grieving motherhood as I thought it would be

“The world is full of women blindsided by the unceasing demands of motherhood, still flabbergasted by how a job can be terrific and torturous.” – Anna Quindlen

Blindsided is right. This was not what I had signed up for. The anger. The fear. The desperate exhaustion. The feeling of being swallowed up by my own failure. The feeling of total insignificance and utter insufficiency all at the same time.

Motherhood is not what I thought it would be.

How much of my feeling this way was due to what I now understand to be postpartum depression? I will probably never know. But I can tell you that my complimentarian, Evangelical Christian, young-married woman view of motherhood was false whether I had suffered from postpartum depression or not. Perhaps it was naivety. Perhaps I bought a message sold to me that being a young mom of many who drives a fuel-efficient SUV and worships Jesus every Sunday next to her godly husband would satisfy me.

Perhaps I believed it would be as easy as everyone pretends it is.

It’s not.

When I accepted that reality, it instantly puts the dreams I had for my future in jeopardy.

And for that, I am sad. I am sad to set aside assumptions I made as a 22 year old newly pregnant woman who was going to start her family young, have a handful of kids, and be done with her child-bearing years before her 35th birthday. Because really, I want it to be like that. I want so desperately for this career in mothering to be glamorous and natural and easy. I wanted it to be that way so badly that I pretended it was for nine months before admitting that it wasn’t.

It’s not.

I’m experiencing a grieving process of sorts. I am having to lay to rest my understanding of motherhood. I am mourning its loss. I don’t know what stage I’m in, but I think it’s somewhere between denial and bargaining to have it back.

I so desperately want it back that each day I try to create it.  It, that motherhood as I thought it would be. Maybe it’s bargaining, I’m not sure, but day by day I force myself to be a more purposeful parent. I let myself laugh, really truly laugh as I tickle my son. I pack us up, get out of the stinking house and go on adventures with him. I try to make it look how I thought it would.

This is how I am coping.

And if you promise to keep this secret and not say it out loud because I don’t want to jinx it, I will tell you. Slowly, as I cope in this way of making motherhood what I thought it would be, it is becoming what I thought it would be. Slowly.

It is.

52 Responses to “grieving motherhood as I thought it would be”

  1. Tiffany

    I can tell you honestly that after seven years, some days are what I pictured and some are not. But, I have learned to take the good and the bad as they come and I let go of the hollywood-esq model I was always comparing myself to. As soon as I honestly let go and just tried to enjoy life, I found it.

  2. Jenn

    Wow. Isn’t this so true? I’ve spent 2 years longing for something I don’t have (before this it was marriage), and I’m currently trying to convince myself that becoming a SAHM won’t match my dreams. It will be a source of happiness, I’m sure, but not a fairy tale. Thank you for sharing this. It helps to read from someone who has lived it. :)

  3. kim

    THIS is the way to cope. THIS is the way to be a mother. THIS is reality. GOOD for you. :) Well done, Alison. You are a STRONG woman. Say goodbye to the girl you used to be and welcome the woman you are.

  4. Grace

    i can really relate to this post! motherhood wasn’t as I imagined it would be either. at least the 1st year (i’m almost done with the 2nd year ;) i suffered PPD without proper help for about 5-6 months as well. That of course adds to the helplessness and fatigue, etc etc. I’m glad you are getting the help you need & seem to be doing much better. Like Tiffany said there are good and bad days but overall it’s the greatest sacrifice and greatest blessing we will probably ever experience in our earthly lives.

  5. Michelle

    I believe any parent can relate to your blog and EVERY teenager that thinks they can be a parent NEEDS to read this post!!!! What you’re feeling isn’t all PPD, anyone that tells you parenthood is like a story book is lying, it’s a constant roller coaster. Countless times I’ve called my husband at work in tears asking him to come home or begging for five minutes of peace, unfortunately these types of feelings & anxiety don’t get discussed between parents…we think if we share our feelings it means we’re horrible parents. Take one day at a time, enjoy the good days and quickly move past the bad days; try to find things to do outside the house (story time at the library, Gymboree, Aqua Tots, MOPS, play dates groups [meetup.com], etc).

