Motherhood is what you make it.

Shortly after I had my first baby I was at a family event where I overheard my aunt (I have a million so this doesn't call her out) talking about motherhood with a fellow veteran mom. Both women had raised large families. "These new young moms these days really need to quit complaining and just get to work. Yes, motherhood is hard work, but you do it and you survive."

At the time I rolled eyes and considered her part of the problem. When I became a mom it was NOTHING how I expected it to be, or how people portrayed it. I felt almost victimized and definitely alone. Why didn't anyone tell me this gig was so hard/exhausting/thankless? How was I not warned that I might not feel fulfilled and full of bliss as I spend my days caring for the tiny people I made? Why did all the mothers out there not send their condolences when I joined this new club and began my complete identity crisis? I concluded that I must be the only person feeling this way. Everyone else loved motherhood and everything that came with it, I was just broken.

Then came the rise of social media. As I remember it, at first it made me feel even worse. So many beautiful mommy bloggers with perfect bodies and perfect hair and perfect children and perfect homes and perfect style. It should be noted that I saw them in this personally threatening way because I viewed them through my scope of complete insecurity. So here I was hating myself and my life, barely scraping by, and these women were building empires, raising children, and looking magazine level perfect while doing it. Again, I must be broken.

As it turns out, I wasn't broken, and I definitely wasn't alone. Quickly social media started to fill with different views on motherhood. It became trendy to be "real." Messages of no sleep, no praise, and complete loss of self to motherhood began to be shared. They ranged from comical "kids are the worst" and "mombie" jokes, to more serious discussions about motherhood truly feeling impossible to survive. I took heart in these new themes. They get me. Solidarity. Somehow just knowing moms around the world were also locking themselves in their bathrooms to hide gave me strength to carry on. But now I fear, like most internet movements, it has gone too far.

We have painted this picture of a mother as a worn out, exhausted, anxiety ridden, maxed out, shell of a woman who hates her job. Sure we toss in how important and beautiful it is occasionally, but mostly we complain and discuss the oh-so-many struggles we face. I say we because I was first in line to lead this movement. MOTHERHOOD IS HARD, WHERE IS MY TROPHY!? We don't get weekends, we don't get vacations, we don't get hot food, we don't get sleep, we don't get a lunch break, we don't get to shower in peace, we don't get a paycheck! Where can I march in my protest? There are two main problems with this.

First, it leads us to believe that living in a constant state of being at your breaking point is normal. It isn't. Even for moms. Moms definitely have to go into "survival mode" more often than others perhaps, but life should feel manageable. If you are hiding out daily, exhausted to the point of crying for months on end (we all have our days, that's normal), and regularly feeling like you just can't handle your life...you deserve to get the help you need. Periods of insanity happen in life, regardless of your parental status, and sometimes you just have to fight through it one moment at a time, but being a personal disaster and labeling it simply as "motherhood" is not ok. Sometimes it feels as though if we aren't barely scraping by, we aren't doing enough. "You feel at peace and stable? You must not be a very invested mom or ambitious enough in life. Sign up as room mom and start your own business or do something to push you to your max!" We need to stop this competition of who can do more and sleep less.

Second, it makes us focus on all the wrong parts of motherhood. Reading a funny meme about how it takes your kids twelve years to get their shoes on can definitely bring some much needed comic relief and solidarity to your day, but scrolling through post after post of people complaining about their lack of sleep or never ending to do list or their kid's latest tantrum can really bring you down. As I like to say, where are you holding the magnifying glass? Does motherhood have some bummers? Yep. Please, show me a job that doesn't. If I complained about the parts of my job I hate the way I complain about motherhood I can assure you I would be fired. Above that, the more I complain the more I am focusing on those negative parts to the point where the negative is all I can see.

I think there is a balance we can find. It is important to share the struggles of motherhood. Through connecting with others going through similar things we can lift each other up, and understand we are never alone. When we cross that line and go beyond constructive sharing and enter into constant whining and complaining however,  it not only ceases to be productive, it destroys our motherhood.

Let's all just calm down. Motherhood is important, yes, but it really isn't about us. We have managed to turn motherhood into a self obsessed job, when really it was never intended to be about us. I realized recently I have spent years trying to figure out MY place in motherhood, how it made ME feel, how I struggled with it, to the point that I had completely forgotten that it has nothing to do with me. Motherhood doesn't owe me anything- not fulfillment, not joy-nothing. It is however, my responsibility. I chose it. I sat on the couch after a particularly dark day surrounded by my children. I had been stressed with things like money, my work, my success, and how I was being perceived all day. As I sat there I looked at the little faces of pure innocence. They know only kindness and acceptance. The know only love. All the worries of the day immediately washed away and I was consumed with gratitude that my motherhood allows me to be surrounded with literal perfection around the clock. This isn't about me. So maybe my aunt was right, I just need to do the hard work of motherhood.

I realized my motherhood can be my burden, the thing that keeps me from my dreams, or it can be my gift, my light. The choice is entirely up to me.

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