My husband recently told me about an article he read on how Facebook users were found to be more depressed than non-Facebook users. The conclusion was that people on Facebook only post the “good times”: the vacations, the smiling photos, the funny status updates. The article explained that this makes people feel alone in their negative experiences because they feel like no one else is going through that. When we only hear the good times or the situations that parallel our cultural values we can feel like we are doing something wrong or—if we’re parents—that there is something wrong with our child.
In the short time that I have been a mother I have felt a great deal of anger at people who told me half-truths about what motherhood would be like. I remember countless people telling me “it will get easier.” Well, I’m sorry, but it has not gotten easier. I read an article awhile back about why mothers tell each other half the story. It discussed how this makes mothers themselves feel less traumatized by the tough times they went through. Like there is some relief in brushing it off and telling another mother “oh, it’s not that bad, it goes by fast, and you’ll be fine.” That mother is speaking to herself. She is trying to comfort herself after experiencing tough times. She sees another mother going through it and needs to distance herself from those strong feelings and ends up downplaying the information that she has and the support she could give by minimizing the new mother’s experiences. This leaves the new mother feeling alone, scared and lost.
I doubt there is any way to ever know if there is truth in this idea, but it was interesting to me. In a culture where we are experiencing increasing distance from our babies and from our emotions it is not difficult to believe that a mother would need to do the same—distance herself from the truly difficult times of being a mother. Another reason this downplaying of difficult times may occur is that in our culture we decide if a mother is a good mother or bad mother by the way her child behaves. So if a baby is not sleeping through the night we think this mother must be doing a bad job as a mother. This may drive a mother to lie to other mothers about what her baby does in order to not be judged as a bad mother. “Oh, yes, my baby has been sleeping through the night since day 1.” This leaves the new mother feeling like she is the only one with a baby awake in the middle of the night, and she might feel like something is wrong with her baby. Obviously, there are babies that do sleep through the night from day 1, but maybe other times when we stretch the truth. (God knows I do it at the doctor office!)
After giving this much thought I decided that I would never tell a half truth (to another mother) about what was going on in my house. This leaves me open to ridicule from others, but I feel that the benefits of telling the sometimes ugly truth and helping women not feel alone outweigh the risk of people thinking that I am a bad mother, something that I know isn’t true anyway.
I was constantly told by other mothers that things would get easier at 3 months. When 3 months came around and things were just as, if not more, difficult they told me it gets easier at 6 months. And again, when 6 months came around they told me it would get easier at 9 months. By the time 9 months rolled around I was onto their game and decided to completely stop listening to other people. By this time I had settled into my role as Jack’s follower and student. The lies meant nothing to me anymore and I learned that many people were making these statements based on their cry it out schedule, use of formula or early solids, crib sleeping and other forms of parenting that I just wasn’t using. I was confident now in my new role as an attached mom and found it much easier to let other people’s experiences roll off my back.
At 14 moths postpartum I find nothing to be easier than the first week of Jack’s life. Yes, it is very different, but I would not say it is easier. He still does not sleep through the night. Sharing a bed makes it a bit easier, but he has never once stayed asleep for any significant period of time. There is nothing wrong with him; I am not doing something wrong, it’s just what most babies do. Do some babies sleep through the night from early on? Maybe, mine didn’t, yours might not.
Our days are very chaotic. Sometimes he parties until 3am and is ready to rock and roll again at 9am. Sometimes he sleeps until 11am before he is sitting up and giggling in my face. We have no sense of schedule here. You might; we don’t yet.
Jack still nurses 237 times a day and night. He has little interest in solids beyond throwing them, putting them into his mouth and spitting them back out and only maybe considering swallowing if it’s something good like cheese or pasta. Your baby might not do this; mine does.
Jack cries a lot. We do not use cry it out or any other type of situation that would leave him to cry for even one second without a response from us, but that does not stop my sensitive little guy from wailing his lungs out at some point during every day. Not all babies do this; some do. Yours might; yours might not.
