Warning: This is a real downer. But I could use your help.

Can I preface this by saying that this is not an attempt to fill my combox with lots of “Don’t worry. You’re such a good mom” type comments? This is a post where I just want to get real about the inside of my mom brain for a few minutes, and any advice you can throw my way to help me out is welcome and appreciated. Just be honest and nice, ok? I want to be a better mom.

I know we are all in the trenches, and I know it is supposed to be hard, but is it supposed to feel like THIS?

I know we are all in the trenches; I know it is supposed to be hard, but is it supposed to feel like THIS? Other moms say it’s draining, but I’m worried I’m messing things up big time.

Lately it feels like I spend the majority of my day in a constant emotional loop that looks something like this:

Reluctant Responsibility:

If you have kids, you know that the minute they wake up, they need you. Every little thing needs to be done for them for the most part. I wake all through the night just so I can wake for the day and a really stupid hour and start my day elbow deep in pee and poop. Then clothes need to be changed. Teeth brushed. Hair brushed. Baths given perhaps. Let’s not even talk about Sam’s naps. 45 minutes to get this kid down for all four of his daily naps. That’s almost four hours of rocking a fussy baby to sleep each day, you guys. And, obviously, these needs go on throughout the day. Never ending, right?

Why does it feel like such a dreaded chore? Shouldn’t I be able to realize that this is my job, and all jobs have a certain level of undesirable? Shouldn’t I be happy that Ellen is now two and can do a few (teeeeeennnny) things on her own? Shouldn’t I allow myself to do the bare minimum to reduce stress (trust me, I do)?

Shirking Quality Time in Futile Attempt for Me Time:

And, after needs are met, they want quality parental time. They love me, so they want to play with me all day long. And I love them too. But I hate playing. I just really dislike playing. I don’t want to read that book again. I don’t want to bounce toys up and down while making pretend conversations in play voices. I don’t want to spin. I don’t want to play tea. I just want to sit and read my book. Or I want to craft and adult craft that requires more than just crayons. Or I want to run out of the house on a quick errand without bundling up everyone and turning it into an all day affair.

So, what do I do instead? I hit the Internet because I can pop in for a few minutes here and there whenever I get the chance – and boy do I make sure I get the chance. All. Day. Long. Sometimes I think about giving it all up. Letting the blog fall flat. But, I can’t stand the thought of losing contact with some of the wonderful people I have met. And, I wonder how other moms make it work: the Simchas, the Jens, all of them.

And what about other moms? I wonder what the breakdown of their days look like. It’s as if I want to know how much time they spend doing all of their motherly things so I know just how much I should be doing as well.

Anger and Frustration at Constant Neediness:

And, when I can’t get that little bit of time that I want to myself, I get frustrated. Then the kids take a cue from me and get whiny and needier. Then the cycle spins out of control and people are crying and in time out, and I am left with…

Feeling Guilty About the Day:

I look back on the day I just spent with the most precious people in the world to me, and I feel like I failed to appreciate them and give them the day they deserve. I don’t think they deserve constant attention and entertainment. I don’t think they deserve a day without lessons learned. I don’t think they deserve a day without challenges. But, I do think they deserve a day with a parent who is present and invested in them. A parent who does things with intention rather than in hopes of survival. Most nights when they are finalllllllly sleeping, I have this thought: God forbid something were to happen to them tonight, would I regret anything? And, the answer is usually yes. I should have done more.

Mike asked if I want to go back to work after I told him I thought the kids might be better off being raised by someone else. Honestly, I don’t want to go back to work. I want to be good at the job I already have, and I want to be good at it in a way that doesn’t feel like a horrible punishment to me each day. I want to get through the day without copious amounts of TV and Internet usage just so I can zone out and not hear crying and constant whining. I want to know that my kids are going to turn out alright and I am not giving them a future complex that leads them to constantly search for the love, attention and affection that their mother could not provide.

I know that a night out by myself or an hour to veg when Mike gets home would do wonders. I’m aware. But, it seems like even after I have that, I slip back into the cycle the very next day. Do I need to grow up and realize that this isn’t my life anymore? Do I need to accept a new normal and get happy about it? Do I need to give more quality time to my kids?

Am I being dramatic? I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like it to me. But, I want to open it up to you now. I’ve been honest with how I feel. Now be honest with me. What are your thoughts? What are your words of wisdom? What can I do to make this better?

 

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  1. says

    It gets easier. It does, I promise. Plug in with a few moms in your area who will be willing to trade babysitting time or find a mother’s day out program or something that will give you a break. Sometimes all it takes is an uninterrupted shower to feel better. My youngest child is mildly autistic and for the first 12 years of his life I couldn’t close my eyes for a second without him doing something destructive. I stayed home until he started school but it wasn’t easy. I learned to ask for help. The family joke was, “it’s you or DFCS… who wants him?” Just because you’re a full time mom doesn’t mean that you never get a break. Heck, folks with jobs outside the home get days off!

  2. says

    Yeah… I feel like I could have written this post on any given day. Particularly when I was staying home with my first two, who are eighteen months apart. And I DID go back to work part time and it definitely helped, but that’s because my job is amazing… All I can say is that sleep does amazing things, as does time. You’re in the worst of it right now, because sam isn’t old enough to play with ellen, but in a year or two you’ll be amazed by just how much time they spend playing together and by themselves! If there’s any way at all mike can let you sleep in in the mornings, jump at the chance! An extra hour of sleep always makes my day soooo much better. Also, the more playdates and outings you can schedule, the faster the day will go!

