Nothing quite changes you as a person than becoming a mother. All the characteristics of motherhood are well known and most have been turned into gifs or memes, bringing the motherhood tribe together in their exhaustion, frustration, and joys. But while we jokingly disparage our lack of sleep and crying infants, it’s the picture of the mother behind closed doors that most of the public eye never truly sees. It’s the crack in her smile as she wonders daily, “Will I survive the stress of motherhood?”
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We don’t typically share those utterly heartbreaking moments of ourselves at our low points. Those minutes locked away in the bathroom with tears flowing freely do not get posted on Facebook or even shared with our spouses. It is a moment of complete breakdown, where as a human being you honestly don’t know how you’re going to face another day. It’s the total desperation of a woman who simply cannot go on for that moment in time.
You are not alone.
I know you feel guilty for not being overjoyed every minute of the day. After all, you have this beautiful and healthy baby that you’ve waited almost a year for. But it just isn’t possible. A number of circumstances tear you down during the day so by the time you fall into bed, it can be challenging to bring that feeling of joy to the surface. Pure bodily exhaustion from lack of sleep and taking care of another human being (or multiple ones!) slowly strips away to your very soul. Each day can become harder to wake up to, as you spend half the night trying to get that “joyful” bundle to sleep. Joy becomes a distance memory as you begin each day with bloodshot eyes, dark circles, and a foggy head. Every day you wonder how you will survive this so-called “joyous” journey of motherhood!
You are not alone.
It’s in those times of silent release that you look in the mirror and see a stranger staring back. How did you get here? you wonder. Life looked very different on the other side of the fence. Who could’ve fully prepared you for the places this role motherhood was going to take you? And while the common mantra “This too shall pass” echoes through your head, you can’t see it being any different for the unforeseeable future.
The tears flow. The cries come out. You turn your face heavenward, praying that you can just get through this one more day. You know you will – but the desire to be heard and rescued burns down deep.
You are not alone.
I’m not talking about post-partum depression. That is a whole other issue, one I am not clinically educated to discuss. What I’m referring to are those seemingly impossible moments, maybe even days, that you find yourself living through when you bring a new baby home. Whether it’s your first or your fifth doesn’t necessarily matter. What matters is that people recognize when moms are struggling to find joy and not make them feel guilty about it. Deep down we know that there are brighter days ahead but it can be so hard to remember that when three kids are crying and screaming at the same time, the kitchen sink is overflowing with dishes, 10 loads of laundry are hanging out in the basement, and you are so exhausted you can’t get off the couch. The frustration and the desire for someone to just truly see you and what your everyday existence is like is real.
You are not alone.
Often, your spouse is even unaware of how lonely and isolating it can be to care for little ones day in and day out. They seem to be the lucky ones – able to walk out the front door without a care or worry of having to deal with emotion-packed tiny humans incapable of communicating their thoughts and needs. It’s next to impossible to understand what a mom lives through throughout the day without walking in her shoes. So when your husband walks in the door and receives a less-than enthusiastic welcome, it can create tension and miscommunication between parents.
Day after day, week after week.. it seems the cycle never ends.
You are not alone.
I, and countless of other mothers, have been there. We’ve lived it. Many of us are still living it. And this transition period that really doesn’t have a name needs to be acknowledged.
Take a deep breath. Let it out. And know that you will survive and come out on the other side of the fogginess relatively unscathed and infinitely stronger and more confident as a mother and a person.
There are a few things that I’ve found truly help me to survive motherhood during this period. I’ve gone through it five times and I never fail to need a reminder of these helpful habits to start.
1) Get out of the house.
First and foremost, you must leave the house. The simple act of even getting in the car and driving will make you feel the normality of life before your baby came. Whether it’s with the kids or not (preferably not if you can manage it!), being out in the world where life continues to go on will remind you that you aren’t stuck in a real life version of Groundhog Day and the next day can and will be a new one! Breathe in the fresh air, go shopping for something you don’t need, go to your favorite eating spot…you will be amazed what even a mere 90 minutes can do for your outlook.