I hope my honesty is not frightening. It is not meant to be. It is, in fact, our reality. I would only ask that if you are ever in the situation where you are the veteran mother that you be as honest as you can be. Try to remember back when you were a rookie mother, scared, confused and lost. Don’t alienate another mother. Be honest, be kind and offer support rather than minimize her and your experiences. You have the power to make or break her sanity.
Abby Theuring, MSW
THANK YOU! It sounds like our little ones are two peas in a pod. I really appreciate hearing about another kid who doesn’t sleep for long (or medium) stretches, doesn’t have a schedule, isn’t into solids much, and cries every day even though we respond to his every sound. I was beginning to think my little guy was the only one. I will keep this in mind when talking to other mamas. Full honesty will be my policy too, even though it’s not always easy. Maybe another mama out there will be comforted by it.
Great story! I have always been honest about my difficulties with my daughter. I got looks of complete disapproval when I told people that 12-15 months old…those were the hardest and most exhausting for me and they were my least favorite time of being a Mom. Brutally honest…yes. PC, nope! Recently had a friend tell me she was so grateful I had said that because she was feeling the same, but felt bad for even thinking it!
My daughter is now about to turn 5 and I am 33 week pregnant. It’s still not easy, but it IS amazing :-)
We also practice peaceful parenting, no CIO and co-slept in our bed until she was around 3.
Thank you so much for your honesty! The first few weeks if my little ones life we had feeding problems. I was devistated! I jut assumed that breasting was easy and natural. Every baby knows how, right?! Wrong! Thank goodness for a good friend who had similar issues and pointed me in the right direction of a lactation consultant in the first week. If it wasn’t for her braveness I might not have kept trying or given myself permission to ask for help! I searched and searched on line for a blog or article that didn’t just describe the happy times or half truths about parent hood. But I couldn’t find one! Thank you again for your promise of honesty for other women. It’s not easy being a mom and women need to hear that all babies are different and parenting is different. And that is ok!!!! I have also promised my friends that I wil not sugar coat any part of my parenting journey!
Omg thank you. I lie a lot to other mothers but you have given me the inspiration to start being honest. Thank you for being so brave and encouraging!
Oh AMEN! I feel every time I try to talk to my group of mum friends about my baby who is a fussy feeder (eg going from 3am to 4pm with only a 5min feed despite my numerous attempts) and a baby who I struggle to get to sleep anywhere but on me, all I ever hear is maybe she isn’t hungry or maybe she isn’t tired! I’m so sick and tired of being dismissed! Motherhood is hard, no doubt about it, for me it’s the mental battle – I need to keep at bay the ‘why aren’t you ……’, ‘you need to…….’ thoughts as these are undermining.
I’ve always prided myself on being honest and to any other mums I will be.
Thank you!! Your house sounds just like mine!
Agreed! I was always asking others, “When will it get easier?!” After 4.5 years and having a second, very easy baby, I realize that my firstborn will never be “easier.” We are the poster family for how Attachment Parenting does not always yield a content baby. But we stay the course! I try to be as honest as I can with everyone about the realities. It’s the hardest thing ever. But I chose it, and I love them.
Thank you so much for putting it in words! I feel we too often compare babies and base everything off the ‘average’ baby. Every baby is so different and is like no other baby so how can their even be an ‘average’ baby?!. After three babies I can honestly say that you’re right! It doesn’t get easier and it is harder at times but I would agree with one of the other commenters and say it gets different as time goes by. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone!
Love your honesty and you are not alone. I have a 17 month old who does not sleep through the night and still nurses AND I am pregnant again! I have heard everything too but my son is happy and healthy. People always tell me what I am doing wrong and what he “should” be doing. I no longer listen. It’s good to know I and other moms are not alone!