    • says

      Oh Jenna, like so many people here, I feel like I could have written this. I felt this way most of the first year (plus a few months) of Girl 2’s life. Girl 1 couldn’t entertain herself for two minutes at a time (except perhaps to be destructive), and Girl 2 was a needy baby who hated sleeping. And it took me 45 min to get her down for a nap that would only last 20 minutes. And that was if I was lucky and Girl 1 didn’t wake her up before that.

      I always felt guilty for not giving Girl 1 more quality time, even though I seemed to spend every waking moment interacting with her. She always demanded more more more. But learning to entertain yourself is an important skill, so you’re not depriving your child by not being her constant playmate.

      I agree w/ Rosie that you’re in the worst of it now b/c your kids aren’t old enough to play together. In the past year, my oldest’s imagination kicked in and she was able to amuse herself ,and my younger one is big enough to follow the older one around and be company for her. It’s so great, and that stage is just around the corner for you.

  3. Kristin says

    I think that everything you said is normal and I only say that because I had the same conversation in my head today. So if there are two of us there might be more.

    My furnace stopped working yesterday and they couldn’t make it out until today at 4. It ruined everything because I had goals to accomplish by today. I didn’t get to do what I wanted. Then I had to bundle up my one child. He HATES getting bundled so he had a fit and then I suddenly started crying and begging him to just put his coat on! It scared him so he cried harder. The whole drive to my parents warm house I was wondering if it’s ok to be that emotionally unstable in front of my kids when I’m frustrated. I have another baby coming in March and I know how hard it was to give up my old life for my new life and now I am adding another body to the equation.

    I work. I feel guilty because when I have days like today, I am glad I work because I think I’m a better Mom when I get home. But the reality is, I feel guilty 8 hours straight while I’m at work because I’m not raising my kid 40 hours a week.

    When I vented to my Mom about this today she told me not to feel guilty about needing to get a sitter to get a break. I am battling with myself whether that’s true, but my Mom said it so I’ll do it.

    I think being a Mom means two things. 1, we will feel guilty with every decision we make and 2, we are always sacrificing and doing more and we can’t expect to be rewarded or praised for it even when it feels like we should get a trophy for getting through each day. After Colin was born I was bitter towards my husband on a regular basis because I had to be hormonal, have a stretched out body, lose sleep, have sore boobs, clean, comfort, plan meals, be thoughtful, remember everything, listen to a colicky baby all day and then I realized that that is what a Mom is and I can pick every fight I want, but no one will ever get it unless they are a Mom.

    I just keep asking Mary to help me adjust. I ask her every night to help me figure it out and be patient.

  4. says

    Jenna,

    I could have written this exact post. I wish I could say it was when my kids were tiny but probably I had a day like this 2 weeks ago. What I CAN say is that the neediness lessens over time. (1 day a week versus every day is progress!) I am more able to enjoy my time with my kids as they have gotten older. You’re in the trenches right now, in what I considered the hardest time of my own parenting so far.

    I don’t have perfect answers for you, but I think things will ease up over time. Pray, get out by yourself or with friends. Talk to other moms. Get as many hugs as you can from your hubby.

    On a more practical note, can you sling your youngest to sleep so you don’t have to rock him? That saved me with my oldest who never slept.

    So this is a ranting ramble. I’m sorry for that, and for the fact that I’m writing on my phone (sneaking 5 minutes of me time!) So it’s probably incoherent. I just needed to send you this virtual hug right this very second because toy are not alone. But by a long shot.

  5. says

    You’re in the bad place. I think if we’re honest, we’ve all been there. In fact, I’m there right now. A combination of burnout and depression are weighing on me.

    Part of it is that winter is really rough on me, I hate being cold, part of it is I really like alone time, and part of it is trying to cope with losing Sweet Baby a couple weeks ago.

    It’s fair to say we can’t live the rest of our lives in this place and have healthy relationships with our kids, but climbing the walls back out of the pit is difficult because it IS so much easier to watch tv than interact.

    I don’t like playing games, and generally, that’s what hubby does with the kids when he gets home because it’s just not my gift. We’ve been watching tv and playing video games because we’re on break from homeschooling, but also because I need a break.

    Here’s what I’m doing and maybe it will help you too. Give yourself a “winter break” where it’s okay to stay on pjs and watch tv. Set a time limit on it ahead of time, but go into it knowing you’re going to recharge your batteries by purposefully being restful and it’s not going to be something you beat yourself up about at bedtime.

    I’ve started a regular workout program again, because it helps to punch something when I’m feeling miserable.

    Then, do just one special thing with your kids a day. Of course you can gradually doore, but you’re in triage right now, pull back and try to do one thing that males you happy to be with your kids every day. Tonight, my oldest and I made chocolate chip cookies in a cup with the microwave. That was it, but she’ll remember it was tasty and it took two minutes.

    The weather will improve, the kids will get older and sleep better, but for now, retreat. Take a “working” break by pretending your kids are home on winter break. Watch tv, kick puzzle pieces into a pile with your foot and talk to friends. Blog about it, call someone, share your struggle because someone else is having that same day.

    Prayers to you :)

  6. says

    We are friends. The end. No, seriously…I have felt, and still feel, this way sometimes, and my kids are gone most of the day at school! My hubby suggested I go to work and he quit his job to stay home with the kids. After a tear-filled night I had to make a conscious decision to “reapply” for my job as sahm. Granted, everything hasn’t been sunshine and unicorns prancing across rainbows since that night, but much of the weight has been lifted. I still suffer from bouts of depression and anxiety, but things have been better. Lots of prayers, and forcing myself into a routine, has helped a lot. I’ll keep you in my prayers, too. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart! I hope things start to look up!

