I Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

There are several inalienable truths about life with a new baby. Everyone knows that you can pretty much kiss goodbye anything resembling a decent night's sleep for at least a year. Your monthly budget goes up, by a lot, because you're constantly buying diapers and formula (if you're not breastfeeding).

But there are truths you don't quite realize about new motherhood until they've become a part of your daily life. These are the things no one talks about. Because to do so goes against every common perception of what a "good mother" should be. Now I'm not saying I agree with the following. Frankly, I don't at all. But mothers are held to a very high standard in American society. A standard to which nothing but perfection in every aspect of the role is deemed acceptable. Don't meet this standard? Well, chances are, there are people out there who doubt your mothering ability.

"Good mothers" don't complain about how hard it is to raise their children. "Good mothers" give selflessly of themselves 24/7, 365 days a year, and they don't bemoan their lost senses of self. "Good mothers" are nurturers and protectors. "Good mothers" don't lose their tempers. They have never-ending patience. Some "good mothers" work their day jobs, and come home and immediately begin their second career, taking care of their children and their homes. And they do it without resentment, or without ever thinking that the only thing they want is a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, the book they started reading before having the baby, and a nice bubble bath.

"Good mothers" always respond positively when asked how things are going with their baby at home. "Oh, he's incredible," she'll say. "Each day is full of joy and new discoveries." "Good mothers" never say, "Actually, things aren't going well this week. She won't nap, and yesterday she shit through three different outfits. It's hard, if you must know."

I'm here to confess I don't fit the conventional definition of the "good mother."

These truths I know:

There are days when I truly miss my freedom. The ability to go for a run when I want, and for as long as I want. The ability to bake on a Saturday morning as I used to without having to consider feeding schedules or baby care. The ability to simply veg out when I have the time, without feeling like I'm being lazy and ignoring the myriad other tasks and chores that are piling up around the house.

There are days when being a baby's primary caregiver is exhausting. Seriously and totally exhausting. It's the hardest job I've ever had. When it's me and Isabella, all day every day, from 7am (and sometimes earlier) until 7pm (and sometimes later), I want to go right to bed (instead of to work) when she does. And while I do have relatives coming over sometimes to give me a hand during the week, their visits often aren't without a healthy dose of masked judgment about my mothering abilities, and sometimes it's less stressful when they stay away:

Grandma: "Why are her knuckles so red?"
Me: "Because she chews them, Gram."

Grandma: "She's spitting up mucus!"
Me: "That's breast milk, Gram."

Grandma: "Why are you cutting her nails so short?"
Me: "Because her face will resemble Freddie Krueger's if I don't, Gram."

And lastly, there are days when I miss my marriage, and the silly little rituals we had pre-baby. We used to go out to dinner together every Friday night. It was a nice way to unwind together before the weekend, to come together as a couple when the previous week's work schedule (mainly Rich's) kept us from spending much time together during the week. The last time we did this since Isabella was in September, for Rich's birthday. It's not as if we couldn't do it now if we really wanted to. But frankly, it's a lot of work to escape for an hour or two, and given that I'm breastfeeding and given that there are nights that she doesn't go to sleep easily, getting a babysitter and going out is more of a hassle than it's worth.

Tired of hearing me bitch, yet?

Here's the thing. I started this blog with the idea that I would always be honest in my writing. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and it does me no good to self-censor. And I'm certainly not one to pretend that I fit the societal definition of the "good mother" either. Motherhood is ultimately hugely rewarding. Motherhood is something I've wanted for years, and it took a great effort to achieve it. But I'm also here to tell you that while being Isabella's mom is at once the most amazing and fulfilling thing I've ever done, it's also the most draining and difficult as well.

And I don't think confessing these truths makes me a bad mother.

15 Responses to “I Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident”

  1. # Blogger My Wombinations

    amen to that. THANK you for telling the truth, that is why I love your blog. All that Hallmark schmaltz does everyone a disservice. Wanna know a secret? I think people who admit to having bad days are people who love better than the sunshine sweeties. I would rather have you for my mom (and my friend) any day!  

  2. # Blogger Michelle

    LOVE IT! LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! Everything you said rang so true to me. Especially the marriage part. I might just have to bounce off of your post, and write my own version!
    This was a relief to read, as I know I'm not the only one.  

  3. # Blogger anne

    I'm glad you're writing honestly. You are very surely not alone. Having no children, I can only imagine both the good and the bad. If you're not honest, your writing will cease to be cathartic - I know this from experience.

    And not that you need to hear this, but I think you're a great mother. You are also a great individual, separate from your family, and that's ok.  