I could’ve written this about my now almost 5 yo and my current 12 month old. :)
I think it’s easy for someone to say “it gets easier” because when you’re living that moment, it seems so incredibly hard but looking back at the moment it doesn’t seem as bad. My 15 month is still breastfeeding and getting up 3-4 times a night. Is it easy? No. BUT I went through the same thing with my son 3 years ago and yet I don’t remember it being as hard. However, had you asked me if it was easy the, I would have most likely responded that it was the most difficult time of my life! Nonetheless we get through it. That’s my new response. :)
I’m not sure it’s as simple as “it gets easier” or “stays just as hard”. I think it just gets different. Each child is different, and as they go through their different stages, there are new challenges for us to struggle with. I have four kids, seven, five, four and 13 months, all going through different stages, all with their different challenges. And when I think about the challenges I presented my own parents as I grew older, being a teenager and even as an adult, I shudder at the thought of what I will go through. But no one would ever tell you to stop struggling.
Brilliant! Thank you for your honesty, I couldn’t agree more. And share a lot of the same, early days as my sonbis 8months, but understand completely.
stay true x
It easier when you realise it is not easy. After struggling so much in the early days with number one I am now very honest with others as I don’t want them to believe that they are a shitty mother when everything one else finds it easy. I get some flak for this sometimes from woman who are not yet mothers and I just respond by saying now you know you can phone me if you need too.
THANK YOU for posting this!! It is so very true!! I have 3 munchkins and have learned one thing, everything is a phase….not that “it gets easier” but whatever phase you are in now, will pass and you will be on to the next phase. When you are living it everyday, no “phase” is easy (though when I look back I can personally say I have “liked” some phases over others!! LOL!!) My kids are 5.5, 2.5 and 13 months. I haven’t slept a solid night in 6 years!! Like your kids, nothing is wrong, that is just kids. Like everything else in life, in my home we live by the “This Too Shall Pass” motto, and once whatever it is passes, then we are on to the next thing!! :-) I can say it keeps life interesting, makes for fantastic memories and looking back (not when you are in the moment, but afterwards of course!!), it does go too quickly!! Thank you for your honesty!! It is refreshing!! :-)
My life has always been for my kids ever since I had them. I have 4 the first three I has in my 20’s and I had them all close one after the other, this last one I had at 34 and is 10 weeks old right now. I used to be the weirdo “MOM” raising my kids and was very lonely now its more acceptable baby wearing, co-sleeping, organic living, and breastfeeding. I also live in a area that this is all the norm so it does help a lot. But what I like the best this time is all the access to amazing groups online and people who blog, etc. Thanks for sharing Abby.
I find myself telling a fellow mom that it gets easier but what I really mean to say is that the things you worry about and find hard at three months will be different at 6 months. It is not easier, just different. Things change so fast that by the time I am getting the hang of something at 6 months it will change and I will have to get used to something else.
Thank you so much for this! Makes me feel a million times better about my 9 month old and the criticism I get from in-laws and family. My girl never sleeps through the night. I don’t let her cry, and we co-sleep most nights. It’s hard constantly being told your doing a bad job when you instinctively feel you are doing what’s beat for your baby. It’s nice not to feel alone!
compelling, honest and hits so close to home. im a single mama of a sweet baby girl and my whole life revolves around her. im learning everyday.
I often tell new Moms that it gets easier – and I never realized that potentially I was minimizing her feelings. For me, it DID get easier. My daughter was not the easiest baby in the world, and I was a heartbroken, suddenly single mother. The scariest, most lonely, perhaps hardest day of my life was the day I brought her home – to an empty house. There were many hard days after that, but the truth of the matter is that every day was easier than the one before. The days now, parenting my son with a husband who is now a Dad to BOTH of my children – these days are easy peasy. My baby (6 months) doesn’t STTN, and he throws parties at 3am, but everything else about him is easy peasy – he is just a very laid back, happy baby. Things have gotten easy. I never mean to minimalize someone else’s troubles when I have said that – and I will think twice before I say it again. The first few weeks after my daughter’s birth, I really am still not sure how I made it.