  7. says

    Every day there is a cycle that includes many of these things. It’s not that I do not love my kids, or that I am not happy to be home with them, it is that I have to do everything for four people in the same 24 hour period. Mine are still all under five, but I am finding that it DOES get better. I do whatever I must to ensure I get my daily shower and I have a uniform that makes me feel like less of a slob and I try to just call it at that. We have a routine, but try getting four people to like and stick to it! My only goal for each day is that I have a positive interaction with each of them. I tell them I love them and give hugs. There are weeks where I don’t know if it is working or not, but then there are hopeful days also. Prayers, mama!

  8. says

    I can’t add much to what’s already been said. You’re in the worst of it. Period. Ideally, you get some super graces to offer it all up and dance around like Mary frickin’ Poppins or you just get through each day, hour by hour, by the skin of your teeth. Everybody has offered some great advice. All I’ll say is don’t be afraid to vent and admit that *this* is how you feel and that feeling this way is perfectly normal. But also, look for the joy in each day and thank the Lord for it every night. I’ve been where you are and I can say my oldest two (13 months apart) are great kids and I’m close with both of them. We share hugs, snuggles, confidences, animated discussions and now they’re 10 and 11. Clearly hours of PBS Kids, me yelling or wasting time online and not doing a lot of cool outings with them because we ran a business for two years, didn’t scar them too horribly. Sending prayers and hugs!

  9. says

    Just like every other comment here – your thoughts and feelings are spot on.

    My husband and I have survived 24 years of marriage and six kids. We had the first five in our first seven years of marriage. I knew God had blessed our marriage when we didn’t kill each other.

    The best advice anyone ever gave me was this: since God gave my hubby and me all these kids, He must know that we could raise them. We just had to know it, too.

    It isn’t easy. It doesn’t fly by. It goes painfully slow, one day at a time. My sister, with 8 kids, and I used to dream of having nervous breakdowns so we could lounge in the psych ward all day with meals delivered to us. Ahhh, a girl can dream, eh?

    God bless you!

  10. says

    Okay, first of all, I’m praying. That’s always SUCH a good place to begin.

    Next, I’m with you. I could have written this post, and that was 20 years ago, before the Internet. I was a single mom. I loved my daughter. I was breastfeeding and co-sleeping. We had no TV. I was, at this time, an undiagnosed bi-polar (obviously unmedicated). However, I had many good friends and a housemate who ADORED Sophia.

    But there were days, and honestly, it was most of them, that I felt like you. I was constantly guilty, constantly praying, “God, make me a better mom. Please. She deserves a better mom.” I asked the Blessed Mother for help. Saint Anne, Saint Elizabeth, you name her, I was begging. Usually in tears.

    I hated crawling on the ground. I hated washing cloth diapers. Some days, I wanted to just cut off my breasts — because then, No More Breastfeeding!

    I actually became convinced I would become violent. I joined Parents Anonymous. That. Was. Fantastic. Not only was it non-judgmental, but most of the parents (unlike the name implies) had never done anything violent — but they were afraid they might. Just like me.

    I am convinced that many parents feel just like you do, but they are afraid to admit it.

    I don’t think it’s wrong to go back to work. I don’t think that means you’re a failure as a mom. I went back to work when my daughter was two.

    My daughter will graduate from St. Mary’s (Notre Dame) this spring. I can proudly say that we have a fantastic relationship. Many of her friends come to me for parenting advice now. “You must’ve known something. She’s awesome.” So, it does get better.

    It’s not easy. You’re doing the right thing by getting these feelings out on the table.

  11. Emily says

    I’ve really been struggling with similar feelings. I just had our first a few months ago and I’m constantly questioning if I’m doing the right things. I spend parts of everyday missing my old life. But then when I get the chance to do something on my own, guilt strikes. I feel like I’m trapped in a no win situation sometimes.

    All I can say is being a mom, no matter the number of kids, is ridiculous. It is hard and thankless. And some days it hardly feels worth it. I’m sure this comment is just one big ramble and isn’t boosting you’re spirits. But I just want you to know that you aren’t alone.

  12. Koopa says

    I didn’t read every comment super thoroughly but I just wanted to throw out there the possibility of depression. Especially this time of year. Take Care of yourself Momma. You don’t know me but I love reading your blog and being the super selfish person I am, I need you to keep doing it!

  13. says

    I’m pretty sure every mom has felt this way at some point or another. Its one of the main reasons I started my blog, I needed ME time. I needed something that wasn’t taking care of my little person.

    As for the whining and being clingy…granted, I only have one, but I’ve noticed my son gets that way when I’m not spending enough quality time with him. I get so sick of it that I tried and tried to push him away, to do my own thing to get away from the whining. But what helped the most was doing the opposite of what I felt like and that was one on one focused time with him. It was just 15 minutes but he was fine for the rest of the day.

    I also went to the internet to get away from it all. But the more time I spent on it, the more my situation seemed to get worse. Over Advent, I set limits for my internet time. I still got to be on it, but there was a time for it. But again, I only have one and you’ve got to balance two kids. THis is just what helped me :-) Praying for you!