    P.S. whenever I’m approached and asked what it’s like to be a SAHM- I always say the same thing, “Its not for everyone and the best thing to do is use your maternity leave and then decide if working or being a SAHM is the best choice.”

  6. Heather of the EO

    Oh lady, you are so beautiful in your transparency. Don’t we all need more of that?

    anyway. YES. I hear you. Motherhood is so freaking surprising in so many ways. Some of those ways are really really hard. And you’ve GOT IT- YOU GET IT. You get that you need to just surrender to the imbalance and the tension of so many opposite clashing emotions, because that’s what motherhood IS, largely. And when you just let that be what it is, you DO become the mother you dream of, the one that you already are, inherently. The one that gets covered up because of expectations and perfectionism and guilt.

    You are and you have all that OBaby and future OBabies need or want.

    I just love you to so many pieces,

  7. Amanda

    Would love to know more… this is probably the *first time* I have left this comment for anyone. But could you write up a 10 page essay with the details and publish that??? :) (i kid)

    Thanks for your honesty!


  8. Susan

    I am hesitant to add my comment because I don’t wish to open the whole working versus stay at home mom issue. But I went back to work after having my first because I knew I couldn’t stay sane or retain who I was as a person if I stayed home. It was not a lack of love for my first born, but rather I think, a lack of maturity on my part. I knew that staying at home wasn’t going to work out for our family at that time. Five years later when I had my second, I was in a different place emotionally. I did stay home for the first three years and even then I found I needed to go back to work because what I do in my work fulfills a need within myself – a need that can’t be filled with changing diapers or trips to the zoo. Do not interpret that to mean I don’t think SAHM’s fulfill needs – they do! And the work is hard – and maybe for me – the work of a SAHM was too hard and I wasn’t strong enough to carry out that role each day. I hope we’ve reached a time in our society when we can allow each mom to make a decision based on what’s right for her and her family and not judge each other for the choices we make.

  9. Adventures In Babywearing

    Tears rolled down my cheeks the other day as I tried to explain how I felt as a mother, to my husband. How it’s hard, and confusing, and I feel like I’m not making it. But yet, I am. I am making it and some days are good and that confuses me more. You are chartering your own course, no one else can map it for you. It’s yours and you can still make it whatever you want it to be.

    So maybe I’m talking to myself here.


  10. thenextmartha

    This was so beautiful. I redefine what it means everyday and sometimes hour by hour. You are not alone feeling this way. Someday you’ll look back at this time and think “What a beautiful “OLife” I have.

  11. Sarah

    It is hard, but with Christ all things are possible. I am insufficient. This is not a feeling, it is reality. Christ is my sufficiency. All I have to offer my children is Christ. This is something that I rest on more and more each day. So many days of tears and anger and expectations that are not met, I pray they are dissolving away. It will never be easy but it is incredible. God is faithful and he will see me through. Thanks, I always enjoy your blog.

  12. Stephanie

    Oh Allison…I am with you and I understand. I still struggle with being “that” mom, “that” wife, “that” woman…when, in reality, “those” women are just figments of my imagination. This “perfect” image of motherhood we’ve been seeing is a lie…it IS hard, it IS disappointing, it IS a daily struggle…but I am finding too, that as I change my perspective and look to Him to mold me and change me into the mother He wants me to be (not the mother I think I should be), I am finding that motherhood is not as bad as I make it out to be some days. And truly, some days are bad and some days are good. I just noticed Steph’s comment about trying to tell her husband how it is to be a mom…and oh I’ve been there too. I try and try and try…but he just doesn’t understand. He thinks I should be happy all the time and not let these unrealistic expectations get to me and wonders how in the world I can think I’m a failure sometime…but that’s what being a mom is – it doesn’t make sense most days…but when it does, it’s a beautiful, wonderful thing that I am so thankful to be a part of. Love you dear friend!

  13. Em

    This was a really great post. I think, as many have said before me, that so many can relate to what you are saying.

    I was a “Teen Mom” – my parents did the job that I wasn’t ready to do and raised both me and my daughter, encouraged and supported me through my undergrad and subsequent job search. And were never more proud than the day I married my college sweetheart and the three of us – him, me, and my (now OUR) daughter – rode off into the proverbial sunset. I felt like “I did it…I beat the odds, we are a happy secure family unit….now let’s add to it!” I thought that after being a parent at 16 that doing it the “right way” at 28 was going to be a no-brainer.

