Parenthood is fulfilling. It’s surreal. It’s a blessing. Parenthood is frustrating. And exhausting. And anxiety fueling. Parenting, especially being a mom, is a never ending responsibility. Even when I’m not with her, I can’t help but wonder what she’s up to. And she’s only 10 months old. She’s not even able to leave the house or do anything on her own yet. How will it be in 10 more months? In five years? In ten years?
Being a mom is objectively the most fulfilling lifestyle I’ve incorporated. It’s enhanced my belief in the universe and a higher power. I don’t believe everyone should be a parent, nor that it is everyone’s purpose. I think the conversation about having children is too nuanced for this post, though I touch a little on it here. I do think being a mother is meant to be a part of my journey. Experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, and becoming a parent has given me a new perspective on life. It’s caused me to view other parents in a different light and has made it even easier for me to extend grace to others. It’s similar to how when you’re a child you view adults on a pedestal, looking up to them, only to grow up and realize everyone is really just trying their best and struggling in at least one area of their lives. There’s a different level of understanding of what parenthood is after being an active parent and caretaker.
Something I learned as a parent is that there really isn’t a right way to parent. Objectively there are “wrong” ways, because to a point human development is a science, we experience emotions, and trauma is everlasting, but there is no clear cut, one size fits all, way to parenting. People will shame and judge for minuscule things (like formula versus breast milk) and half of those people won’t even have kids of their own. What’s important is being active, present, and supportive for your child in whatever way works for your lifestyle and family.
Being a mom has given a new meaning to the word sacrifice, especially in the midst of covid. I spent nine months sacrificing my body for her. I’ll spend the rest of my life making decisions I hope benefits both of us. I’ve said “no” to outings I would have otherwise done in a heartbeat. Being a mom has made me more thoughtful and intentional in my actions. It’s made me want and hopefully succeed in being more present in my day to day life and spend less time on my phone and inside my inner world. It’s made me understand and become even more appreciative of the sacrifices and choices my parents have made throughout our lives to give my brother and I the lives they’ve given us.
Parenthood makes me anxious. Because what if one day she just stops breathing when she’s sleeping? (Luckily I think we’re past the SIDS phase). Or what if she hits her head too many times when she’s playing? Or what if I’m not doing enough to teach her and am stifling her development? What if I’m not spending enough time with her? And in this way, parenting really is a sort of projection. It forces you to look at yourself and your fears and your guilt and your boundaries. It forces you to look at how you were raised and decide how you want to parent.
Sometimes, I find myself comparing my daughter’s growth to the babies I’ve seen born around the same time. Sometimes I wonder if other people parent in similar ways than I do or if I’m just completely off mark in some respects. Sometimes, I feel guilty the few times I’m out with friends without her. Sometimes, I wish I had a little more free time and space to be carefree away from responsibilities.
In a few years there has to be studies on the effect the pandemic has made on babies and pregnancy. Being pregnant during a pandemic was experiencing two traumas at once. Being pregnant during a pandemic after graduating college, I could argue was experiencing three. I was experiencing three major changes in my life with little face to face contact with others. It felt like out of nowhere I popped up with a baby because few people actually saw me pregnant. Few people knew until late in my second trimester. And now I have a baby and we’re still in this weird standby with Covid, so few people have seen her in person. One of my friends was asking for more pictures of her, and it’s made me realize outside of social media, I really don’t think to send out pictures or updates of her in texts. I was thinking about why, and it is really for no other reason than the fact that I experienced pregnancy pretty isolated from people outside of my household. And now that the world is sort of opening up and I’m less isolated, I have to link the two realities.
The craziest part about parenting is seeing my little girl develop and do new things she wasn’t doing before. Before having a baby, I have been around babies and toddlers and children, but in their separate stages. I had never seen human development day by day with my own eyes before. Now she’s clapping and trying to stand all the time. She recognizes certain words. She knows her name. In ten plus months my baby went from a solely eating, sleeping, pooping newborn who couldn’t lift her head to a full blown baby who is starting to eat solids, who can crawl, and can sit up and stand by herself. Babies’ development is so drastic in the first year and it’s amazing to see it play out with my own eyes. She’s really growing and learning. She’s really almost a toddler.
Time has been moving so differently since the pandemic and my pregnancy. Sometimes, I worry I will blink and she’ll already be twenty one. She’s only a few months away from being a year, and I still look at her newborn pictures with nostalgia. It feels like it happened so long ago. It makes me want to freeze time.