  14. says

    I stumbled across this post, so I’m not a regular reader of your blog. But have you been checked for PPD? I’m not saying that times like this aren’t normal, but you sound really unhappy, and it sounds like someing needs to change for your sake. Also, can you set up weekly events or play dates? I have things every Tuesday/Thursday, and it gives me a time that my kid can play with other kids, and I can take a breath and talk to other adults. Before that, I sounded a lot like this. Worried that I was screwing everything up, and wasn’t cut out for SAHM. Even just twice a week means that there is never 2 days in a row that it is all on me. Thinking of you, and I hope you can figure out something to get the break you need.

  15. says

    Ugh. Been there. I feel like I’m there more often than not. No advice at all but definitely prayers. The only way out is through it and you can do it mama. You are a mother and motherhood isn’t just about mothering babies and toddlers. There will be a day when this isn’t your life. It may feel like forever now but it so isn’t. Go for a walk, get out of the house… just force your will to do something to do anything to calm your mind. Lots and lots of prayers.

  16. says

    As everyone else said, it really does get easier. As kids get older, they get less needy and things just get easier.

    But, I also think it doesn’t have to be terrible right now. Yes, things are hard, but there are things you can do to make it easier. Use the time when you are rocking your son to sleep to also do something enjoyable for you (read/blog/surf the internet/chat/message/text with a friend) and DON’T feel guilty about it.

    Also, don’t feel like you have to entertain/play with your kids every single second. You don’t. and they will be just fine if they learn how to play with/entertain themselves. It’s really not necessary to play tea party if you hate doing that…if your daughter wants to play with you, play something YOU enjoy, or don’t play at all, encourage independent play. . Also, when you are reading stories, find stories that both you and she enjoy..and it’s okay to set a liimit (like only 5 stories a day or something).

    Find other ways to make it fun as well…meet a friend at the park or library mall playground or someone’s house and have fun. Getting together with other friends is SUPER important to MY mental health and I make it a priority for us to get together iwth other people (if possible) at least 2-3 times a week. Those get togethers are really what keeps me going some days.

    Also, drop the guilt about the interent time. Being a mom is a 24/7 job and no one can work all that time without breaks. Moms just have to grab their breaks when they can get them, instead of working 9-5 and having several hours off.

    • ellenjohnson824500384 says

      I totally feel ya. Now that number 2 is on the way, I’m starting to feel more and more trapped by my vocation. Which is silly because I love being a mom and I’ve wanted to be a stay at home mom my whole life! But, it’s so so difficult. It’s one thing to be told this when you’re just starting out, or to witness friends or relatives have difficulties being an at-home mom. But it’s a whole other thing to experience it. I know things will get better as the kids grow older, but right now it’s hard, and it’s ok to acknowledge the difficulties of right now. Also, hormones are the devil, amiright? It sucks that during this legitimately difficult time, our hormones are all over the place due to pregnancy and breastfeeding.

      Anyway, I totally agree with Amelia about kids needing to learn how to entertain themselves. This is one thing I don’t have mommy guilt about. When I was teaching pre-k, most of those kids did not know how to play independently. They had no imagination when it came to playing with new toys. And this is because they had never just been ignored and left to play by themselves. It’s really important! Don’t feel bad if Ellen is playing by herself for hours a day and don’t feel bad for making her play by herself if she’s being whiny and clingy.

      Hang in there, Mama. I’ll pray for you and you pray for me?

  17. says

    I don’t know you, so I don’t think this is for sure the answer, but could you be depressed? I’m not suggesting you need drugs, but perhaps an anti-depression action plan.

    I only suggest this because I’ve been through it, and cycled out of it, but only by enforcing a routine of exercise, an afternoon break and an evening wind down time. So that works for me, and I hope you find a way to pull yourself up. These things are never easy to get out from under.

  18. says

    Everything you are saying, I say like every single day. There is SO much work involved in staying home with my kids that I feel like I miss out on so much joy. Not that I don’t have fun and not that I don’t love them to bits… because I do, but seriously. SO MUCH WORK that I often dread. I know some moms will read this and think that I am horrible, but I’m just being honest. I wouldn’t trade anything, but this is some hard stuff. I tell myself it will get easier, but honestly I think the issues just shift to “older kid issues”. But, in a way I do think it will get “easier”. I mean, there was a year when I had 4 kids in diapers at the same time, and now I just have 1! The only thing that helps me is talking…and blog reading. Reading comments like this when the other mom has problems just like and and agrees with me and doens’t make me feel like a child hating monster. It WILL get better…but until it does know that just like me, even though you feel like you’re damaging your cildren for life… know that you aren’t. It’s a ton of mindless maddening work because you’re doing it the right way!! Keep your head up, or email me and we can complain together!…seriously ;)

  19. Michelle says

    I wrote this long eloquent response and then I hit back in my browser. and Poof! It was gone. There was blasphemy. I won’t lie. But now, I will start again but slightly more irritated and shorter on time.

    Listen friend: what you are going through is normal. So normal. But let’s start with what took me a while to figure out with my two kids.

    I am by no means uber religious, but here is something that has helped me. I see a cross behind you in your picture. There is a cross before you if you choose to see it there. Think about God — I think a lot of what it would mean to have a son…to know he was going to die. Talk about tear jerkers. When I contemplate what my life would be like if my daughter lived, only to know she would die for others….man. That’s heavy.

    But the reason it’s heavy is so that this life — our life — doesn’t have to be so heavy. The worries and fears that are so normal and feel so big, are NOTHING compared to that weight. Literally…they are insignificant in comparison. In fact, it helps me keep in perspective (between screams) that these little hurdles are not hurdles at all. It helps me to remember to take the little challenges in stride. Because, at the end, they will be here with me at the end of my life and theirs.

