What It’s Like to Not ‘Love’ Being a Mom
What if you don’t “love” being a mom?
Those words rolled around in my head for days, maybe even weeks before I gathered enough courage to type them in the Google search bar. I thought my frustration and sadness was just a result of long days spent with a screaming baby, so I waited for my feelings to change. If I didn’t type those words, they wouldn’t be true, right?
Tears filled my eyes when I finally caved and searched out answers, praying I wasn’t alone. I needed to know that I wasn’t a heartless monster. I needed to see if other moms felt the same way.
With a baby latched to my breast, I scrolled my phone with one hand, reading the few articles I found. Finding out I wasn’t the only one filled me with relief. There were other moms out there just like me, struggling with loving motherhood in the “traditional” sense.
Then I cried because while I knew I wasn’t alone, I also knew this meant that things might never get better.
I always dreamed of being a mom.
My vision for my life has always included a big family. I wanted a loving husband and lots of kids. If I’m being totally honest, I always imagined having five or six kids and living on a farm where I’d home school them and we’d all learn and grow together. Yeah, I know it sounds a little cheesy, but that’s always what I’ve wanted.
However, alongside that dream was the fact that I rarely enjoyed the time I spent with children. Babysitting was torture. My sisters will confirm that I often preferred reading and solo activities to playing with them. I had no desire to hang out with younger children or babies any longer than necessary.
My least favorite job I ever had was working at a gym daycare for a few months. Playing with kids for a paycheck thrilled my coworkers, but I cried after every shift. Spending hours trying to comfort screaming babies and cajole defiant toddlers was not worth minimum wage to me.
But people always told me things like, “when it’s your own kids, it’s different,”or “you’ll love playing with your own kids.”
So despite never being drawn to children or having a desire to engage with them, I was certain that I’d someday become a mom. I’d have my own children and it would be wonderful, just like everyone said.
My desire to have a family was more important to me than education or a career.
I did well enough in school, but I only did enough to get by. I never found any particular passions or talents that I felt I could translate into a job, and I felt disconnected in college, like I didn’t belong.
Getting married and starting a family was my main focus. And while I envied the women who chose to prioritize careers and education over dating and marriage, I didn’t fit that category.
I met my husband online, which would have never happened if I hadn’t yearned for marriage so deeply. I finished college as quickly as I could, settling into blissful married life as I’d always dreamed.
And seriously, I absolutely love married life.
We talked about having kids when we were dating.
Right from our first date, we discussed our goals in life, and we both wanted a family. My husband was the fourth child, and we liked the idea of four kids.
We married quickly and then put off having kids for a few years. We were young, and we moved a few times as he settled into his career. I worked odd jobs to help pay the rent, but never with the intent of building a resume.
We were enjoying our carefree, kid-less lifestyle when my husband shared that he was ready to start a family. I was a little nervous, given my past experiences, but I was sure I’d be thrilled once I had my own kids.
For someone who was nervous about having kids in the first place, it shocked me how much two years of trying and failing to get pregnant made me want a child. Those years of negative pregnancy tests and doctor appointments were agonizing, and when we finally got our plus sign, I knew it would all be worth it.
I was able to enjoy a few weeks of excitement before my pregnancy became painful.
While many women experience morning sickness and nausea, I dealt with a stomach that refused to digest food, instead giving me stomach pain that forced me to spend most of my pregnancy on the floor crying in the fetal position. It took a few months for the doctors to find a medicine strong enough to offer me mild relief, with a fun side effect of possibly giving my child a cleft lip.
I lost a lot of weight while pregnant and spent most of the first 2.5 trimesters on my couch. But through it all, my baby was healthy, and I was grateful. It would all be worth it.
My husband and I hired a doula and we began to plan for a “natural” birth, or as “natural” as possible, given that 1) all births are natural, and 2) we were going to be in the birthing center of a hospital, meaning that we’d still have to abide by their rules.
Then we found out the baby was breech.
They told me I would need a c-section, and my heart broke. We attempted an external version to flip the baby. When that was unsuccessful, my dream of a positive and healing birth experience was shattered.
But it would all be worth it, right? Wouldn’t all of the pain and stress be worth it, to get a healthy baby?
That’s what everyone said, anyway.
Life with a newborn was a blur.
The pain of cesarean recovery and learning to breastfeed was brutal, and exhaustion hit me hard. Two years later I would be diagnosed with sleep apnea, but at the time, I couldn’t imagine how anyone dealt with the insane sleep deprivation that made me feel “psychotic” and “irrational.”
I waited for that overwhelming love to come.
There were moments when I felt love towards my newborn, but mostly I just felt resentment. This beautiful baby had changed my body and mind, and now she just spent her days screaming and hurting my already tender body as she demanded to breastfeed every five minutes. Anger and sadness filled me, and it felt like my life was “ruined,” even though logically I knew she was just a baby that needed me.
When I thought things were finally looking up, my daughter had hip surgery and a body cast at just 4 months old. Giving my little baby narcotics and listening to her scream in pain because she couldn’t sleep was even worse than the newborn stage, and that’s when I began contemplating ending my own life.
Therapy and medication and the removal of my baby’s body cast did help, but I felt robbed of the baby phase I had looked forward to. Doctor appointments and cutting up diapers to fit in her cast had replaced the time she should have been smiling and giggling and trying to learn to crawl. I just kept waiting for things to get better.
