Talking about mental health makes people uncomfortable. Even more so when they come with a precious baby in your arms. But unfortunately mental health struggles are not uncommon in mothers. Here are 5 mental challenges that make motherhood so hard.
Motherhood is hard. I don't think I have to tell you that. The sleepless nights, practically being on call 24-7. It's tough to raise a little person.
But taking care of a child is not only physically tiring. It's especially mentally tiring. But next to the sleep deprivation, the cluster feedings, and the messy home, all those thoughts swirling around in your head are not as visible.
I think the mental load moms have to deal with is far greater than the physical exhaustion.
Of course, there is no denying that sleep loss, breastfeeding, and carrying a baby all day long are extremely exhausting.
But it is not only the night wakings. It is also the anxiety and the constant worrying about when your baby will wake up again.
It's not only the energy your body needs to produce breastmilk. It is also being the main or only food source and source of comfort for your baby.
It's not only the physical weight you are carrying but the fear that your baby will cry again once you put them down.
Our body is amazing. It gets used to less sleep. It gets used to the weight.
But your mind never gets a rest. The mental load is a different story. For me, it was the hardest part of new motherhood. My brain always working and constantly thinking, worrying, wondering. Which all lead to my mental health declining.
This article is for all the mums out there who are going through this in silence. It's to the fellow mom who doesn't feel understood or taken seriously. I want to let you know that it's very serious, it's the truth.
So in this article, I want to talk about five mental challenges that make motherhood so hard, not on a physical but on an emotional level.
This article covers:
1. It makes you question how you were raised
Have you ever looked back at a childhood memory and thought...
"I would never do that to my child."
If you have, then I can guarantee you you are not alone. I know so many parents who looked back at how they were raised and thought exactly the same. Me included.
There are a few situations I remember where I keep thinking to myself ... how could they do that?
I have a good relationship with my parents, and my childhood was overall good. Of course, didn't do everything perfectly, but I know that they did the best they could with the knowledge they had at that time.
Yet, at the beginning of my motherhood journey, there were those bits and pieces of memory that I couldn't wrap my head around. Now that I had a child on my own that I incredibly loved, I doubted their parenting style even more.
Now, this is me, who had a relatively good childhood.
But if you had a tough childhood and a difficult relationship with your parents, then this can be really tough on you when you become a parent yourself.
When you become a parent, you will relive your childhood. Especially the bad moments.
We have to understand that this is not about blaming our parents. This is generational trauma that has been passed down through generations. Blaming them now will not bring us the peace we need.
We carry the wounds of our childhood with us. What happened in our early years of life will often accompany us for all years to come. The moments are engraved in our brains. And no, they don't magically disappear.
But we can always heal.
Embrace your grief as your feelings are real. But don't be stuck in the past. You now have a chance to break this circle of generational trauma.
Instead of focusing on the past relationship with your parents, focus on a new relationship with yourself. Allow yourself to meet your needs on all levels.
2. It brings back unhappy childhood memories
Raising children will not only make you question your relationship with your parents but will also bring back other childhood memories.
As a child and a young teenager, I had a hard time finding the right group of friends. I was lacking confidence and found myself in a circle of toxic friends.
I was also a people pleaser and found it really hard to stand up for my needs.
As an adult, I have grown and learned how to handle people.
And now, when I see my little girl struggle with other kids, it's gut-wrenching.
She is a sensitive child and does not yet have the confidence to say no or stand up for herself. I know she is very young, but often times it reminds me so much of my hardships, and I worry that she may encounter the same.
Will she grow into a strong girl? How can I raise her self-esteem?
I worry about the times I won't be there to protect her. I worry if she will tell me about all her troubles and hardships.
I know I cannot protect her from everything, and she will encounter difficult times. I know that it is not my job to make her constantly happy and shield her from everything.
But in the meantime, I will try my best to raise a confident young child who feels good about herself, has resilience, and knows that she can always rely on her mom.
3. You feel as if you have no identity
Once your baby is born, your life as a new mom will turn upside down. Suddenly everything is about this little thing in your arms.
All you do is take care of your little baby bug ALL DAY LONG. You give your best to be a good mom. You give and give and give until there is nothing left for you.
The only thing you are right now is a mother, parenting 24-7 - nothing else. You don't have another identity. You are not the woman you used to be before having a kid.
My identity is hidden somewhere under this big pile of baby clothes.
You go on maternity leave (when you're lucky and your country provides you with one). You don't find the time to meet with friends. And there is no time left for your hobbies. Your relationship with your partner gets tested on new levels.
All those things that used to define you are now heavily impacted.
But what's wrong with your new identity as a mother? Why doesn't it seem to be enough, and why do we still feel stuck in an identity crisis?