    But that doesn’t make the day to day easier. I have to learn to live life in an imperfect way. Hair will be messy. Houses will be dirty. I will not brush my teeth today. or tomorrow. I might fall asleep at my desk. Or in my plate of pizza while my kids play around me. But…I am better for it. I would guess you are a perfectionist. Been there. I had to make a decision. I hope you make the same one — Let go of this expectation of what you *HAVE TO* do…and just do.

    You are normal. Scream. Yell. Get it out. Be raw. Be bold. Be real. Be you. Let your kids see your struggle. You are human. When you can’t think what else to do…pray. Then, pray some more. There is light at the end of the tunnel. It took me 3.5 years to find it.

    Deactivate pinterest. Don’t read other people’s blogs. Write if it makes you feel alive. But don’t benchmark. You have to live to your standards…not someone elses. “to benchmark against others is to commit an act of hate against yourself.” What makes you feel like a failure is that you think you are doing something wrong. Girl, you have got it right! It’s just HARD.

    After years of soul searching and gut wrenching work…what I found is that I had to make myself happy first to be a happy parent. That meant a job that fulfilled me (and yes, some time away from my kids to talk to adults) and exercise. Lots of exercise. it is different for everyone…but find what makes you tick, and then do it. do it without guilt because it makes you happy…and your kids deserve to see YOU at your best.

    We are all here. We are all moms. We have all been there. When you need us, reach out. You are never, ever alone. :) And we will pray for you too.

  20. says

    It looks like you have gotten lots of answers already but just know you are not alone. I know the feeling of being tired of playing and I definitely know the guilt feelings too.
    It helps me to really talk up the small things. I learned this trick from from mother in law who is an early child hood expert. You never tell a toddler you are giving them a little treat. You call it a huge treat. Act like it is amazing and they will be amazed. My 3 year old would love all of my time but calling 10 minutes our special mommy daughter craft time or game time and making it feel like an event can make her very happy. Or build a special nest of blankets to read a book or watch a movie. Oh and a roll of painters tape is a sahm’s best friend. A line of tape on the floor can entertain a little one in all sorts of ways. Good luck getting through this time!

  21. says

    Just a couple of suggestions: a hot bath, head to bed early and let your husband hang out with the kids until they need to go to bed, get some sunshine if you can, stay away from sweets and caffeine and nap when the kids nap, even it means making a pallet on the floor next to Ellen while she watches a tv show and you doze. And drink lots and lots of water. I read the brain is mostly water and when it gets dehydrated depression can set in. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got when I was in that place you are–make yourself a fried egg sandwich and go sit outside to eat it so you get some sun.

  22. Sarah says

    I’m sorry you are upset. There are a whole lot of women who just wish to have the job of parenting. Sadly, due to infertility their dreams will not come true. Ever. I would just enjoy the moments you have.

  23. says

    Hey lady:

    We might be the world’s laziest moms, OR, we might be the realest.

    There’s this Huggies Pull-Ups commercial that makes you feel like you have to build a domino-ing toy celebration party for the FIRST FLUSH from your child. All I can recall from my only potty trained child is the absolute haaaaaaayle I went through for 2 weeks and guess what? He’s 4 and still wears pull-ups at night.

    I think a large factor is this Robot Supermom expectation made up by — I don’t know even– other robot moms? Who don’t really even exist, who are fed caffeine intravenously?

    SO. Here’s what this super introverted mom of 3 does:
    I allow myself consolations. I allow myself a shorter than I’d like block of time to do the crafts/reads/writings I NEED to do throughout the day in order to feel like a human being. though sometimes I substitute it with a cookie because many times, I never reach my special block of time. BUT if I DO, when that time is up, it’s up.

    Otherwise, I find myself frustrated by anklebiting as I try to get a little bit more done, and then I’m just irritable for the rest of the day. So there has to be a small self-denial involved (on top of the pre-existing self-denial of general day-in, day-out stuff).
    I don’t feel guilty about days when we watch movies all day. They have to happen some days. many days. Many, many days.

    Becoming more aware of my personality type and that of my children has helped a ton too. What feeds their energy? What feeds yours? Can you combine them?

    Don’t give in to the societal pressure that you have to fill your children’s every waking minute with personalized, special entertainment or else you are a lazy mom. No.
    Define “quality time.”

    Quality time, in the real world, in the FAMILY world, is spending 10-15 minutes letting your children put the utensils away in the drawer for you, or letting them “fold” the laundry… and putting it away, folded that way! THIS is quality time. This is integrating them into family life, teaching them to support you and support themselves. Quality time is not defined by the hours you sit praising your children for their extreme awesomeness and royal highness-ness (that’s how we raise entitled children who won’t contribute to the family community).

    They will play, no matter what. Teach them to help you, and you’ll find yourself playing and laughing and seeing a tiny ray of light …until your youngest shreds the drawer of clothes you just put away. There, your children got more quality time, and you got a chore kind of done. Be satisfied with small triumphs, and let go of perfect: ça n’existe pas.

    I’m with you. only you look so much cuter than I do.

  24. says

    I feel you. I have a two-year-old and a 6 mo old and some days feel like they will never, ever end. One thing I have realized this time around is that a schedule is a must for everyone (in our family). We sleep-trained the baby so that I could put her down awake and she would put herself to sleep without rocking or nursing. It feels like a minor miracle every time I put a happy baby to bed and come back 1-2 hours later to a still-happy baby, because I spent SO much time trying to get her brother to sleep at the same age. The toddler is in bed from 12-3 pm whether he sleeps or just reads. In the mornings, I do “mommy stuff” (laundry, baking, etc.) and take breaks to play with the kids. The computer stays off until the toddler is down for a nap when I work. It takes some discipline, but I feel a lot less frantic through the day.

