it was to have breastfeeding boobs. Plus look how damn cute those kids are—worth every sleepless night.
Author: Kaia Roman
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Khara-Jade Warren