Around this time (October 27th), a post has been going around Twitter from a mother who was struggling and unhappy in an attempt to shame her. I don’t have a picture of the post but it was a call for help. She was expressing some regrets and frustration about the reality of motherhood for her. And as parents, specifically mothers, it’s worth mentioning that society doesn’t often extend grace to us the way we deserve. The idea of being a super mom has become propaganda. People use the fact the most of the time motherhood is a choice as a weapon against mothers. People expect mothers to be at the top of their game all the time and to care for their kids without complaint or mentioning how their life has changed. (Please note, they don’t expect the same from fathers though).
Most people don’t genuinely know how or have the thought or time to be supportive of mothers. Unless you yourself are an active parent or caregiver, you will never fully understand that amount of physical, mental, and emotional energy that goes into caring for someone else. (Caring for pets can bring similar feelings but it’s different). And when you’re caring for someone else, you’re also caring for yourself and handling your own responsibilities too. That’s double on your plate, assuming you’re only responsible for one other person. I don’t know how people with multiple babies and toddlers do it. I don’t know how truly single mothers do it. I don’t know how teen mothers do it. I have newfound respect for parents and caregivers honestly. I can’t stress that enough.
It sucks that mothers, including myself, feel the need to shower the benefits of motherhood before talking about the harder parts. Why do we have to have the disclaimer– My kid is the best thing that has happened to me– before saying it hurt when she head butted me in the mouth while throwing a tantrum and caused my lip to bleed. Why do we feel so shamed to talk about the frustrations of raising and guiding another human being? Parenting is hard! You have to look at yourself and your boundaries and remember that your baby or toddler isn’t intentionally being harmful when they do hurtful things. One minute my baby is cute and precious and the next she’s testing my patience. I roll my eyes at every tantrum and cherish every moment of affection. No matter how she acts, I still love her the same and will always love her with my entire heart.
Being a parent is a living oxymoron. When she’s fussy, I beg for her to take a nap. And when she’s asleep, I want her to wake up. My daughter makes me roll my eyes when she cries because she can’t chew on my glasses and in a moment can make me smile when she rests her head on me. She makes me laugh when she has a giggle fit. She makes me frustrated when she bites me cause she’s teething. She makes me proud when she babbles back in conversation and makes me grin when she starts bouncing to a song. And when I want a break and leave her with one of my family members, I have the urge to check in after a few minutes. This goes back to the guilt of experiencing things for and by myself. It’s like when it’s summer you want it to be winter. When it’s winter, you want it to be summer. It’s probably best just to embrace the moment.
The reality is once you become an active parent or caregiver, few things are ever just about you anymore. The only time I have completely by myself is in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep and on my commute to work. Any plans made requires approval for someone else to make sure they will watch the baby. Before, I wanted to succeed in my career; now I have to continue gaining experience so that I can thrive in it. Being a mom, for me, means she comes first. There’s a reason airplanes instruct parents to help themselves first, in case of an emergency; that’s not the instinct. Being a mom means I make sure she’s settled before I eat or leave for work. It means she’s asleep or someone’s with her before I go to sleep. It means I think twice before making plans and I give myself an extra hour to get ready to leave the house. It’s means I rush when I do anything that takes my attention away from her.
Being a parent can take away from your individuality. Children need pretty constant attention in the early years of childhood. Everything is about the baby for at least the first year- I’m not sure when that ends. Especially when the baby is a newborn, people will check in on the baby, before checking in on you. They’ll understandably ask to see the baby when making plans with you. And when other people see you taking time away from your child, whether they themselves are parents or not, they tend to have something negative to say. Again, this is more so directed at mothers than fathers.
I have support, so it’s not like I can never have time to myself, but it doesn’t shake the guilt that comes with even the thought of taking time for myself. It’s been ten almost eleven months and I’ve never been away from her for an entire day. The idea of leaving her for that long is still hard. My baby didn’t ask to be born into this world; the least I can do is be present for her. This doesn’t mean that I and other mothers and parents are not still our own people though. It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve time away sometimes just because we chose to have children. It is so important to me that I and others don’t lose ourselves in parenthood and instead let it enhance us and became just another one of our identities.
My priorities, mindset, and perspective has completely changed from a year ago since becoming pregnant and a mother. Creating a happy and healthy life for my daughter and I is my goal in life. She is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I don’t think I can truly express how much I love her with words, even when she gets on my nerves.