Motherhood is magical and miraculous. And it’s also really, really hard. But talking to other moms about the hardships and challenges can help. Because so often we get sucked into all sorts of “shoulds,” sky-high expectations and perfectionistic thoughts.
I should be able to do this without any problem. This should be easier. I should be better. I should know how to do this by now. I should be able to juggle everything. Seamlessly. Flawlessly. Gracefully. What’s wrong with me?
In short, absolutely nothing.
Every mom struggles. Every mom stumbles. Every mom has a parenting challenge she’s facing right now, in this very moment. Below, moms share their perspectives on the hardest parts of motherhood and what helps them.
For child therapist and mom of three Natasha Daniels, LCSW, the hardest part is that motherhood comes with so many additional roles. “I am someone’s wife, someone’s therapist both literally and figuratively. I am the house organizer, cleaner and scheduler. I answer the question ‘what’s for dinner,’ and I am solely to blame if someone doesn’t have clean socks to wear. As a person who feverishly strives to be there for everyone and everything, I find myself spread too thin and ridden with guilt.”
To reduce this guilt, Daniels tries to separate her responsibilities. For instance, she works three 12-hour days. She cleans the floors on Wednesdays, eats lunch with her kindergartener on Tuesdays and spends entire Sundays with her family.
“I have realized that I can’t be everything to everyone all the time. That I am going to fail. I am going to miss things. I am going to drop the ball. I am going to be human—and at the end of the day, that’s OK.”
“The hardest part of motherhood for me is remembering to not take things personally,” said Galit Breen, mom to two tweens and one teen, and author of Kindness Wins, which teaches kids how to be kind online. “Starting with what we remember from our youth—friends, school, schedules, etc.—and then the online world and all that comes with it plopped right on top, it’s a lot for our kids.”
When Breen starts going down the “this is about me” rabbit hole, she adjusts her perspective and reminds herself that the situation is actually all about her kids. “If I make a mistake and act out of hurt feelings, I always give myself a break and then go forth and repair while keeping my child’s and my relationship at the forefront.”
The biggest issue for Tejal Patel, a mindfulness advocate for moms who has a toddler, is overwhelm from a lack of time. For years Patel struggled with chronic overthinking, perfectionism and panic attacks. To prevent herself from slipping into these patterns, she adds mindfulness to daily tasks.
For instance, as she’s brushing her teeth, Patel takes a deep breath through her nose and imagines it coming from the soles of her feet. She breathes out while imagining the breath coming out of her head. She does this for three to five breaths. When she’s done brushing her teeth, she repeats these words three to five times: “I have enough time. I trust that everything that needs to get accomplished shall be done with ease.”
When Patel feels anxious driving, she goes through a similar exercise and puts one hand on her forehead. “This allows the blood to start flowing into your brain and your mind will slowly stop thinking its rapid thoughts.”
“For me, the most difficult part of being a mom is stretching the umbilical cord, so to speak,” said KJ Landis, mom to a 13-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son. For instance, when teaching her son to drive, she finds it hard not to talk about safety every 5 seconds. When she’s working, she finds it hard not to call her kids to confirm they’ve had dinner. She also finds it hard to hold her tongue about certain issues.
“I love [my kids] with every fiber of my being,” said Landis, a coach and author of four books, including the latest Happy Healthy You. “We truly enjoy each other.”
But Landis also knows the importance of devoting “myself to myself.” Which is why she fills her days with activities just for her, such as hot yoga classes and writing retreats.
“The hardest thing about motherhood has been realizing my life is not my own anymore,” said Liz Morrison, LCSW, a psychotherapist who specializes in children and families in New York City. She’s learned to step away from her computer and work calls, and to put her daughter before herself. “While this has been a challenge, I have also quickly realized how fast she is growing up and I want to make sure I don’t miss anything.”
According to Rebecca Wong, LCSW, a relationship therapist and mom to 7-and 9-year-old daughters, “There is nowhere in my life where I feel more exposed, more seen, more raw, unprepared and messy than in motherhood.” She feels like an impostor daily—when she’s late for school pickup, when she forgets school events or when the tooth fairy no-shows because she fell asleep.
“I navigate it by embracing that mess,” Wong said. “When I was a new mom a wise elder said to me ‘the nicest thing you can do for another mother is invite them over to your messy house.’ I took that to heart. And what I’ve discovered for myself along the way is that we’re all a mess, and we’re really, really thankful that we aren’t alone.”
At the end of the day we’re all doing our best. And you are, too.