  4. # Blogger sher

    Brava!!! You are speaking the truth which any honest mom would second. I agree with you about the way people are so judgmental about the way women mother. Well, you're not a Stepford Mom. Good for you!!! I'm sure you made a ton of moms feel much better after they read that.  

  5. # Blogger Christine

    God that doesn't make you a bad mother. Not in the least. In fact, if you came out spouting about how easy it all was, I would have had to ask you what drugs Rich was giving you. (For selfish purposes, of course.)

    Also, if we lived closer I would volunteer babysitting services gladly. Kids still take bourbon and milk right? Puts 'em right to sleep.

    Love you much and hope you get a much deserved break.  

  6. # Blogger Beagle

    Nope, it makes you human and real.

    (I call those "perfect" mothers martyr mommies) (Oh yeah, and liars!)  

  7. # Blogger Marie

    Any mother I've known admits it's exhausting, etc. Especially mothering an infant! It's very much 24/7.

    Good mothers admit that they're only human!

    Before you know it, Isabella will be taking the milk out of the fridge and asking you to pour her a glass... then she'll play with her toys all by herself and feed herself!

    It WILL get easier!! Babies are a LOT of work.  

  8. # Blogger annie

    Your candor is a breath of fresh air. It's been a LONG time since
    I've had an infant (my boys are in college)but I DO remember how exhausting it was, and how I wanted parts of my 'real' life back. No one can prepare you for how just HOW motherhood is so totally life consuming, you have to live it. Your feelings, dear Kristi, are absolutely normal. And I'm soo glad that you share them. It does help to get it out of your system.
    The infant stage is tough... and as Marie said- before you know it, Isabella will be this little mobile person doing so much for herself. I know it doesn't seem like it right now, but these days fly by.

    BIG hugs to a wonderful Mom.

    Annie  

  9. # Blogger Ramona

    Your honesty is what makes you a good mother. And it's also what makes your blog so interesting and funny, and keeps me coming back again and again and again.  

  10. # Blogger Shannon

    Kristi, if you're not already familiar with Melissa at Suburban Bliss, you should be. The whole point of her blog is that being a parent is difficult and that it's okay to admit it out loud and even--gasp!--get upset about it. She gets a lot of flak from other parents who chide her for not being/sounding like a "good mother" for the very reasons you state. I applaud anyone who is a parent; it is a difficult job, albeit a rewarding one.  

  11. # Blogger sunShine

    Confessing these truths makes you a better mother, a great mother. Everyone of us has felt this way at one time or another. Mothering is a hard job, very rewarding, but hard nonetheless. One word of advice, make time for your husband, even if it is just an hour after she goes to bed one night a week to be your couple time. It will make such a difference in your life. Hang in there sweetie, you are doing a great job.  

  12. # Blogger l

    Have you read Sue Miller's "The Good Mother"? It touches on the American requirement that good motherhood means you have to give up your self.  

  13. # Blogger Damselfly

    Oh, no, don't worry about complaining. It's so true and right on. I admit to telling people everything's perfect with my baby because otherwise, you hear never-ending comments about what to do. (Case in point: my husband casually mentioned to neighbors that our newborn was up every two or three hours and making us lose sleep -- and what newborn isn't? -- and now *all* of our neighbors keep asking how our baby is sleeping and offering their tips, errrgghh!) So I told my husband to tell people everything is great. That's all they really want to hear, anyway -- they're just making conversation. So blogs are the perfect place to vent.

    PS I tagged you for a meme to blog about six weird things about you! ;) And you don't have to mention your baby in any of them if you don't want to!  

  14. # Blogger Adam

    Having valuable experience working with children and families for ten years, I have seen the best and worst moms. Thgere are two things that I have taken with me from my experiences. One, being a new mother is hard, being a new family (you isabella and your husband) is harder. Based on your writings (and seeing some expeience with you and your baby) you are a first rate mother. The best part is that you already know your short comings with isabella and thats going to make you a better mother. The other part with of addig to your family is harder, I feel is the truth. I think its great that you miss your marriage, because I feel that will make your marriage even stronger. Some people just become content with being parents and deal. You have thought about your feelings and seem ready to take action, to make your family feel strong.  

  15. # Blogger Adam

    Having valuable experience working with children and families for ten years, I have seen the best and worst moms. There are two things that I have taken with me from my experiences. One, being a new mother is hard, being a new family (you, isabella, and your husband) is harder. Based on your writings (and seeing some expeience with you and your baby) you are a first rate mother. The best part is that you already know your short comings with isabella and thats going to make you a better mother. The other part with of adding to your family is harder, I feel is the truth. I think its great that you miss your marriage, because I feel that will make your marriage even stronger. Some people just become content with being parents and deal. You have thought about your feelings and seem ready to take action, to make your family feel strong.  

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