So there I was, mesh underwear around my knees, peri bottle in hand, squatting over the hospital room’s toilet. I could hear my son’s determined newborn cry as I tried—and failed—to soothe him with shushes from the bathroom. It was my first night alone with my firstborn, Fox. I remember thinking: So this is motherhood.
Ever since my son was born, mom life has been a far cry from mommy blogger perfection. You know, that picture of a well-groomed, well-rested mother in a chic, spotless kitchen baking cookies from scratch with her well-behaved kids, all smiles, giggles and fun, all the time. These are the images and messages women are fed daily, by ads, movies, TV shows, even the images we ourselves post to social media.
So why don't we air out our "dirty laundry" on what it's truly like to be a mother? Because that's just it—the truth feels dirty. (It isn’t!) The rollercoaster of emotions, the lack of self-care, the moments of sheer insanity, the nostalgia for pre-baby life—it feels wrong to express all of these feelings. (It isn’t!) Admitting that motherhood is not effortless for us, that it’s a grueling, forever race that leaves us exhausted most days, is scary. It leaves us wide open for others to label us as ungrateful, or worse, unnurturing and unmaternal. So instead of sharing these feelings, we bury them deep in the caverns of our minds so we don’t reveal life’s deepest, darkest secret: Motherhood is not easy.
If motherhood had a Facebook page, its permanent relationship status would be “it’s complicated.” Just because I used to stare at other people’s babies on the train while daydreaming about being a mom doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes yearn for a day all to myself now that I am a mom. Just because I chose and love being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean I don’t need that glass of wine promptly at 5 p.m. And just because I babywear and breastfeed and live for that closeness doesn’t mean I don’t do a happy dance (a silent, motionless happy dance) when Fox goes down for a nap. The more we speak up about this reality of motherhood, the more we chip away at the falsities attached to it.
I remember way back in middle school (when asking a question in class felt like you were bearing your soul), a teacher told me never to be afraid to ask a question in class because I’d not only be advocating for myself, I'd also be advocating for the other students who were too fearful to ask themselves. When it comes to talking about motherhood, we all need to take this advice to heart.
When I was pregnant with Fox, I’d proudly declare that my plan was to have four children. Most veteran mothers would smirk and say, “Just have the first one and then see how you feel.” I was thankful for these comments—they were the beginnings of real talk. But they didn’t go far enough. Because the biggest support we can give each other is to have open and honest discussions about what it’s truly like being a mom, and to share the good, but also the bad and the ugly. Maybe then we’ll see that it’s all a part of the fabric of motherhood, and that the hard days (or weeks or even years) are nothing to be ashamed of.
Speak The Truth! Free The Mama! I’d buy that t-shirt.
So let’s be honest in our struggles. Let’s tell the mother next to us that, no, motherhood is not effortless for us, no matter what it looks like on Instagram. That sometimes mothering is too much and we wish we could go back in time to when we had no responsibilities. That we miss our wrinkle-free skin and bag-free eyes. Don’t be surprised when she nods and says, “Me too, sister. Me too.”
Heather Stachowiak Brown is a writer born and raised in New York City. She is the founder of a life and style blog called What Mama Wears and prides herself on being a style poet and sisterhood activist. Heather lives in Upstate New York with her husband, their baby boy, Fox, and two rescue pups, Olive and Goose. She loves mac and cheese, donuts and anything cotton candy-flavored. Follow her on Instagram at @whatmamawears