  25. kim says

    i think youre amazing and your job is really really hard. no other job like it. its for a period of time, wont be forever. But i think you do need time to your self. like 2 nites a week my husband would ship me off for an hour or more to a coffee shop with a book. adults were there, i could read, cuz i love to read, i didnt spend $ cuz there wasnt alot. a few hours to your self can rejuvenate. on a regular basis. something you can look forward too. love u

  26. says

    Also, a day of spiritual retreat might be in order. Sometimes when I least feel like taking spiritual time is when I really need it most. Did you sign up for the Behold conference in Peoria in March? I’m registered and would love to see you there. Having something like that to look forward to may really help get through the Jan/Feb drudgery that is a Midwest winter.

  27. says

    Oh, Jenna,

    I just started following your blog so I can’t say I’ve been with you on this journey long, but I can say this sounds so familiar. I’m pregnant with our third, have a 3.5 and 22 month old, and am a lawyer who’s happy to stay home with them. Most days. Some days are a vicious cycle of guilt, internet, and relying on my mom who’s around a ton to help me just not completely checkout all the time!!!!

    Things that have helped me:

    1) regular babysitting help during the day. That’s above & beyond the night out with my girlfriend when my husband is home.

    2) when my husband comes home, I disappear. Either to lay in bed and watch Netflix, to sew, to talk on the phone with my sister, to sit on my computer, to wipe my nose, whatever. I get at least an hour to myself, guilt-free, in my house, in my all-day-pajamas.

    3) playdates with other at-home moms that I love. The kind that require not cleaning up my house, myself, or my kids. The kind we can roll over to their house in our not-quite-so-best and just let the kids go to town on a box of leggos so we can sip hot beverages and blahbitty blah.

    4) a girls night once a month where I actually get dressed up and makeup and look like a shade of my former self! Same with a date with my husband. We try not to look at photos of our kids or talk about them.

    5) making a weekly schedule about housework (which I HATE to do!!!) so that if the kitchen needs scrubbing on Tuesday, too bad, it’s not Friday yet. And if the laundry is awful, too bad, it’s not that day yet either, etc. Then I have some structure. Structure really helps me with the mind-numbing mundanities.

    Hope my blah blahing is helpful in some way! It’s a really hard vocation and a really hard job. You can do it!

  28. says

    Jenna, a few thoughts:
    1. It really, really does get easier! When everybody’s little, Mama has to do EVERYTHING! My kids are ages five to 23 now, but the hardest time was when they were really little. Even when the oldest gets old enough to do little things, it helps. I taught my oldest to make a pot of coffee and a pot of spaghetti when she was very young, and that was a turning point in my life! For you it might be something else.
    2. When everybody’s little, you’re in a constant state of sleep deprivation. This is a real, physical condition, and when you see symptoms of it (impatience, irritability, inability to focus or stay calm about little obstacles…) the temptation is to think you’re a terrible person, a terrible mother, that it’s a question of character and virtue, not at all a physical condition.
    3. Don’t think “Am I doing enough?”–think “Am I doing what God would like me to do right now?”
    4. About “quality time”: don’t underestimate the value of quantity time–time when you’re doing one thing and your kids are doing another, but they know you’re there and sense that you’ll be available if they need anything.
    5. But of course you want quality time too–but that doesn’t mean you have to be playing on the floor and reading annoying books all day! Try to find books you really like to read to them, or activities you enjoy, rather than resigning yourself to their tastes. Our kids have developed a taste for oldies (’50s and ’60s) and C.S. Lewis and Tolkein and Arnold Lobel, but left to themselves I’m sure they would have picked Barney and Captain Underpants, which I not only wouldn’t have enjoyed, but I would have had the burden of guilt, rightly or wrongly, every time I thought about how I was depriving my kids of good literature.
    6. As far as Mama being on the internet too much, I’m not one to talk! But sometimes it helps to put some kind of control on yourself, so you don’t feel like a really terrible mother–like not going on facebook before morning prayers or after a certain time at night–so that the only two options you can see aren’t just no internet at all or so much internet that you feel guilty about it all the time.
    7. It’s also good, if at all possible, to schedule regular breaks of some kind, so they’re predictable and you have something to look forward to. Don’t wait till you’re desperate and you’re expecting a little break to make you a whole different person from now on!
    8. And some advice from a really good priest: Don’t pay attention to the thoughts where you “reflect back on yourself”–if you’re tempted to run away from home or throw a whining kid out the window, don’t waste time thinking “What a terrible person I must be to have such a thought!”–just take it as a temptation and try to do something productive about it, even if that’s just having a cup of coffee or taking a walk or attacking some paperwork (if the kids let you!) that’s weighing you down.
    Wow, that was longer than I meant it to be. Hope it helps!

  29. says

    First of all, virtual hugs are in order. Your words could have been mine a few months ago. It is so hard to slog through the day sometimes.

    My son is 2.5 and my daughter is almost 1, and they are starting to get to the age where they can entertain each other, which helps A LOT. It is so hard to see past that uber-needy phase when you are right in the middle of it (I know from experience) but it will happen.