    It’s not.

    I have read your blog and could not relate more to your feelings of realization 9 months later that something was “off”. I too take every day as it comes and say “I can do this. I WILL do this.” I am a firm believer that an optimistic attitude and a healthy support system will get you through anything (not to say there won’t be the occasional rough day).

    For me it’s not the day to day care of my son who is ‘easy’ and so, so happy – it’s juggling everything outside of that…and something I work on every.single.day with the help of my husband and 13 yr-old daughter. Sometimes I think it’s just God’s way of forcing me to be thankful for the things in my life…which I am, and which this “struggle” makes me realize now more than ever.

  14. becca

    you are so beautiful. in your voice. and the way you state things. take things day by day, and i’m sure you’ll look back on this time and remember how wonderful it all was. best wishes!

  15. Amy

    I can sooo identify with this!!! Everything in life had always come easily to me – school, relationships, wonderful husband, financial success – so naturally I assumed motherhood would to. My own mother was (and still is) superwoman who wholly embodies the Proverbs 31 woman we all admire. After having such a great example for a mom, I thought this motherhood gig would come naturally to me as well. WRONG!! I’ve NEVER been so challenged, humbled, and frustrated by anything in life!! I also had PPD (fortunately with the help of family it was diagnosed very quickly and I got help right away) which contributed to the problem. More than that though, God chose to give me one of the most challenging children ever conceived who cried for HOURS on end as an infant, and now as a toddler continues to drive me to my knees EVERY DAY (he’s also super funny, energetic, and lovable, but D.I.F.F.I.C.U.L.T nonetheless). I had high hopes of being a great mom, having lots of children, and really enjoying that whole season of life. It has been so hard to face reality that being a SAHM and raising children is VERY hard for me and I just don’t love it like I wish I did. I do LOVE my boys with all my heart but motherhood is so much more challenging that I had envisioned. God is definitely about a work in me through all of this though. I’m certainly more humble, patient, compassionate, and less judgemental than I was before becoming a parent. I pray daily that He would help me embrace this vocation that He has for me (with all of its joys and trials), live it to the fullest, and hopefully glorify Him in the process.

  16. Blair@HeirtoBlair


    I feel the EXACT same way. I’m grieving. & I don’t know how to stop. & I wish more people made motherhood look impossible the way I feel it makes me look.

  17. aclittle

    What a wonderful post! And what a wonderful thing to know that we are not alone in our feelings. As a SAHM, I can totally relate to what you wrote, although I have never been able to put in into words quite like you did! Like so many others have said, I find it’s a day by day process, becoming the wife and mother that I want to be, and giving my little ones the kind of childhood that I want them to have. Although I desperately want to be the “perfect” mother, I mess up all the time. And I am finding that’s okay, as long as I learn from my mistakes and do better the next time.
    Just this morning in fact, I raised my voice at my two year old when it was not justified. When I went back and apologized to him, he said, “thank you Mommy. Merry Christmas”. It makes me tear up just thinking about how very sweet he is, and how very blessed I am to have the opportunity to stay at home with him and his brother.

  18. alexis

    how eloquent are you? so very! you know the saying, “fake it till you make it?” i’m convinced that was invented purely for the purpose of describing motherhood. we can never know what it will be like to give ourselves completely to another human being until we have children and they take it by force. then, there’s the period of slowly reclaiming our lives and committing to give everything willingly. sounds like you’re well on your way to getting there.

    thanks for the post, you are amazing.

  19. Jenna

    What an inspiration! Look at that little boy… he is so happy! Your honesty in this post (and all the others, but this one especially) is exactly the thoughts going through my head. Sometimes I think I am at war with my own thoughts, my husband doesn’t understand and I think I’m alone. But I’m not… and I never will be. Thank you so much for this! THANK YOU!

  20. Jenn

    THANK YOU!! Thank you for this post! When I got pregnant I pictured myself with an apron on holding my babes in one hand a smile and cookie pan in the other when my hubs walked in the door! NOT! I guess we’re lucky the first few months to brush our teeth or even change clothes.

