During the 3.5 years I’ve been a mother, I haven’t been able to eat alone, pee alone, shower alone, or just ever BE alone. Nevertheless, I’ve never– in 31 years– felt so alone.
In her newly-released book Almost Everything, New York Times-bestselling author Anne Lamott explains:
“We cannot depend solely on spouses to dump on, to share our intimate thoughts with or reveal our deepest truths to. Trust me, they have been through enough just living with us. Our yokes are heavy. Healthy people need to unburden sometimes unpleasant feelings and information, such as hating everything about life and everyone on earth, and hoping the bad people are killed by snakes; or that they just ate all the frosting off a Safeway carrot cake because they were feeling fragile.”
I could not agree more. But, when I do feel the need to “unburden sometimes unpleasant feelings,” aka: admit to others I’m feeling overwhelmed or even, at moments, downright despising #momlife, I never know who to turn to.
There are approximately 85 million mothers in America, and I’m sure that the majority of these 85 million would agree that these are who we should be able to “dump on,” “share,” and “reveal our deepest truths to,” especially since fathers and our friends/family without children (even with the best of intentions) just don’t get it– nor feel it– the same way we do.
MAYBE it’s because I haven’t found “my tribe” yet. Or MAYBE I’m simply taking things too personally. Regardless of what’s going on, since becoming a mom, I do not feel like I’m allowed to feel. And I actually blame other mothers for that.
Other New Moms
When my daughter was only a few months old, we joined a baby music class, which, halfway through session one, became apparent was truly meant to end up benefitting me more than her at that age. None of my good friends had kids (let alone husbands) at the time, so this would be a place where I would spend one hour a week with others who were in the midst of the same life chapter as me. And, bonus!: the kiddos were too small to move yet, so we actually could converse with one another. Sign me up!
Despite the fact that we were all in the thick of it though, it seemed like everyone thought their thick was the thickest, so thick, in fact, that it was hard to recognize others’ thickness. As a formula-feeding mom, I couldn’t possibly be “as tired” as they were. And I did, after all, get “a break” from my daughter since I worked part-time. My advantages in the game of motherhood seemed endless, forcing me into silence.
Trust me, I know that listening is ALWAYS a good thing. Hearing about a more difficult situation yields a whole new perspective and, as a result, a more consistent counting of blessings and tighter bedtime hugs. Yesterday’s spilled milk all over the couch or this morning’s diaper blowout at the grocery store definitely do not deserve the dramatic reactions I always seem to give them, especially when my kids are, for the most part, happy and healthy.
However, at the same time, I am also a true believer that everyone, based on what he or she has experienced in the past, has his or her own threshold. Am I looking for sympathy from other new moms when my “yokes” are feeling extra “heavy”? NOT IN THE LEAST. But, even if they aren’t intentionally doing it, being one-upped by other new moms gets old, especially when one-upping is never my intent of opening up.
Since other new moms I’ve met are seemingly in tunnel vision, I’ve also tried confiding in the experts. They’ve been there, done that, and SURVIVED nonetheless. Plus, it really is a relief to hear that, in time, I will look back on these years as “fond ones,” as SO many veteran moms tell me.
But, my aforementioned silence always tends to return when veteran moms ask how I am, I begin to answer honestly, and then before I finish answering their question, I’m cut off with the “Oh, enjoy them now! They grow up quickly!” or the “Soon your house will be empty with no messes to clean, and you will miss these days!” responses.
Yeah, yeah. I get it. Their intentions are good. Veteran moms have learned a lot over the years and are now experiencing new challenges that come with age; therefore, they understandably no longer view new mom woes as stressors. However, just like their younger selves once were, I’m just not there yet; in fact, I won’t be for years.
Should I spend my time as a new mom stressed out and miserable? Absolutely not. But, on the rare occasion when I’m having an #icanteven day, I don’t think I should have to feel guilty for simply feeling.
Motherhood, at any stage, is tough. No, we don’t need to feed into one another’s struggles, but we, as mothers, do need to, at the VERY LEAST, acknowledge when another mom is “feeling fragile” and remind her she’s not alone.