    I rely on my husband a lot. If I ever need “me” time he runs the bedtime routine so I can go out and do my own thing, even if it is just sitting in a coffee shop and reading.

    A gym membership at a gym with a childcare was a life-saver for me. I don’t LIKE to exercise, but it really does help me keep on an even keel to be able to work out and get some headspace. The hour without whining is pretty nice too. It is really hard to swing it with our budget, but it has been worth the sacrifices.

    It also helped when I started to form a community where I could find support. I started hosting playdates one afternoon a month in the afternoon so we can all get through the worst part of the day together. Everyone brings a dish and we call it dinner. There is also wine.

    And when all else fails I remember something Simcha wrote at the Register a while back,

    “They can do stuff. Do not underestimate the sheer magic of this phrase, when you whisper it into the ear of a mom who is knee deep in baby land, and whose idea of unheard of luxury is having someone else pour the juice. Or clean up the spilled juice. Or just not need juice for ten stinking minutes. The other night, my husband and I sipped wine and nibbled on cheese and crackers while listening to Lou Reed. And where were our nine children? Oh, folding laundry in the living room. The older kids directed the younger kids. It wasn’t done perfectly, but man, someone else was doing it. And I hear it just gets even more magical when your older kids can drive.”

  30. says

    If there is a mother out there who doesn’t think some days of walking out the door and keep on walking…they are lying to you. I raised two girls as a single mom and I am now living with my daughter/son-in-law and 9 month old grand daughter. You are correct, they don’t need constant attention. You can turn them over to the hubby for an hour or so each night…they are his too. With the 2 year old, you can start telling her that ‘mommy needs to do her chores’ and get her ‘help’ carrying dirty clothes to the laundry or picking up toys. And even if it is a walk around the block or going to the grocery store BY YOURSELF, you do need to get out of the house. Otherwise, cabin fever sets in.

    And, as someone else said, it does get easier.

  31. says

    You are getting a lot of good advice here. The only thing I want to add is to attack this spiritually. The Lord knows and wants to be in on the details of our lives, the mundane, the unending toil. If He knows every single count of hair in our heads He knows every trouble we have and He wants to ease those burdens, even if only momentarily. If you have an opportunity to go to Holy Hour do it. If you are able to pray even one of the prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours, do it. If you only have time to mumble an honest “Lord, have mercy!”, mumble it every chance you have – through the diaper changes, through the crying and screaming, through the long days of motherhood. Pray away your days. It is our number one vocation. Peace to you and prayers coming your way.

  32. says

    We all totally hear you. It’s insane to choose to be sleepless, covered in bodily fluids, and in charge of keeping small dictators from destroying everything in their path. Of course, you wouldn’t want it any other way when you look back at the last week, month, year; but when you’re in it, it’s maddening.

    I have found a great group of friends that are always there if I need to just complain and whine on Facebook messenger, or in person. It’s great to be able to send a picture of a screaming toddler to a couple friends and have a little laugh instantly because it can feel very lonely dealing with those things alone. We’ve also invented “mimosa playdates” and “fried food Friday playdates”, the kids get to play with each other and we get to mostly ignore and relax.

    And while getting an hour or a day to yourself is great, I’ve found that I generally spend most of that time thinking about something related to the kids. Should I buy them new shoes? Is it time to sign up for preschool or register for sports? Am I sucking at potty training? But those same moms and I have been going on long weekend vacations. Just long enough to stop thinking about motherhood entirely and really, really relax. It’s amazing how much more recharged you are after three days instead of just one.

  33. says

    Oh hun, you’re totally not alone! I’ve actually struggled with this a lot this past year (or longer, I suppose). I have a 7 year (at school during the days) then twin 4 year olds and a 2 year old. It is HARD. Everyone asks ‘how do you do that’. All I can say is ‘I just do’. And that’s all there is – you just DO IT. You’re not ignoring your children so they could get hurt, not placing them in front of the TV all day long, not beating them or verbally abusing them. You’re being a mother. A NORMAL mother. Really, we all look around at these ‘perfect’ moms, but I swear there is no such thing. You don’t know what happens behind the scenes, if they’re just putting on a smile but secretly want to run out the door. I’m sure we all feel this way, and I believe it’s okay. You know you love your children more than anything. If you didn’t, you would just leave them to their own devices or make someone else watch them. You don’t – you choose to stay home with them even though you’re unhappy and overwhelmed.

    I have no idea how to get over it, since I can’t get myself over these feelings. I constantly remind myself that they’re okay, they know they’re loved, and they’re happy. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t get down and play cars with them, or that I didn’t practice the alphabet with my toddler again. It’s okay that I tell them it’s their turn to read the book to themselves because I’ll scream if I have to read it again (I don’t say the scream part). They’re not going to grow up ‘broken’ or ‘ruined’ because of any of this. They’re loved, they’re cared for. THAT’S WHAT MATTERS.

    Honestly, even though people say to ‘enjoy the young years because they’re over too fast’, I’m counting down until they’re all in school. I feel that’s when I will do better, feel better. All we have to do is hold on, and keep LOVING our children.

    Hugs to you!!!!!

  34. Erika says

    Wow! Your honesty is refreshing. I could have written this back when I was a SAHM with only 1 kid. I have no advice, because I went back to work to feel better. Just glad to know, from your post and the comments, that I am not the only one who thought being a SAHM is the hardest job in the world! Good luck to you.

