My chest has been tight, my mind racing. I’ve been wanting to hide in my closet, eating chocolate and binging Netflix on my phone. I’ve wanted to ignore my responsibilities and tuck away from the overwhelm and anxiety. But motherhood doesn’t allow mental health days and babies don’t keep.
As I type this my toddler has wrapped himself around my body, legs wound around my waist, fingers tangled in my hair. His fresh-from-nap baby breath smells sweet and his soft skin is warm under my arms. My older kids are bickering in another room. I holler out an interjection to remind them to speak nicely.
These moment by moment blessings intertwined with responsibility keep me moving forward, doing the hard things: teaching stubborn, unwilling children to read, feeding growing bodies, quieting squabbles and teaching love and grace. But I wonder why some days it feels so hard, so heavy. And I wonder what I can do to make it better.
There’s the obvious: I pray. Sometimes an errant thought escapes and I know He hears me. Sometimes I ugly-cry facedown on my closet floor waiting for THE BIG MAGIC ANSWER and am reminded the magic is in the making of this life. And things get better as I grow and I learn and my kids grow and learn and we become people together.
There’s a reason, though, why modern mothers seem to struggle in ways our mamas and grandmothers didn’t, and I think we can make it better if we take a good, hard look at the failings of the institution of modern motherhood. I’ve narrowed it down to three things we’re getting wrong.
We ignore our biological instincts.
“Don’t spoil that baby.” “He needs to learn to be independent.” “Feed him by the clock.” “Didn’t you just feed him?” “It isn’t safe for him to sleep with you.”
I remember so clearly the overwhelm of being a new mom, and every worthless scrap of advice I received. The pointless books I read. The need I had to be in complete control: over my infant’s sleep and eating schedule, his behavior, my own needs and still trying to be a person of my own.
If I would’ve just let go and let my biological instincts take over, I think I would’ve felt more peace, less overwhelm.
We’re told to get our babies on schedules, teach them to sleep on their own, and prepare them for schooling as soon as they learn to talk and walk. It’s utterly ridiculous. Instead, I suggest we respond to our babies’ needs. Comfort them when they cry, snuggle them close while they sleep, and make them more important than arbitrary standards of what a perfect, controlled life looks like.
If cave women had left their babies to cry alone across the cave, they would’ve been eaten by wolves. Let’s not leave our babies to be eaten by wolves. There’ll be plenty of time for that when they’re older, but for now, let’s just love on them. It feels good, it feels right, and it brings peace to both mama and baby.
Another biological instinct we ignore? Asking for help.
We go it alone.
Modern motherhood is full of lonely women. Families are spread out and most women don’t have an older, wiser woman to hold her hand through the ups and downs and teach her the tricks of the trade.
There’s this huge disconnect, and no one dares admit they don’t have it all together, that they struggle. Instead, we go motherhood alone, pretending we’re doing alright, when, in truth, we’re wondering if we’re doing anything right at all.
I imagine sometimes what it would be like if we still used a village to raise a child. If the women in my life lived next door and we spent our days together preparing food and teaching children and tending garden. I don’t know what that was like, but I think it might’ve been wonderful.
But, that is not modern reality, and I don’t know that I can recreate it. So, I spend time with my family when I can and rely on their generosity in spending time with my children and giving me a break from time to time. And I lean hard on the pseudo-mamas gifted to me, asking them my homeschooling questions, admitting to them I’m stuck and need advice, and basking in their approval and validation.
There’s still a village, sometimes we just have to carve it out for ourselves.
We strive for extravagance.
I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. It’s fun, but let’s be honest, no recipe or project I’ve ever tried to recreate has come out perfectly: I never have quite the right ingredients or the time to put into it.
I imagine all these crafty moms with lots of time to make pretty things, while I’m home with four boys who prefer dirt and lizards to glitter and bows. The upside? My boys do like to eat, and by golly, Pinterest is full of boy-pleasing recipes.
But I’m not disappointed that my life doesn’t measure up to Pinterest standards.
When my kids were younger, I threw big, extravagant birthday parties for each of them, complete with themed decorations, cakes (yes, that’s plural), and party favors for the fourteen thousand kids I’d invite. It was a facade: I loved it and it was fun, but it was so incredibly stressful and expensive. By the time the guests left, I was ready to crash.
These days, I throw small family dinner parties for birthdays and invite our kids’ best friend. Nothing over the top, but oh-so-peaceful. When my guests arrive, they join me in the kitchen and help me prepare food.
When did we decide to trade peace for pictures of a fun party, just so we could share on Facebook about what good moms we are and boy don’t we throw great parties? Trust me, take a grab at peace anywhere you can. You won’t miss the over the top parties or messy projects or being featured on Pinterest fail sites (those are hilarious, amiright?!).
Instead of extravagance, I want to strive for peace.
Modern motherhood gets a lot wrong.
But thankfully, I don’t ascribe to most modern motherhood theories. If you’re finding yourself in the season of overwhelm I’ve been swimming in, take a look at what you can change, what you can let go.
Listen to your instincts.
Ask for help.
Choose peace over perfection.
Don’t let the expectations of modern motherhood steal your joy.