Congratulations on joining the club! Motherhood is amazing, messy, surprising, baffling and challenging. And it's almost always not what you expect.
We met 14 years ago, long before having kids, and an amazing, honest friendship took off. Once we had kids, we noticed that something was amiss — we'd go to our moms groups and everyone seemed really smiley and happy, and we'd be sitting there choking back tears and wanting to scream "Isn't anyone ELSE feeling guilty for everything? How come no matter what choice I make, I feel like it's not the right one? Why is everyone talking about the latest Bugaboo colors and not the real stuff?"
So we went on a mission to find out if it was us — were we just nuts? Or was there a deeper issue going on with today's moms? After interviewing hundreds of different moms from across the country, both stay-at-home and working, we were astounded by the one common thread: Overblown expectations. The expectations we've set for ourselves to be a 'good mom' are completely out of whack. It's a generational phenomenon — were were raised to believe that we could and should 'do it all." It's a problem most of us share.
The second part of our mission was to figure out how to relieve that pressure — to ultimately learn to love motherhood as much as we love our kids.
The first step in achieving this goal is to first be honest with ourselves about how we're feeling in motherhood and then be honest with each other. In fact, it took about 22 minutes during each anonymous phone interview for moms to really spill the truth. The first 22 minutes were "Oh I looove my husband, my kids are greeeeat, I feel so lucky …" and then after we asked if they were truly happy, they'd pause. "Uh … happy? Hmmm. Well … I actually haven't showered in five days, and haven't had sex in four weeks … this is harder than I expected." Until we can break open the taboos of motherhood and talk openly about our challenges, we can't truly begin to shift the environment we live in.
The second step is to realign our expectations with reality. Literally list out all of the "shoulds" swirling around in your head, from feeding your baby organic food to keeping the house spotless to breast feeding for years to taking care of your neighbor's pet to making dinner every night to teaching your baby sign language in Spanish. Prioritize these expectations, cross a bunch off of your list and begin to breathe a little.
The final step is to make peace with your choices. Once you decide what's right for your family, stick to it. Don't second-guess yourself. You are not your sister-in-law, your best friend, or anyone else. What's right for them isn't always right for you, and vice versa. Go to that yoga class, go on a date night, put your feet up and leave the dishes while the baby naps. Ask yourself what will really matter in one year, in five years?
Above all else, know that you're not alone. We know it from our research — moms in every state are feeling the same way. As much as we feel blessed and lucky, we also can feel guilt, judgment and isolation. We're in this together! So find one friend — just one — who you can confide in and be honest with and that will start you on your way towards a happier journey in motherhood.
Amy Nobile and Trisha Ashworth are co-authors of the books "I Was A Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids", "Dirty Little Secrets from Otherwise Perfect Moms" and "I'd Trade My Husband for a Housekeeper: Loving Your Marriage After the Baby Carriage".