First, it takes time to get used to a new identity. Having a baby is a big change, and change is uncomfortable. It doesn't matter how much you longed for this little miracle, how much you prepared, it's still a difficult thing to adjust to parenthood.
Secondly, being a mother does not have to be your whole identity. It shouldn't be.
Only because I decided to be a mother, it doesn't mean that my whole life's meaning revolves only around my kids.
You will not be able to live the life you had before, and that's fine. But you certainly don't have to give up everything from your old life the moment you give birth.
You will need to learn to find a healthy balance between being a mom and being your own individual. It is a process of trial and error, and it will not be easy.
And sure, you will miss segments of your life before kids. I surely do. Being spontaneous, going out in the evening without arranging a babysitter through multiple phone calls. There is no need to feel guilty about it.
4. You feel as if everybody is moving forward, but you
Do you know those movie scenes where someone stands in the middle of the road and the people around them move around very fast while they just stand there completely still?
If you are a mother, then that person could be you holding your baby.
When you're taking care of a baby, it can feel as if time stands still but only for you. Only that you are also running out of time.
Everyone is moving forward with their lives, but you are at the same place doing the same thing again and again-day after day.
Your friends go on vacations, they change jobs they have great social lives. Maybe seeing your husband just going back to work is enough to make you feel that way.
It seemed as if his life just continued as usual while mine changed forever.
I felt this for a very long time. I mean, I chose to take a long maternity leave (which I know is a privilege itself) to take care of the kids. I was happy to see my friends and husband advance in their careers and life. But it also left me feeling a little bit sad about myself.
I couldn't let go of the feeling that I didn't make any progress in my life.
So what was I actually doing?
I was comparing. I was comparing myself to other people.
Social media, where we see all those perfect lives, is the big comparison trap nowadays. But also, people around us can make us question ourselves. It's as if life has become a race.
But the truth is that we are comparing our life to a completely different life of a completely different person.
Comparison will do us no good. In fact, comparison makes us blind to the things we already have.
So how can we stop?
Well, practicing gratitude is a big step forward. We often think about the future and what we want to have in 5, 10 years. Instead, think about what you have now, today, and be thankful.
Secondly, remove your triggers. It can be anything, from social media to friends that do you no good. It's ok to part from things that don't make you feel better.
And lastly, instead of racing with other people, race with yourself. Ask yourself who you want to be and think of realistic goals.
Of course, I would love to be a sporty mom. Whenever I saw a super fit mom, I wished I was like that.
But if I am being really honest, that's just not who I am. Because everyone who knows me knows I am everything else but not sporty...
Instead, my goal became to do regular workouts. Do I love them? No. But I do them for my health. And I have no desire anymore to become the sporty mom. Even when I see one.
5. You have FOMO
FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is not uncommon in new mothers.
I mean, we all had our lazy Sundays, right? Where we stayed in our pajamas all day and did nothing. And it was just fine.
And now, with kids in the picture, you have suddenly never felt more like missing out on things than ever before.
Why is that?
The answer is simple and complicated at the same time. It's because we don't have time anymore.
It's because all we do now is take care of the kids. And that can make you feel lonely and isolated.
It's because all the hard work you put in to take care of your child is not as appreciated as you wish it would be.
But it's not only that. It's also the society we live in today.
Vacations, trips, social gatherings all on display all over social media. It seems as if the simple things like spending time with your family at home are never enough.
I also think that today we live in a world that is just ridiculously fast-paced. We want to do so many things in such little time. We have somehow lost the connection to the present moment. We always seem to be in a hurry.
Have you ever gone somewhere with your toddler, for example, the grocery store, and they take like forever to take two steps? And you tell them to finally come even though you have nowhere to go and nowhere to be?
Sounds familiar, maybe? I can tell I have done that. Even when I was taking the kids out for a walk, I would sometimes urge them to keep going for the sake of NOTHING REALLY.
As if everything has to keep moving all the time.
Now I am not telling you to have a sleep-over at the grocery store (which sounds amazing, btw, but minus the toddler, of course).
But I want you to understand that FOMO will either make you look back at past times and desperately miss the old days. Or it will make you wish for the future when your kids are finally older, and you get some time for yourself.
But in the meantime, you are missing out on NOW.
Learn to stay in the moment with your kids. Nothing is running from you. I promise you.
Mom life can be a tough ride. And modern motherhood feels so hard. Our villages are smaller, our responsibilities feel bigger. But it also brings joy and happiness in an unmeasurable amount.
Yet, our parenting journey will always come with ups and downs. And we cannot close our eyes when it comes to moms and their mental health struggles. Too many are already suffering in silence. And some may be on the verge of postpartum depression. Because the hardest thing is to go through it alone, wondering if it's just you who is feeling all this. So let's not do that.