I waited for my daughter to get out of her cast, then to crawl and walk, then to sleep through the night. Sure, there were good and happy moments. And I fell in love with my daughter slowly, as we clung to each other through so many major life experiences
But through it all, I kept waiting for it to get better. Everyone kept telling me, “Just wait, it’ll get better.”
Where was “better?”
And somewhere along the way, I realized that I was already in the “better.”
I’ve heard so many women express to me the same sentiment regarding motherhood: “It’s hard, but it’s so worth it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Being a mom is the best job in the world.”
I was waiting for that feeling to hit me, and to feel like motherhood was the greatest thing I’d ever done. I was waiting to feel fulfilled by motherhood.
It was heartbreaking to realize that, for me, motherhood was different.
Can you learn to love being a mom?
I remember when someone first asked me this question. Could I learn to love being a mom?
This question doesn’t have a “yes” or “no” answer, because everyone is different. I’d like to think that, yes, with time, you can love it.
But I have no clue if that’s true.
My baby is now 2 years old. I love her, and I love watching her grow, but I still don’t feel like I’m doing something incredible in raising her. More often than not, I feel bad that she got me as a mom. She’s so bright and vibrant, and I often think that she could shine so much more with a mom who would foster her creativity better. But I believe that God put us together for a reason.
Most days, motherhood tests my limits. I feel exhausted, beaten down, and mentally worn out. I’m lonely, I cry a lot, and I yell at my child more often than I’d like.
I imagine how other mothers must find ways to entertain their children and create memories with them daily, and I wish for that. But things like cooking together or trying to go to the store or even just diaper changes often leave us both angry and frustrated.
How is that fun or fulfilling?
I hear parenting is more fun when your kids are older and less dependent. I can’t wait to have more of a relationship and friendship with my kid. But right now, parenting sucks.
So can you learn to love it?
But instead, I propose trying something a little more attainable.
Instead of trying to love being a mom, focus on finding the moments you love as a mom.
Sometimes the best moments are really obvious. Watching my daughter touch stingrays at the zoo, or throw rocks into a pond with her grandpa are memories I cling to, reliving that joy and raw love on the tough days.
Sometimes the best moments are a little less momentous. A quick, unexpected kiss, a post-meltdown snuggle or a dance party that results in giggles can seem totally ordinary unless you’re looking for joy.
These moments are what I live for. When my daughter brings a smile to my face and I feel a surge of joy in my heart, I take a mental (or real) picture and thank God that there are good moments, though they’re sometimes few and far between.
I do my best to hold onto the good stuff, slowly removing the harder stuff from the spaces occupied in my brain. I hope that someday I can look back and remember the good rather than the bad.
I’ll admit, I’m not always great at this.
I certainly have days when I parent from the couch, or I count the minutes on the clock until bedtime. Sometimes you just have to throw in the towel and try again the next day.
But I also work hard to foster good moments as often as I can. I try to find ways to make memories and find joy, especially when my depression is stronger than I’d like. Sometimes I force us all to go do activities, even when it would be much easier to just watch “Trolls” for the 400th time.
I also find that… Well, the truth is, absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not saying ditch your kid every weekend for a trip to Mexico, but it’s important for both of you to have time apart. I think of my alone time as recharge time.
I’m a battery and motherhood drains me.
Recharging my battery is necessary for my mental health, and it also makes me a better parent.
I often can’t go more than a week, sometimes even a few days without a recharge. I need a few kid-free hours to focus on myself and the things I love so that I can feel human again.
Thank goodness for my mother-in-law and babysitters. I try to utilize childcare whenever possible to not only get alone time for me, but also to allow my kid to spend time socializing with others. I’m currently writing this post from a coffee shop while my toddler plays with a sitter. I get a few hours to write uninterrupted, and she has a blast playing with someone new. Everyone wins, and my battery recharges, allowing me to find joy in motherhood a bit more easily.
And even though I can hardly wait for a few hours alone, I always miss my baby when we’re apart. One of my favorite parts of being a mom is coming home to my baby and seeing her face light up as she runs to give me a hug. Those are the moments I live for.
I don’t know if I’ll ever “love” being a mom.
I’m in a Facebook group with other moms who all had babies around the same time. I once asked them “On a scale of 1-10, how much do you love being a mom?”
The first answers came very quickly, commenting things like “Definitely a 10. Even though it’s exhausting, I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” and “Some days are 9s, but it’s usually a 10. This is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
It wasn’t until I opened up that I didn’t love being a mom and usually found myself around a 4 on the scale, that a few other moms jumped in to express that they also struggled with motherhood.
Yes, there are many, many moms who absolutely love motherhood. Many moms feel like they’re doing what they’re meant to do, and that the hard days are worth it.
But I think there are also a lot of moms like me, who don’t love being a mom. But since we often just hear from the moms who love it, the rest of us keep silent, thinking that there must be something “wrong” with us.
If you don’t love being a mom, there is nothing wrong with you.
And that doesn’t make you a bad mom. You can find joy in other activities, like blogging, a career or friendships. And if you occasionally fantasize about hiring a full-time nanny and moving to a deserted island, that’s okay. I’m not the only one with that fantasy, right?
You don’t have to love every minute of motherhood, but you also don’t have to struggle through it in silence, either.
Once I stopped trying to force myself to love motherhood, it became so much more enjoyable. You can’t force yourself to be something you’re not. Embracing that allows you to let go of that pressure so you can find joy whenever it comes your way. And at some point, a little joy will come your way.
Follow the journey on Everybody’s Fed, Nobody’s Dead.
This story originally appeared on the blog Everybody’s Fed, Nobody’s Dead.
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