Wine bars, weekend getaways and ... diaper wipes?
Hi, I’m a millennial mom. According to the internet, I should be backpacking around foreign countries and writing essays about self-care. I should be posting Instagram photos with mimosas on exotic beaches or so focused on my job that I’m researching freezing my eggs.
Instead, I had a baby in my twenties.
We’ve all seen the headlines about women shifting away from marriage and waiting longer to have children. Now, I’ve experienced it in the lingering loneliness and disconnect as friends counter my sleepless baby woes with hungover stories of calling in sick at work. I’ve laughed but felt the distance grow as people comment “I can barely take care of myself – much less another human being!” Because that’s the core of it, right? Why would I purposely choose to give up my comfortable life; to hand over my freedom to an irrational tiny human?
I didn’t go into motherhood naively – or so I thought. In fact, I laughably even felt confident. I was the oldest of four and I’d babysat plenty of little ones. I was excited to follow in my mother’s footsteps and add more joy into the family. But even so, I was blindsided by nearly every situation and every emotion that resulted (and I’m not even going to get into the hormones, oye!). About a month after my son was born, I was still recovering physically and emotionally. I was getting sleep only in increments of a few hours at a time. The extent of my brain activity was wondering things like “is it possible to die from a lack of sleep?” and “is it normal that he cries so much?” I was struggling with nursing and my baby was struggling with reflux. I was like most new mothers out there: completely overwhelmed, exhausted and anxiety-ridden.
“Why didn’t you tell me it was so hard?” I accused my mom, who had always made it seem effortless. Why didn’t anyone warn me? How were we possibly going to survive this? She laughed and said she’d asked her mom the same thing after having me. The reality is that everything worth anything in life is hard. And yes, as a millennial, I recognize the humor in even saying that. My generation is notorious for wanting life to come easy; for normalizing immediate gratification, digital dating and one-day shipping. We’re an impatient culture. And there’s nothing that tests your patience more than a newborn.
In our society, we either seem to avoid motherhood or over-glorify it. If you don’t have kids, you’re going to spin class and brunch and making backhanded comments about those who do. On the flip side, if you do have kids, your social media persona includes perfect hair, babies who somehow smile on command and sickeningly sweet captions. What about the rest of us in real life? What about the moms who try to meet for coffee only to slink out after a meltdown or blowout? Or the moms who rush home from a meeting only to be met with a grumpy baby because it’s the afternoon witching hour? We fuel debates between moms vs. not moms or working moms vs. stay-at-home moms, but all we really need is to give each other grace – there are hardships down every path.
I got just as caught up in my preparation for motherhood. I read the books. I imagined life as an Instagram mom. I wanted to puree all of my own organic vegetables but also embody the carefree French mother figure I read about. I decided that my baby would be flexible and he’d love “adult food” and traveling. He'd respond perfectly to sleep training -- or maybe he wouldn't even need it! I created the perfect vision of myself as a mom before I was actually a mom. And then it all changed. My baby was born and he annihilated everything I’d ever known in the best way. He immediately tested my patience, filled me with love and anxiety and every other emotion in the world.
So, Mom, why didn’t you tell me it was so hard? Because it wouldn’t have made a difference. I still would have chosen motherhood over backpacking adventures or boozy brunches. I can enjoy all of that later – but now, I have a toddler to run after. And that’s the shocking, awe-inspiring secret of motherhood: There’s no way to prepare and there’s nothing anyone can say to actually describe it. It alters your concept of time and your purpose. There’s nothing more simultaneously scary and beautiful. It’s so hard because it matters.