“It is right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing, but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains. It’s ok not to find it easy. And asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness.” ~Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge
I just can’t pull myself together.
I feel like I am failing.
I really want to be a good mom, but how? How can I possibly be good at motherhood, if I feel like this?
Ever think these thoughts as a new mom? I did, and most of my friends shared similar feelings. Struggle aside, I am yet to meet another mom who has said, “Motherhood? Puhlease, this gig’s a breeze.”
Not even Kate Middleton is having an easy time in motherhood. The Duchess of Cambridge gave a personal and emotional speech last Mother's Day about her commitment to the cause of maternal mental health. Since then, the words of a royal have echoed the thoughts in my mind about the motherhood experience.
I marvel at the thought, Even she who landed herself a prince and lives in royal splendor is having a hard time in motherhood…
No, I am not judging Kate. I empathize with her, because I too had the wind knocked out of my perfection sails by motherhood. I am immensely grateful for her vulnerability, because she made me feel a little better about my own struggles. I can’t help but think, I wish I heard her voice when I was a new mom.
New moms out there, heed the advice of Her Royal Highness, “It is right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing, but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains. It’s ok not to find it easy. And asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness.”
Yes, her glossy hair, and awe-inspiring grace creates an intimidating image of perfection, but her vulnerable and authentic words reflect a universal struggle.
Here are the 8 reasons Kate thinks motherhood is hard:
1. “Your fundamental identity changes overnight. You go from thinking of yourself as primarily an individual to suddenly being a mother first and foremost.”
Regardless of whether you perfectly planned this bundle of joy, or were blindsided by motherhood earlier than you expected, the transition from individual to mom is overwhelming. Becoming mom requires surrender in ways we don’t expect, regardless of whether we transition back to work or stay home.
2. “Nothing can really prepare you for the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother.”
Apparently, she read all those books we did, but still was blindsided by motherhood…
3. “It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love, and worry all mixed together.”
My husband describes our first birth experience as the “best worst day of our lives,” which is an accurate description of the emotional extremes we experience. For some of us, birth can be arduous, even traumatic. Yet, in those same fearful moments, there is immense joy as you hold the life you created. I notice this dichotomy of emotions has not dissipated, for on any given day, my emotions swing from fear to joy.
4. “And yet there is no rulebook. No right or wrong. You just have make it up and do the very best you can to care for your family.”
There are many moments I long for a manual, but almost a decade and four kids deep into motherhood, I’m still making it all up as I go along. My friends telling me they are doing this too, and now Kate too?
We all want to be good moms, but it’s not quite clear what that is. In the mean time, let’s just continue to show up with love and do the best we can.
5. “For many mothers, myself included, [having no rulebook] can at times lead to a lack of confidence & feelings of ignorance.”
Maybe you feel this the first time your baby is crying incessantly and you cannot get her to stop. Or, when you dance on your head but she still won’t eat and therefore is not gaining weight. However, we cannot measure our success solely on the health or growth of our child; sometimes, these things are simply out of our control.
Given there is no clear definition of success in motherhood, but a million ways to “fail,” it’s easy to focus on our shortcomings, flaws, and failures. Focusing only on negativity leads us down the rabbit hole of rumination, so we must work hard at maintaining our resilience as moms.
6. There is, “…pressure to be the perfect parent. Pretending we are all coping perfectly and loving every minute of it.”
Are you coping perfectly and loving every minute of motherhood? I’m not. Kate’s not. Again, my mom friends are not. Why then do we still put this expectation on ourselves? Kate gets tired, frustrated, and lonely too. I bet there are days she doesn’t have the energy to shower and get dressed just like us, and she just might have lost her patience with that cute little toddler prince she’s raising.
7. “Sadly for some mothers, this experience can be made so much harder due to challenges with mental health.”
Per the statistics she cited, 2 in 10 women suffer from mental health issues. Even more suffer in silence due to feelings of guilt and shame. Kate’s admission of her own struggles will hopefully help to lift the stigma about maternal mental health, but we need to carry this conversation on.
Motherhood is hard for the healthiest among us, and I believe our collective voices of authenticity will lend strength to the mothers who simply cannot stay afloat on their own.
8. Mothers are, “Overwhelmed by negative feelings, and afraid to admit to the struggles they may be facing due to the fear of shame…”
We aren’t going to be happy all of the time, nor should we expect to be. Acknowledging that motherhood is hard should not cast us in a negative light. The challenges of motherhood are a reality, not a complaint. Further, the negative emotions we process are natural, and should be expected. Brushing our authentic emotions aside can lead us down a dark path. I believe Kate’s admission of her own negativity might make it easier for us all to admit, “Yes, me too.”
Here's what we can do to make it easier:
1. Ask for help.
Rationally, we might understand that raising a child takes a village. Yet still, we feel compelled to tackle motherhood perfectly on our own. Maybe some of us can, but in those moments where it’s just too hard to move forward alone, ask for help.
Other people matter not only in times of joy and celebration, but despair. A simple gesture or word might be the small nudge we need to regain our momentum. I can only assume that Kate needed to ask for help herself.
I too needed help when I crashed into motherhood, and I still work hard everyday at maintaining my resilience. The growth I have experienced from the vulnerability motherhood forced upon me began the moment I said, “This is hard. I need help.”
2. Create Conversations.
For the mothers who are afraid to admit their struggles and suffering in silence, we must remain vulnerable. I have found that by just hinting at my own adversity, the floodgates of another guarded mom will open. I am reminded I am not alone, and she just might feel a little better knowing she isn’t alone either.
Thanks for joining the conversation, Kate, about both the joys and challenges of motherhood. Your voice of authenticity is one we must carry on.