I know, I know, when in the world are you going to find time? That’s just not a realistic expectation, you are undoubtedly thinking. I get it. You can’t get up early to do a workout because you’re exhausted from being up all night feeding the baby. You can’t do it when your husband gets home from work because dinner needs to get on the table, children dressed and in bed and oh, that little thing called cluster feeding where the baby is attached to you from 8-10pm! So when? Here are a few possibilities.
- Does your husband have employment where he could come home for lunch? This would give you about 45 minutes to either go to your local gym, workout at home, or even take a walk on your own.
- Do you have a membership at a gym with daycare? Take advantage of that, even if you have to pay extra for the childcare – it is completely worth it to get your body moving, plug in with your favorite tunes, and clean up your mind.
- Home workouts. How do you get them in? This is still tricky for me at times, since my last 3 are so close in age. But every now and then I can manage to get them napping all at the same time. Have a 30 minute workout ready (because who are we kidding? The minute you start doing something for yourself, a child will inevitably wake up and need you!). And if your workout does get interrupted, maybe incorporate your older kids into it…they are, after all, a great weight to lift!
However you can fit it in, try your hardest to do so! It will be so worth it for your body, clarity of mind, and overall sense of well being.
3) Set simple, attainable daily goals.
This is incredibly important because as mother’s, it can be difficult to look around at the end of the day at a dirty sink, toys strewn everywhere, and laundry piled up and feel any sense of accomplishment. Yes, the kids were taken care of, fed, cleaned up, loved…but that’s expected, isn’t it? We want to be able to tangibly see our accomplishments and what we’ve achieved, however that doesn’t always happen in motherhood. By setting simple goals for the next day, it gives you something to achieve. Maybe that’s folding x number loads of laundry. Or making a frozen meal. Or catching up on bills. Whatever it is, it will be unique to you for that particular day and give you something that you can strive for. I found that when I wrote things down, it helped immensely to see my goals put down on paper. I got this amazing planner and it has been my sidekick since the beginning of the year! It has these wonderful sections that outline each month’s essential goals, both work related and for your personal growth.
4) Communicate with your spouse.
When your spouse walks in the door from his day at work, he is coming from a very different place than you’ve been for the past 8 hours. He has no understanding of what your day has been like, and you can’t really expect him to get how you are feeling.
Share with him where you are at..whether you need him to hold the baby for a while so you can go take a shower or miracles upon miracles, go the bathroom in peace! Whatever you are feeling, your spouse doesn’t know and won’t know until you tell him.
In my experience, my exhaustion and frustration have been vented towards my husband even though he didn’t do anything because quite frankly, he’s the only one I can unload on. I would find myself holding it together until he walked through the door and then just lose it, emotionally and verbally. Let your husband know that he isn’t the source of your frustration. He will have no clue what you will need, so tell him – don’t expect him to know. And even though it might be difficult, give him a smile and a hug (and then request to not be touched for the next 30 minutes!).
5) Have a friend come over.
I didn’t realize how much this could lift my spirits until my good friend came over and hung out with me. She held the baby and monitored my other children so I could jump in the shower. We chatted about life and other things non-baby related. It quenched the loneliness of the day, even for that brief of time.
I was reminded that I wasn’t isolated; that all I needed to do was reach out. I didn’t need to be supermom, always perky, handling every little obstacle in stride. Rather, I could safely express whatever difficulties I was feeling and in return, received the kind of compassion and understanding of a wonderful friendship. You aren’t required to walk this road alone; on the contrary, so many people within your circles are willing to help – you just have to reach out and take it. It doesn’t make you any less of a mom; in fact, it shows how strong you are in desiring human interaction and an effort to keep your mind and soul healthy. Your mommy tribe is so important to making it through motherhood, as discussed here.
They seem like such simple steps and they are – but simple doesn’t always mean easy. If you are a mom and can relate to any of this, comment below with where you are at in mommyhood, and what helps you in those days of foggy funk.