Enjoy every moment
It’s the sort of thing that well-meaning people say when you’re preparing for the birth of your baby.
They also say it when you’re talking wistfully about how fast your children are growing up.
Or when you’re sharing something about mum life that isn’t really making you joyful right now.
Somehow, this sentiment has become a common and almost clichéd way to “encourage” mums.
But is it really encouraging?
Maybe for some.
But for others, it triggers self-criticism and feelings of guilt, shame, sadness and insecurity, even though it’s delivered with good intentions.
“I should be enjoying every moment but I’m not. What’s wrong with me?”
“I have these beautiful children. How can I not be loving it all. I’m so ungrateful.”
“I can’t let anyone see how I really feel. They might think less of me or see that I really am a bad mother.”
Sometimes, mums feel like they have to pretend that everything is fine, and that they’re happy and managing. It makes them think twice about asking for or accepting the help that they need.
It can even be confusing, as mothers wonder how on earth other mums can possibly be enjoying every challenging, exhausting or unpleasant moment that comes with motherhood.
I mean, really, who enjoys tantrums, hours of screaming or endless broken sleep? Who enjoys the meals that you lovingly prepared being repeatedly rejected, or being told “I don’t love you mummy” when they don’t get what they want. Who enjoys fighting between siblings, or dealing with challenging behaviours? Who enjoys watching their children in pain or feeling helpless as they struggle with something?
Of course, while there are some not-so-lovable things about motherhood, there are also plenty of things to love. For example, enthusiastic hugs, little hands holding ours, their curiosity and excitement for life, how peaceful they look while they’re sleeping, the funny things they say, the fun things you do together and the awe of watching them learn, grow and reveal their personalities.
Lovely mum, I want to reassure you that even the most optimistic and positive among us, will NOT love EVERY moment of motherhood.
This is TOTALLY NORMAL and OK.
In fact, I’m not sure we would say we love every minute of ANYTHING that lasted as long as motherhood. We might love every minute of a great night out with our girlfriends, or every minute of our favourite movie or book, but we probably don’t love EVERY minute of our jobs, even the good ones. We probably don’t love EVERY minute of our marriages or relationships.
Why would we expect that of motherhood?
Many of the things we don’t love will pass but there will also be new things we don’t love. It’s just how it is.
The contradictions of motherhood
Motherhood is full of contradictions.
- Fun and boredom
- Variety and monotony
- Joy and sadness
- Ease and difficulty
- Progress and setbacks.
You’ll have good days and bad days.
Days when you feel calm and days when you yell too much.
Days when you love being with your kids and days when you long to be alone.
Days when you’re having so much fun the time just flies and days when you’re counting the minutes to bedtime.
Days when you’re organised and days when chaos reigns.
This is all ok.
You’re still a great mum.
You still want your children.
You still love your children.
You are strong, committed and you are making a difference, even when you’re not happy dancing your way through every moment.
Life is full of ups and downs and so is motherhood. You don’t need to love every moment of motherhood.
Why negative emotions are ok
I think it’s also important to remember that no one is happy ALL of the time.
Negative emotions are a natural part of life and being human. Our emotions help us to evaluate and understand what is happening to us.
Even when we choose to be happy and stay positive, negative emotions will come. We can’t eliminate them but we don’t need to get stuck in them.
Suppressing your negative emotions can strengthen them and cause you to have more intense reactions to stress. Left unaddressed, they’ll undoubtedly come up again at some point in the future.
Negative emotions can also provide clues. There could be something you need to change or work through and the negative emotions can highlight this and motivate you to make that change.
- Do you need to allow yourself time to recharge?
- Are you doing too much?
- Have you been ignoring a particular stressor or issue in your life (perhaps unrelated to your children)
- Do you need to set better boundaries?
- Do you need to ask for help?
- Are you feeling uneasy about a decision you’ve made and need to reconsider it?
Give yourself permission to NOT love every moment of motherhood
Lovely mum, give yourself permission to feel and experience the full range of emotions, without judgement.
Give yourself permission to NOT love every moment of motherhood.
Then, when you notice those negative emotions, observe and accept them.
Try saying something to yourself like:
“I’m really not loving this moment right now. I feel so frustrated. This is hard. That’s ok because I’m doing the best I can. No one loves EVERY moment of motherhood. I am still a good mum.”
Rather than beating yourself up for feeling the way you do, consider what you can learn, if you need to make amends or change your approach to create a better outcome.
Motherhood is challenging and it stretches us in ways that we’ve never experienced before. It won’t always be pleasant but the important thing is that you are always learning, growing and improving.
Lastly, please don’t pretend. It will only make you feel more alone and isolated. It makes it hard to ask for help. Find someone you can be real with and be yourself.
Other mums need to see that your reality is just like their reality. Because otherwise we get trapped in a cycle of comparison and feeling not good enough. Speaking up and showing our reality breaks this cycle.
I’ve just got one action for you this week, lovely. It’s simple to say and not so simple to do but I encourage you to keep doing it until it sticks. This week, give yourself permission to feel how you feel and to not love every moment of motherhood.
If you are worried about your emotional and mental wellbeing
If you are concerned about how much you aren’t enjoying motherhood, or about your emotional or mental wellbeing more generally, then please seek help.
You could speak to a trusted health professional, for example, your GP or Maternal and Child Health Nurse.
In addition, here are some other resources to explore:
- Beyond Blue’s Mums’ Mental Health Checklist
- PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) website www.panda.org.au and National Helpline 1300 726 306
- Lifeline’s website www.lifeline.org.au and Crisis Line 13 11 14
- The Postnatal Project website www.thepostnatalproject.com and guest blog here on More to Mum – What you need to know about postnatal depression