The Key to Being a Happy Mom? Don’t Sugar-Coat It

A Gaggle of Babies

Last week my playgroup had a playdate with a discussion about juggling and self-care. I wasn’t able to attend because I was juggling an appointment with my therapist into my schedule so I could do some self-care. The plan was to read an article about balance before the playdate in order to fuel the discussion.

I wanted to participate in the talk despite being unable to attend so I wrote an email with some of my thoughts. Well, it ended up more like a blog post. I share it here with minimal edits:

I just read the article and found it to be very insightful. Something that has been bothering me every since I started this whole parenting experiment is all the advice to take care of myself that actually made me feel more stressed.

Nap when baby naps?! Are you kidding me? I’m sure that works for some people and that’s great, but early on Siddhartha switched over primarily to 20 minute naps. Even when he was taking longer naps, I never knew which was going to be the big one and it was more painful for me to finally fall asleep only to be woken by a crying baby minutes later. Talk about a headache. Literally.

In addition to mommy, I’m also a writer. Ever since Siddhartha was born it has been a struggle to try to find time to write and it leaves me feeling like I’m unable to achieve something or be a productive part of society. But every so often I catch myself and think, “WHAT?! I’m raising a little human. I made a new life!” Really, what could possibly be a greater achievement? How could one produce anything greater than life?

I’m convinced that Mom is the most under-appreciated job out there. Not that I expect Siddhartha to understand. Even when he’s older, he won’t remember this time or understand how hard I worked for him (until maybe he has a child of his own). I’m referring to the social perception. When we go to dinner parties (’cause we do that so much these days, right?) and talk about what we do, how do people react when one says “full-time mom”, “stay-at-home mom” or “homemaker”? If you do work outside the home, do you say “I’m a mom” first and then add “oh, I’m also a [insert profession here]”?

My intention wasn’t to go off on a tangent of how under-appreciated moms are. My point is that it’s hard to avoid stressing ourselves to achieve balance when it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of respect for just being a mom.

Some days I do feel like I need a break from trying to find time to write. Sometimes, I want to spend Siddhartha’s naptime reading a book or knitting or doing nothing. Sometimes I want to just sit there and feel for a moment like I don’t need to be doing anything. Sometimes I don’t want to throw in a load of laundry while watching over my shoulder to be sure Siddhartha’s not getting into anything. The problem I have is that I need to feel constantly productive and watching a baby play or sleep simply does not feel productive.

I think what we really need is to be honest and LOUD about the fact that what we’re doing is hard work! No more sugar-coating it because we feel guilty and afraid that it might sound like we don’t appreciate our kids. Of course we appreciate them and love them and would never give them up for anything. But raising them is still hard work!

Once we accept that our job is hard, it’s easier to be nice to ourselves and find that flexibility that the author writes about in the article. I just wrote a blog post recently about learning how to just hang out and have fun playing with Siddhartha without thinking about what “needed” to be done.

What do you feel can be done to put respect back into the role of Mom? Do you have any tips for a healthy acknowledgment of how challenging parenting is and putting pride into the work that goes with it?

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4 thoughts on “The Key to Being a Happy Mom? Don’t Sugar-Coat It

  1. I like how you say ‘parenting experiment’ :-) I think the big problem is that the experience of the job title ‘mom’ does not translate well into any other mainstream professions. My sister was a stay at home mom for 8 years. Now that her kids are older she has the bandwidth to re-enter the job force but none of her experience translates to any job. So society as a whole views stay at home parenting as a destruction of human capital.

    You see a lot of mom’s these days doing job-shares or some sort of flexi-share so that their skills/resume is current and they don’t get abandoned professionally.

    There should be legislation so that corporations have provision for re-training moms and absorbing them back thus preserving their human capital..

    Hmm, something like that

  2. Why do you think that playing with the baby is wasted time? That’s a significant way that babies learn about the world. You’re helping your child grow socially and intellectually by playing with him. I have a hard time imagining that the laundry is more important than that.

    What am I doing vacuuming? I have a brain to build!

  3. Partha, Finding ways to re-train moms and absorb them back is a good idea, but the chance in ideology I think is necessary is to see moms as a part of the job force. Is our work that different from that of a day care provider? A nurse? Or an event planner? The difference is that we don’t get paid for it and somehow that seems to take away some legitimacy.

    A woman who re-enters the job force should not have to prove that she has skills. She raised kids! Anyone who doesn’t see how those skills can be translated to a job, hasn’t raised children. I have never, for any of my jobs, needed to have the time management or prioritizing skills that I need now. I can’t believe how refined they have become!

    I do realize that those are just basic skills and don’t necessarily translate into specific work. I’m not going to apply for a job as a programmer and say, “I’m qualified. I raised a kid!” But it doesn’t make sense for a potential employer to look at a resume and disqualify the candidate immediately simply because she’s been “out of the job market” for years.

    But that’s going off on a bit of a tangent. My concern wasn’t just about what all these moms do after their kids have grown, but how we handle doing a thankless job right now. And I think that requires some respect for what they do. (How appropriate that I’m writing this on Mothers’ Day. :-))

    Chad, I don’t actually think that playing with my son is wasted time. It’s just harder to do it all day long than it seems. Everyone needs to take a break, even from things we enjoy, and moms just don’t get that. Not much, at least.

    I know that playing with him is building his brain and that there aren’t many things that are more important than that, but it’s not something that gets talked about a lot so I have to actively remind myself. It gets exhausting.

    It’s also kinda like being healthy in general. It’s hard to feel motivated to eat right and exercise because you don’t immediately see that your arteries aren’t getting clogged and you’re not getting diabetes. You just have to keep doing what you think is best and try to convince yourself that you’ll be happy with the outcome in a few years. There aren’t a lot of short term goals for a mom like you’d get in a career. The short term goals are things no one is interested in…like getting all the laundry done (whoo!) and making time to eat when we’re hungry (yay!). If no one gets how hard those things are, no one congratulates you when you achieve them and that’s a lonely, pathetic feeling.

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