    There is so much that people don’t tell you about motherhood that shoots at you like a canon with no warning. We see these pretty little moms with all their ish together and think ,”hey it can’t be THAT hard”. Well newsflash it is a total life-rocker, a totally hard, crying because you don’t know what to do, and totally worth every second kind of life rocker.

    No one ever warns us young moms what mommy-hood is really like. Adjusting and seeing that you can actually do this is rewarding. The little smiles and milestone help a ton too.

    Get ‘em girl. I’m here adjusting with you.

  21. Jenn

    PS… You and Heir to Blair have totally made me feel normal. Somedays all I want to do is cry and wish things would just get easier. and some days I just think “maybe I CAN do this?” This thing called motherhood is a raging rollercoaster with some of the best moments in my life, but also some of the lowest feelings I have ever experienced.

    Thank you for sharing. I know I’m not alone.

  22. Sidnie

    …terrific and torturous…

    True words.
    There are days when naptime doesn’t come soon enough. And then there days when bedtime is way too soon.
    Some days I have it all together and we all look cute… And other days, we spend the day in pjs and I have tears rolling down my face.
    Most days, the feeling that I can’t do this is overwhelming…
    But then I do… I get through the moment, the day, the week… And time passes… The hurt and anger from that moment passes… And with it, the chance to cherish the days and weeks…
    I don’t want to pass the good moments up, just because I’m running from the bad ones…

    Where’s the balance? How do we learn to embrace it all?

  23. Valerie

    I followed a link from Blair’s blog to your blog and I am so happy I did! I am going to add it to my daily reads…

    I can so relate to this post. I can so, so, so relate.

  24. Erin

    It is so very different than our expectations, isn’t it? I have found is in so much in my attitude and I thank the Lord that is helping me turn that around. I am tired of thinking what could be and ready to enjoy the beautiful gift I’ve been given and it sounds like He is leading you there as well. Thank you for your transparency. You are such a dear!

  25. Helen

    You are so brave to put all tis into words- I only wish I had the same eloquence!
    The other day, I was trying to explain to my hubby that although I feel happy and am enjoying motherhood, at times I feel sooo guilty. Guilty that I am not being the mum I pictured I would be- that tv type mum that never puts the baby down (except for a well mapped out sleep) and who bakes cakes and makes stunning dinners- guilty that in the morning I put him in the bouncer for 30mins whilst I wake up, guilty that sometimes, in the middle of the night, I try to ignore his howls of hunger and guilty that occassionally I think about giving him baby paracetomol just to make him sleep, (I haven’t actually done this!). But you know hat I think I realise? It’s normal- it really is. You can’t constantly be that perfect mother and wife and that is ok. I keep reminding myself that I am doing the best I can right now and as long as that is true then I am ok. And you know what, Baby Rhys seems to love me anyway and he is growing up just fine. Looks to me like the same is true for obaby. Maybe you’re doing better than you think!
    Love Helen***

  26. Lisa

    You’ve just shed light on something remarkable for me. Thank you so much for putting in words exactly what I’ve been feeling. I think the feelings would have been there even without PPD for me, but it’s made it so much harder to sort through.

  27. Elizabeth

    Motherhood is nothing that I thought it would be. I feel selfish for even wanting a child. Joshua deserve so much better. I am really questioning myself and wondering if he would be better off in daycare than with me. :(

  28. Stephanie

    My children are older now, they are 5 & 3 and things don’t really get easier, the situations & frustrations just tend to get different. I love other moms that are honest, I sat at a practice for my 5 year old and I was talking to another SAHM (which btw, I look up to) and she said out of nowhere, sometimes I just go to the bathroom and sit….then my daughter comes in & asks why… She looked at me & said I just needed a minute, I needed to be alone by myself. I looked at her & I instantly felt a bond, I love true honesty like that…we’ve all felt that way, every. single. one. of us has felt that way, but we don’t voice it and the ones that voice it just make the rest of us feel a little bit better…SO bravo OAllison Bravo!

  29. Judy

    Thank you! Just this afternoon I looked around and couldn’t figure out what on earth I had accomplished today. For a brief time I considered everything I hadn’t done with my children, and then I remembered the times we had laughed together; the time I had taught my oldest what a windshield was; the time we spent rolling on the floor. Then I realized, it was enough. My oldest won’t remember how many books I didn’t read to him each day; he’ll remember the cardboard boat I built with him that one time, or the time we spent at the park. For today, this was enough.

