How I Navigate the Hardest Parts of Motherhood
One of the best words to hear when we’re navigating any challenge, is “I struggle, too.” Because it feels so lonely when you think you’re the only one who’s not getting it “right.” You’re the only one who feels lost or distracted or not good enough. Similarly, it’s helpful to know what reduces or relieves those struggles. Which is why we asked moms to share the hardest parts of motherhood, along with how they traverse each one.
For Ali Katz the hardest part about motherhood is staying present. “As human beings, we are wired to think, and we can have a new thought approximately every 2 seconds. I think for moms juggling so much day to day we may need to double that,” said Katz, who has two kids and is the author of Hot Mess to Mindful Mom and Get the Most Out of Motherhood.
So when Katz’s mind drifts to her to-do list while she’s playing with her kids or helping them with homework, she tells herself: “This, moment.” When she inhales, she repeats “This.” When she exhales, she repeats “Moment.” She does this until she feels centered and can refocus on the here and now.
Helen Odessky finds it difficult to balance the desire to help her 7-year-old daughter with letting her build resilience. “While we need to educate our children to take caution in dangerous situations, we also have to let them try things and experience their emotions,” said Odessky, Psy.D, a psychologist and author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You. She repeats this mantra: “She’s got this.” Which reminds her that kids have an incredible ability to bounce back and recover from setbacks.
Psychologist and relationship expert Susan Orenstein, Ph.D, finds it heart-wrenching to watch her 19- and 22-year-old sons struggle—whether it’s getting wisdom teeth taken out or losing a basketball game.
“My instincts in these situations was to reach out, to touch, to comfort, to hold them in my arms, yet that’s not what they could accept from me anymore… I’m incredibly proud of the people they have become and their ability to assert their independence, even when it means setting boundaries with Mom. Yet, I can’t help looking at baby pictures now and then with a sense of nostalgia for my babies.”
“Before I had my first child, I, like many women, had this mistaken perception that motherhood is this amazing, sunshine-and-flowers-and-rainbows experience. Which it is…sometimes. But not always, and especially not when you have an infant,” said Ilyse Dobrow DiMarco, Ph.D, a mother of two and a psychologist in Summit, N.J., specializing in parenthood-related anxiety.
Initially the hardest part of motherhood for DiMarco was admitting just how hard motherhood can be. She felt ashamed for disliking certain aspects—including nursing and losing her freedom. She also worried that she lacked the unconditional love and optimism she was convinced all moms must have. All. The. Time.