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I’ve often struggled to articulate what is so hard about motherhood and for me I think it comes down to four things.
The first is that being needed constantly is exhausting mentally and emotionally. I don’t really get breaks. Holly Baby or Ivy Baby will get me out of bed at 7:30 or so and then at 9:30 pm both babies are asleep at long last and I stay up for a bit after that and then trudge off to bed around 11 or midnight and then I do it all again. That is every day. Day in and day out.
Secondly, motherhood, particularly if you are a stay-at-home mother, is a very lonely pursuit. You’re on your own with the kids the vast majority of the time. I remember the first time I was on my own with Holly Baby for 7 hours. I felt like I was going to die. I remember the first time I was alone with her for 11 hours. I felt like I was going to die. This is another thing that is difficult to explain. I think it’s very hard to stay so active, so engaged, so attentive, to come up with ideas to keep the kids happy and entertained without any other adult support. Our children provide a different sort of company and while that company is lovely, the company and conversation of adults offers respite and support that our children’s cannot.
Next is the worry. The worry I’m not spending enough face time with my children. The worry I’m not reading enough to them. The worry I’m too lax about screen time. The worry I’m doing the whole thing wrong. The worry that any one of a million harms will come to my children.
Lastly, motherhood lays your selfishness bare. People have a way of talking about motherhood that makes it sound like every sacrifice you make is so easy. Our culture’s narrative about mothers includes the idea that all women become saints upon bearing children. I’m living proof that this is not the case. It is also not the case that you are constantly overwhelmed by the love you have for your children and that that love is so strong and so present to you that it makes every sacrifice feel a trifle. No, unless you are indeed a saint, you feel the sacrifice. You are reminded constantly just how selfish you are when you have to remind yourself to be more present with your children, when you feel like you’d rather do anything other than read Brown Bear again, when you find yourself thinking wistfully of dinners out and going to see shows and movies, when you feel like you’d really rather escape into the depths of Pinterest. You resent that your time is no longer your own. But then you remember that it never was and that even your life does not belong to you. For “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). You worry you’re guilty of wishing it all away, of not loving your children enough, of being ungrateful for these amazing and heart-breakingly beautiful human beings and this wonderful life with them you know you have not earned.
You think about these things all day every day. You feel guilty every day for not giving more, for not doing better. But we keep going and we keep trying. We try to overcome our selfishness to be the mothers our children need and deserve. You are not alone and you aren’t the only one feeling these things and struggling. Remember that this is all part of our vocation. This is how we get to heaven. Remember that “…we are like blocks of stone out of which the sculptor carves forms of men. The blows of His chisel, which hurt so much, are what makes us perfect” (C.S. Lewis). Remember that we are told that “…where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). You are doing God’s work in raising your children. Have courage and take heart.