    Thank you. Sometimes we just need to know that we aren’t alone.

  30. Krissy @ ArtsyMom

    Couldn’t be a better post. :) I actually wrote one on my blog because you and Heir to Blair inspired it. I thought I was the only one who felt this way and was very ashamed. But you really helped me to realize I’m not alone and that I shouldn’t be. I linked you on my post. :)


  31. Diana Windley

    A few months after my first child was born I cried to my mother-in-law, “I just want my life back.” She smiled and told me “This is your life now.”

    Adjusting to new motherhood was a much greater challenge than adjusting to marriage. I had never truly pondered that this helpless baby would need me (us) for every little thing. It’s so overwhelming! It’s also the greatest blessing ever!

    Keep sharing your stories! Obviously, so many of us can relate!

  32. Nichole

    This is such a vulnerable and lovely post.

    After my son was born nearly seven months ago, I cried every evening for three weeks. I remember feeling such tremendous remorse for having had him. I was angry with myself for rocking the boat–we had been so happy when it was just me, my husband, and our daughter. The crying was so physical and consuming. I thought that I would never feel okay again…that I had ruined my happy life. For me, each day got easier, but those early days were frightening.

    I wish you peace and strength on your journey. I hope that each passing day brings you more happiness and contentment.

  33. ibis

    I have to recommend to you the same book I recommended to Blair – Perfect Madness by Judith Warner. It has really opened my eyes to what American motherhood is all about, why it’s so plagued with anxiety and dashed expectations and guilt… it is a must read!

  34. Cambria Copeland

    Wonderful post. So honest and true. I have a newborn and an almost two year old. Plus, we just moved acts the country. Lots going on. Lots of these feelings more often than with my first baby. It’s a hard thing to describe to husbands and actually make them understand. Keep up the wonderful posts.

  35. harmskills

    Stll trying to process everyone’s posts (there have been quite a few) and I have also recently thinking about age, and the best age to become a mother (not sure there is one). Those who become moms at a younger age will get to see there kids longer into adulthood. I dont want to be morbid, but its true. But those of us who waited to have kids in our 30s, we got to experience alot more for ourselves in our 20s. travel, career, friends, singlelife, etc. So now do I #1 long for all the good stuff I used to do??? yes, cause I had a chance to do it or #2 had chance to do it, so I am fully ready to move on to the next step, the next chapter.

    I’m not even sure… but of the I think 4 posts I read about girls feeling a bit blindsided by motherhood, they all married and had babies in their 20s, even early 20s. obviously 4 blog posts is not a scientific study, but it age might be a common theme.

    hmm… if i can get this kid to nap today, i might blog about it. otherwise, if i wait until the weekend, the discussion will probably have come and gone.

  36. Mae

    I love this because I am also working on making my life look like what I always wanted it to look like. And it’s not easy, and sometimes I have to sit down and think, do I still want what I always wanted before? And if not, is that ok (of course it is, it’s my life and I get to want what I want!) and what do I want instead? Now how do I make it look like THAT?

    Every day. Glad to know there’s someone else doing it too.

  37. Little Miss Momma

    I know you have already received nearly a billion comments saying exactly what I am about to say–but I am going to say it anyway because it is the truth–you put into words EXACTLY how I feel every day. Every day i tell myself, “this is what I wanted, right”. My baby is my world, and I love him more than life itself–but this isn’t what I imagined–not one bit. However, for many reasons I am gratedul for the blessings the challenge of motherhood provides me {such as developing relationships with fellow mommas that otherwise would never have existed–and these are some pretty incredible women}. I asked my OBGYN how could I possilbly be a good momma–and she put it so perfectly. She said, Ashley, lesser woman have done it. And i guess shes right.
    You are one hec of a momma and i am so happy to meet someone who is SO young and yet SO together!

    Just in case, here is a link to a post I wrote about how I “imagined” motherhood to be vs. the “reality” of motherhood: http://littlemissmomma.blogspot.com/2010/05/day-in-life-of-momma-imagined-vs.html



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