It seems as the mothers in our culture freak the heck out when their child doesn’t conform to the mold that other parents and society live by. Shouldn’t we be encouraging our little ones to be themselves. Their lives shouldn’t revolve aound our busy schedules, we should revolve around them. After all, once you discover there is a precious life growing inside you it isn’t about you anymore.
I LOVE reading your post. It really has helped me a ton!! Thank you!
Wow! I love this! The truthfulness. Thank you!!!!!!! It sounds rough, jut like we all experience it in our own way. I like your mission! You are amazing!!! At some point they will go to college and we will wimp. Stay strong!!!!
Sorry your mothering experience has been rife with difficulties since Day 1. I don’t believe it’s necessary to be brutally honest all the time. In the first place, people really don’t want to know all the sordid details about whatever it is we are talking about. And, secondly, sometimes telling ourselves things aren’t as bad as they really are is not only a way of getting through the tough times, it often provides an avenue out of the tough times for real and removing the tough times. As a mom for 32 years and a grandmom for eight years, my advice would be if things still are as tough for you as they were on Day 1, maybe the way things are being done are not working so well. And, changes may be in order. I hope that one day you’ll have a night where you can get a full program of sleep. Things might look up, then. Best wishes. P.S. Little Jack is a fine looking boy.
This is great, thanks for sharing! I’ve said the same thing many times…why aren’t more moms honest about how hard this can be!?
What a great post- I laughed out loud at the part where Jack, at 14 months old still has no interest in solid foods other than throwing them around – with cheese and pasta as the exceptions of course! You could be writing about my daughter! She too is 14 months, no interest in solids, doesn’t sleep through the night, etc. and you are right on that we need to trust ourselves and trust our babies and roll with it! The only time I doubt myself, my ability as a mother and if I’m doing something “wrong” is when others try to give me advice or I read where she “should” be at this point in her life. We are the mama’s and we know our babies best!
i think i love you. for serious. thank you for your honesty. i have completely stopped reading or following any of the blogs or pages that are remotely fake or half truths. i dont have time for it! i am the mother of 3. 2 being twins. i hate that they try to make it seem like its SO easy and blah blah blah. its easy because half of them dont care, sure you get the house spotless, and you work out and get to take a shower. but the kids are crying for an hour without a blink from [whoever] the tv is on 24/7, whatever.
i hate how people make me feel like because this [ap] life is the one i chose and i have no right to have a bad day or complain or admit its hard. it is, and sometimes not pretty and damnit i still would choose it over the other.
i sincerely appreciate your truth and honesty and thank you for being such a role model in all your imperfect glory. <3
I love this! Having my 2nd child now 6 years after my first being the complete opposite of her big brother I feel like a first time mom again. My little girl is the cutest little fusspot ever! But her fussiness made me question every single thing I did or didn’t do in the early weeks, this article is so refreshing to read since I have been getting the same timeline of it gets better… as an experienced first time mom I have to remember what I always knew… it doesn’t get easier, it gets a little harder and the expectation that it will get better only makes it worse. Thanks for “keeping it real ” and reminding me to take a minute to smell the breastmilk breath. :)
“It doesn’t get easier, it just gets different.” I read that somewhere on a blog or FB post, and I can’t remember where, but I love it!
Thanks for your honesty, and I’ll say that my twins didn’t sleep through a night until they were a little over 2, and now at 2.5 they do more often than not, but not every night. And that’s ok. One of them also cried a lot. And that’s ok, too. He always cried in arms, and it was just something he needed to do.
Abby – You rock! Thank you.
Thanks for this… I wasn’t so much buying into “it will get easier”
I have several pending important things I just canot get to!
I have an 8 week old… I need to do his passport paperwork, file insurance claims
And complete a pending evaluation at work.
It’s hovering over me. All I do is spend all my time with my baby. I
Am losing weight every day too. I am making efforts to get out of the house
But feel guilty if he is in the car seat for 1+ hour. Everything revolves around
His basic needs and I wish I could eliminate all my other responsibilities and
Thoughts so I can be fully present.