  35. says

    Ahh I feel like I could have written a lot of this myself! I only have the one plus the one on the inside so it’s a lot easier. But I too dislike playing. And I’m on the internet all day when I’m at home on the weekends. So what I’ve been trying to do is spend a little time here and there actually playing with her. But its also good for them to have independent play time. I have a lot of her toys in the living room so she can play while I have the TV on. I like it because its less lonely (Hobbs works weekends) and also I might be addicted. I’m pretty much terrified of El Babio coming out of the womb and needing me all day. Cupcakes has gotten so independent, which is very nice. Ellen will be there very soon! And soon after that, Sam will be able to play with her! Siblings keep each other entertained! I think its going to get better for you very soon. :) And you can talk me down when I’m absolutely losing my mind in a few months here.

    Love and hugs,

    Jamie

  36. says

    It does get better. Promise. Our kids are 10,11,14,16 and that constant neediness is mostly gone, but they still need us. Daily. I felt just like you when ours were young and I look back wondering how we all made it through, but we did.

    I hated and still hate playing. Our kids had each other to play with, but I let them bake with me and craft and exercise with me…so there were other ways to spend time with them, but also on my terms.

    The biggest change I made was when I forced myself to get up at least 15 minutes before them (and sometimes it just didn’t work) and had my quiet time with the Daily Readings and a cup of coffee. It made all the difference and all these years later…..I still do it.

    Blessings, my dear, you are in huge company, you ARE doing a great job, so just take it all one minute, one hour, one day at a time!

  37. says

    Enjoy this quote by G.K. Chesterton. :) It puts a deeper perspective on the repetition of life :) “All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork. People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance. This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact. For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire. A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness. The very speed and ecstacy of his life would have the stillness of death. The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE. Heaven may ENCORE the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose. It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain. Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop. Man may stand on the earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be his positively last appearance.”

  38. says

    Okay, I know this is a few days late, but here I am, probably with repeat advice. First of all, give yourself some credit. Being a mom to littles is not easy – it is crazy hard and it’s okay to admit that! How many other jobs ask you to serve all the time, day or night, on little sleep, usually with some bodily fluid on you (not yours! lol) to little tyrants (I mean that lovingly) who are generally demanding and have poor manners? Oh, and for no pay? I definitely have my days/weeks where I just lose it because I can’t deal with the mess and crazy for one more second. What helps is to force some me time in my schedule, so I can get away, even for an hour to the library (where it is QUIET) or something. I also try to do something for myself every day – getting a workout in (I know, so hard), fresh air, a shower, or a bit of makeup on can make a big difference in my day. Maybe figuring out what helps you and gives you energy will help your days get easier. If I get up before the kids, I don’t feel so behind on my day before it even starts.
    As far as Sam goes, obviously you know your kids better than anyone, but it sounds like he’s old enough to drop at least one of those naps. I don’t know if you’re opposed to crying it out, but it might help him learn not to take advantage of you like (it sounds like) he is. CIO is not fun for the few days you have to do it, but the added sleep makes a huge difference.
    Thanks so much for being honest. I hope this helps at least a little bit, and I’m sorry if this is all repeat from previous commenters. Let me know if you need a sounding board, I’m happy to help! :)

  39. says

    I’m so sorry that you’re having a rough time. I’m sure you can tell by the responses you’ve received that most moms can relate to at least some portion of your post. If this is how you feel on bad weeks, I would say keep on keepin’ on. However, if you’re feeling miserable day in and day out, my personal opinion is that something needs to change. There are lots of ideas here of little or big things that you could do to try to restore your sanity and enjoyment of parenthood. To add one more idea to the mix, have you considered part time preschool? For financial reasons, I work outside the home four days per week, and on my day off I really enjoy my time with my boys (not that we don’t still have our moments, but generally speaking it is a wonderful bonding day for us). Anyway, since I work the boys have been in preschool from a young age, and they truly enjoy being with other kids and actually learn quite a bit too. Depending on your budget, you could still stay home and have the kids go to school for say half a day a couple days per week. Or if that isn’t financially feasible, you could work part time while they go to school part time. I think the reason the hour here and hour there isn’t cutting it for you is because with any other job you would at least get lunch breaks, evenings and weekends off. You’re not getting a real break which is leaving you burnt out. Whether you choose to use preschool or some other option, I think getting a real break would make a world of difference for you. Sure, your kids will still push your buttons, but I would be willing to bet you would enjoy your time with them so much more. Prayers that God helps guide you to the right solution for you and your family. I recently went through a long and difficult period of us trying to figure out the right path for our family, but God did answer our prayers, and having one day off per week has made such a big difference for me and the boys. Point being, hang in there, be patient, and trust God to reveal the right path for your family.

  40. says

    Oh, Jenna! A few days late, several dozen comments behind. I am sure you have gotten all the right advice and reassurance already, so let me just tell you, thank you. You are not alone. We all go through this and are too embarrassed to say anything or ask for help. I work, and only have one child who is four and very independent, and I feel the same way so often. The guilt is worse when you work away from home. I constantly think, well she has all these other things to deal with, I have no excuses I am just a failure. Thanks for being honest. No one is perfect, everyone probably feels like a failure sometimes. And that okay. Because we don’t give up or lose hope or faith. You are wonderful and it will get better. Just thank you.

  41. says

    So I know you wrote this post a few weeks ago, but I stumbled across your blog from the various people picking up embroidery ( :) ) and saw this post, and I just wanted to say thank you for writing it. First because you could have been describing me, down to a T, and it is so good to know I’m not the only one! And second because you opened the door to all this great advice from others that I’m now taking advantage of. :)

    God bless and hang tight!

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