What I Need to Stop Saying About Motherhood...
This post originally appeared on our old blog Born to be a Bride.
I caught myself in the midst of displaying a troubling pattern the yesterday. I have many new, not-so-great habits I’ve developed as a new mom, including countless, rampant text-message typos (and completely forgetting to respond to most), a terrifying lack of interest in brushing my hair, and the consistent inner battle between the part of me that wants a shiny-clean home and the part that needs a five-minute break. But the very worst one, I’m convinced, is the use of the phrase, “It’s just so hard with her.”
I’m pretty sure I developed this new standby when Willow was about a week old and I was trying to find an explanation for not being able to get anything accomplished when Josh left for two hours to pick up prescriptions in the driven snow. I was embarrassed, tired, and covered in breastmilk and tears upon his return. Her tears, my tears, who knew? I was so full of obsessive love for this tiny creature, I would just watch her sleep in my arms and feel the weighty pain of feeling and let the warm tears just run all over both of us. And in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Just put her down and get a load of laundry done,” but I couldn’t. So instead, I excused my lack of functionality with, “It’s just so hard with her.”
“I know,” he said. And threw in the load himself. Or maybe he didn’t. I don’t remember. I remember feeling that he cared, and got it, but whether the laundry piled up or not those first few weeks, is kind of beyond my mental grasp.
We ventured out of the woods. Willow was one month old when I returned to a full-time freelance writing schedule. I was fielding emails left and right, writing articles as email drafts on my phone while I was up at three in the morning rocking my newborn back to sleep. I was punishing my mind and body with a guilt so permeating: the guilt of not having a full-time job to go back to, and thus needing to push and scrimp and be as scrappy as possible to earn any dollar I could to feel more like a person who was contributing. I never once took mental note of the fact that I was under doctor’s orders to rest and recover for eight weeks; that if I had a full-time job, I wouldn’t have returned to it yet. I felt guilty because of all the mothers who do have to return to work, and so I pushed myself to do anything and everything possible to help our bottom line.
And when a friend’s text would go unanswered for days, or I wouldn’t call my dad for over a week, when we finally connected I would explain, “It’s just so hard with her.”
So hard to remember. So hard to be in touch. So hard to wipe down the kitchen counter. So hard to get in a shower and a hot bowl of oatmeal. Let alone a well-formed blog post (it made me chuckle a bit, actually, when this one made its rounds and strangers were enraged with me, thinking I was suggesting my child didn’t cry and I was a size zero again in a snap and my husband and I did it all the time and I was not tired. Ha! My point was — the beauty outweighed the hard parts of the newborn stage, and I fully stand by that point). Anyway… So hard to think of the dog and cat who need cuddles, too. Let alone the husband, who works long hours and comes home to a mess, both literal and figurative. It’s so hard because my whole heart and my whole mind and my whole body is on her.
I never stopped saying it. Willow is six months old now. By the grace of God, she sleeps through the night (well, she has for some time now, but we’ve had spots of regression for weeks at a time that have left me bawling on the floor, forget just saying it’s hard). I’m back to a steady work flow. I’ve finally opened my headband shop. Many nights, Josh comes home to a pretty clean apartment and a hot organic meal. Some nights, he doesn’t.
Last night, Willow was on round three with avocado (she finally liked it, but only got through four spoonfuls). I had done the dishes but the chicken for dinner was still frozen. The dog needed a walk. The laundry heap was overflowing. I had submitted two articles and banged out a blog post, spent an afternoon outdoors looking at Manhattan from a nearby park sounding out words like “bird,” “water,” and “tree” to a cooing baby. I had made and sold two headbands. All things considered, not a bad day. But I was mortified about the state of the kitchen, the hair that I’d never brushed (really, ya’ll I need to start brushing my hair).
“It’s just so hard with her,” I said. This time, he didn’t respond. It was in that moment that I realized, it’s time to retire that phrase. The world knows how hard it is to have a small baby. My husband, family, and peers get it. My friends won’t disown me for leaving a text unanswered, and if they do, well, that is wholly and sincerely their problem. All I can do is my best. And I need to stop using my baby as a scapegoat.
Yes, getting daily life errands and chores done is hard with her. She needs to be fed, burped, changed, read to, laughed with, played with, fawned over. She is a human being and she is wholly dependent on me (and when he’s home, her father). Married life is hard with her. Being a pet-parent is hard with her. Upholding familial relationships and friendships is hard with her. But here’s a more important truth:
Being Willow’s mama has given me strength, purpose, determination. For the first time in my life, I am saving money (for her whimsy — another post!), I am losing sleep with good reason. I don’t give a you-know-what about the haters anymore. The ones who troll mom-blogs to say nasty things or accuse me of being some sort of psycho because of the attachment I have to my little family. Yes, I still want to publish that book (WHEN???), yes, my marriage deserves attention. Yes, I need to eat and sleep and go out with friends and be a human. But I will never apologize for loving my daughter with a completeness that makes other things hard. That is why I became a parent in the first place. Because I wanted that.
So, laundry and handmade organic baby food and Target runs and empty gas tanks and giveaway bags of clothing and even haircare might be hard with her. But the sound of baby laughter and the joy of budding curiosity and the heart-melting status of the first words and the promise of a future filled with milestones and memories should be enough for me to shed that awful phrase. It’s time for me to ditch it in favor of a much better encapsulation of what it’s like to be her mom: It’s just so good with her.