Sometimes Surviving Motherhood Is Enough

I wish I had someone to tell me that sometimes surviving motherhood is enough.

I don’t remember much from the first few months of my son’s life. It was a sleep-deprived haze of barely making it from one day to the next. But I do vividly remember one night, when we had our childless friends over for dinner. One friend asked my husband and I what parenthood was really like.

I stared blankly while my husband went on about how it was difficult but also the most amazing experience in the world. How it was so worth it, and how he couldn’t imagine not wanting to choose this life. If I could have formed a coherent answer, it would likely not have matched his glowing tone.

I had constantly been wondering if I would have chosen this life if I had truly known what it would be like. Then, of course, I felt ashamed and guilty for thinking that at all — for not being the happy mother I wanted to be. The mother I had envisioned myself being when I was shrieking with joy over a positive pregnancy test.

When I went through postpartum depression with my son, I felt like I was drowning, all day, every day. There were moments of happiness, awe, love mixed in as well; but overall, it was grim. I didn’t enjoy motherhood, and I spent a lot of time wondering if it was just me or if everyone was secretly lying about how wonderful parenthood was.

Those moms who looked like they really truly enjoyed every moment of it... were they for real? Would I ever feel that way about parenthood? I had my doubts. 

It took a long time for me to realize I had untreated postpartum depression, and a bit longer still to come through the other side of it. Yet after that part of motherhood was over, I still didn’t feel like I was all the way “better.” I found that while life without the constant weight of mental illness was much, much better, it wasn’t super-happy-sunshine better. It wasn’t blissfully-content-with-motherhood-all-the-time better.

In fact, a lot of the time, parenthood still sucked. It still often felt like I was merely surviving my days instead of relishing them — and it made me wonder if I was even cut out to be a mother. I didn’t realize that it was okay to go through seasons of survival, and that it didn’t make me a bad mother.

You don't need to enjoy every second, or heed the warnings that you'll regret not soaking up every precious moment. Being a mom isn't always great, even when you aren't suffering from mental illness, and that's okay. That is normal. 

I would see friends post those Pinterest poster reminders to breathe in the perfection of each day, to indulge in every giggle and snuggle, because the season of littleness is as short as a fairy’s gasp or some bullshit. And I would feel awful. Because while those reminders might help some moms gain perspective, all it did was remind me that I wasn’t enjoying motherhood like I was supposed to. That I wasn’t appreciative enough or happy enough or content enough.

I wish I had someone to tell me that sometimes surviving motherhood is enough.

Because sometimes, it has to be. Getting from point A, when your kid wakes up cranky as hell and throws up on you right out the gate, to point B, where you pick at their leftover lunch scraps, and then somehow making it all the way to bedtime can be hard enough. It may not be how you want to live all the time, but if keeping your kids and yourself alive is all you can do some days, that’s enough.

You don't need to enjoy every second, or heed the warnings that you'll regret not soaking up every precious moment. Being a mom isn't always great, even when you aren't suffering from mental illness, and that's okay. That is normal. 

I’m not saying there is no joy to motherhood. I go through periods where I do feel like I’m at my parenting best. There are times when I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the amazing life and children I’ve been given. Days when I do relish every moment in the full abundant love I longed for in those early days of motherhood. It can be so, so good.

But what I’m saying is that it doesn’t always have to be. 

You’ll enjoy it when you can. You’ll survive it when you can’t.

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