When I had my first child, motherhood didn’t come naturally to me as I’d been told it would my whole life. I was exhausted and felt ashamed and confused that this was so hard for me, but the truth is that I’ve never needed maternal instincts to be a fantastic mother—and neither do you.
It’s normal to be tired. Motherhood is exhausting, end of story. I’d been through many long hours of labor, was dealing with body changes, and my little one was crying late into the night. I went from being the kind of person who always wants to get 10 hours of sleep every night to getting barely any at all and it really took a toll on my body. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that with all these new responsibilities, sleepless nights, and the need for pregnancy recovery, mothers are going to be tired. Being tired doesn’t make anyone a bad mother.
It’s a steep learning curve. When I had my first baby, everything following that was a new experience. Changing diapers, soothing tears, convincing my little one to finally fall asleep at night, waking up two hours after my head hit the pillow to nurse… it was all brand new. No one has a magical sixth sense that tells them exactly what babies will do or how to handle that. It was unreasonable of me to expect that of myself, so-called maternal instincts be damned. What matters is that I wanted to learn and actively did all I could to ensure my baby’s needs were met.
It’s about what I do, not what I think. I pride myself on always doing what I feel is best for my baby, making sure to instill good values in him from the get-go, and showing him that he is loved. Sometimes, I’m cursing to myself in my head the whole time, but I always choose to do the right thing. I’m not defined by the times I sat on the floor of my child’s nursery, crying with him because I couldn’t figure out what he needed. I’m defined by the fact that I get up again right after that and know I will always be here for my child, even if we have to figure out what’s wrong together.
No one is Superwoman. I know I was shockingly hard on myself when I struggled to care for my baby. I was disappointed in myself for not losing the baby weight as quickly as I wanted to. I berated myself for needing breaks and told myself I couldn’t take them. This is a horrible trap that new mothers can fall into, but please don’t make the mistakes I did! No one is a superhero mom and it’s not possible to do it all on your own.
Fathers shouldn’t be left out of the picture. I know most of us grew up seeing our parents fulfill the typical gender roles, where the women do all the cooking, cleaning, and caring for children while the men work, come home, and are more hands-off. But do we really need to continue these outdated traditions? The idea of “maternal instincts” is frankly quite condescending towards men who are perfectly capable of being phenomenal fathers and taking on most of the parenting duties if they want to, need to, or if their family dynamics just work that way.
Breaks are healthy. It’s not healthy to allow motherhood to consume your entire life. Yes, dedication is important you’ll need to dedicate most of your time to your baby, but it’s OK to have a day off every month, an hour off every day, or just take 10 minutes to yourself if the stress is mounting. There’s nothing like getting even a bit of rest—and trust me, your baby knows when you’re stressed out and it only makes things worse.
Not everyone is “made to be a mom.” Some women claim they were born to have kids and that’s why it comes so naturally for them. Honestly, more power to these amazing women, but it makes no sense for the rest of us to feel like we need to live up to that. Do I love being a mother? Yes, for the most part. But do I feel like I’m made to be a mom? I don’t know. Ask me again after I’ve managed to get my baby to go back to sleep after he screamed me awake at 4 o’clock in the morning.
The pressure is unfair. There’s a ridiculous amount of pressure placed on women to be perfect mothers 24/7. We see it all over the internet and hear it from strangers and friends alike—moms should be doing this and shouldn’t be doing that. It’s like everyone is suddenly an expert on motherhood and your life. I have a pretty solid idea that the unfair stress and pressure faced by mothers to always do the right thing and be visibly perfect is responsible for creating this unrealistic idea of natural maternal instincts and I am not a fan. Mom-shaming is a terrible phenomenon and it has to stop.
Motherhood is a journey. I’ve come to the realization that for most people, motherhood is a journey, and learning is one of the largest parts of that journey. While some may be better at some aspects of parenting, there’s no denying that every single parent in the world has a lot to learn as they go. That’s OK!
My love for my child is unconditional. It doesn’t matter that I make mistakes. I love my child with all my heart and I am doing everything I can to make him happy and raise him right. That’s the beauty of motherhood. It teaches you to be a better, stronger person, and you learn that there is no greater love than that which you will have for your children. Yes, I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I’m still a great mom.
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