I haven’t been the best blogger lately have I? I used to feel guilty over having 4+ weeks gap between posts but I’ve a new lease of life lately and my number one rule is to attempt to get rid of the guilt which likes to creep in and hover of my head and every decision I make. On top of that, I find I either haven’t had time or a good enough topic to write about and god forbid I start repeating myself. I have, however, found myself connecting with parents over on Instagram as we share the load of this miraculous and sometimes incredulous life that is parenthood. If you haven’t joined me in my very many random conversations then please do pop over but for today, lets talk about Momma Bear in all her bare naked glory.
With last week being Maternal Mental Health week, I was asked to share my story, my journey and the challenges I faced in Little Beans first year of life. It all came down to one explicit message for me and that is
It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to talk. It’s ok to say you need a shoulder to hold on to.
Becoming Momma Bear takes over a good 87% of your life. The other 13% is made up of sleep and daydreaming about child-free days and figuring out if you can get a babysitter this weekend. There is loss of identity, isolation with intense loneliness, depression, anxiety aka the Fricking Flamingo. There have been arguments with myself, with my friends, with the wall, with Papa Bear. When we argue the metaphorical claws come out on both of us. There is palpable self-doubt and buckets of guilt. All of which we need to talk about.
I’m not going to lie to you, smooth over the cracks or throw glitter on the darker days of parenthood as some do. We all know it’s hard. So damn hard.
Becoming a parent isn’t simply about having a kid. It’s about changes. Massive change. Parenthood likes to pick at every aspect of your life and smoosh it between its fingers. Some of these changes are epic, amazing, “I’m awesome now” kind of changes and others, not so much, as we leave behind a life we loved and a person we had grown accustomed to. Through all these fluctuations we’re expected to roll with it and accept everything as it is now. Except that’s not how it works.
Within seconds, everything is turned on its head and we’re supposed to understand it all, go with the flow, survive and thrive. But again, that’s not always the case.
There’s a forgotten truth about being Momma Bear. Something which disappeared into the background of teething rings in the freezer and babygro’s desperately drying near the radiator. Something we really need to remember after failing to shave our legs for the sixth week in a row and berating ourselves for continuously falling asleep before the nine o’clock news ends or begins for that matter.
With two kids hanging off my legs – literally, figuratively and sometimes painfully – I’ve noticed how the ordinary days of parenting have developed a bad habit of blurring together. There’s the constant motion of the washing machine on a 60° degree wash, the clacking of the dishwasher as the spray arm wallops a pot handle at every turn, and that odd, awkward silence as one kid settles in school and the other finally throws herself down for a nap and I’ve forgotten what to do with that hour of freedom, so I clean out the refrigerator, again. A blur.
It’s safe to say, I’ve slowly but surely lost a whole heap of days, thoughts, and dinners along the way. I’m getting past the awkward baby days and hitting into toddler tantrums but oddly enough, somewhere in between the dried Weetabix encrusted onto my jeans and my two-day old mascara, I’m managing to find that teeny, tiny bit of me that hid away while parenthood said with a taunting jibe, “Hey Yo! I’m taking this, that and, oh yes, the other, until you figure out what you’re doing here.”
I’m adverse to the word overwhelmed because it simplifies a feeling that is categorically a deluge of constantly asking, “What the fricking hell?” But there is no other suitable word for these remarkable days as Momma. Nothing and everything seems to happen and as unexceptional as they are, they are truly exceptional. Peculiar, in a damning sort of way, when the very nature of a single day in this world of parenting can be either torment or intense joy.
Ok, so the scale is not exactly set in that way, and more often than not, lands somewhere in the middle but for clarity, and whimsy, a bit of drama is always needed in parenting.
“Get on with it,” they say. “We’ve all been there,” they scold, as though surviving these first years of motherhood just happens and surely, we knew it would be like this. I didn’t.
The toil of figuring out parenthood took a shine to me from the get-go and decided to test my ability on more than a million occasions. No one wants to come across as though they are struggling or be judged for their parenting choices. But therein lies the raw reality of how we cope as Momma Bear. We sweep the tough parts under the rug and hope no one notices the lumps and bumps.
I knew my world would be rocked, my days would change, my time would disappear, and I’d become a brand new me whether I wanted to or not. But wowsers, did it have to happen so dramatically and all at once? Could I not have been eased into this world with a few lessons or a spiritual guide to make these early years that little bit more bearable and a teeny bit easier?
Naive and a whole lot unsure as to what daily life with kids would be like, I walked into the unknown with the idea of perfect, happy families. Suspecting warm baby cuddles, rainy day arts and crafts and the usual Pinterest garbage that is thrown our way. I was ill prepared for the struggles and monotony of daily life, forgetting that the picture in my head was an ideal. And probably someone else’s ideal at that, but I was sold a timeshare somewhere along the way.
And some days, it is the perfect rendition of The Sound of Music but remember that movie was not all galloping along the hills with flowers in their hair either.
Being Momma Bear can be rougher, harder, kind of scary and seem dauntless but it’s not impossible. That much I know, which must be one of the reasons we keep popping these kids out.
Like many modern Momma Bears, I battled to get on with it as the normal days engulfed me. I learnt how to survive on a slice of half chewed toast. The butter licked off. It’s the kid’s leftovers after all and my standards lowered considerably when other things became more important.
I have stood, blindly, against the wall in the darkness with every bewildered Mum. I waited, she waited, for someone, anyone, to dip their hand into our sepia toned family album and pull us out saying the one truth that has gotten lost and we so hopelessly need to hear.
“It’s ok to not be ok.”
This is the reality of motherhood that needs to be remembered, emblazoned on billboards and tattooed on our foreheads for any misguided or judgemental passer-by who glaringly watches as we lose our cool with the three-year-old who can’t make up her mind if she wants in or out of the shopping trolley. One leg in, one leg out, shake it all about. It’s ok to say, “I’m kind of losing it here. Help me find my way back.”
For Mum’s like me, like you, the difficulties that surround being Momma Bear are finally being talked about, accepted and shared. We can eff and blind our way silently through the testing baby period or the torturous toddler days or we can share our war stories and have empathy with friends who are struggling through a week of teething fevers and zero sleep.
I, in no way believe being a parent is too hard, or too stressful or God forbid a mistake. But I will always be candid about being Momma Bear. It’s tough but bearable.
This honesty about the raw reality of the frustration and desperation which motherhood can bring to your doorstep, makes us see that, hey, we’ve got our shit together. We are in fact Rocking Motherhood despite it feeling as though we’re falling down the toilet with Lego Batman, which is exactly where the toddler thinks he belongs.
Being Mum is beyond hard work. It’s exhausting, it’s terrifying, it’s lonely and oftentimes heart-breaking. It’s the only test in your life you probably won’t ace, and you certainly can’t cheat on, but you will always learn from it.
It’s also exciting. It’s fun. It’s daring. It’s an adventure with your favourite people. It’s a learning curve. It’s empowerment. It’s the greatest opportunity you will ever have. Have I sold you the timeshare yet?
It’s also damn fricking hard and it’s ok to cry about it, scream about it and hate it every so often. It’s ok to not be ok and more importantly it’s ok to say this out loud.
Let’s talk about being Momma Bear in all her bare-naked glory and find a way for her to say, “Hey, I’m here too and I’m not OK right now.”
- I took over the EveryMum.ie Instagram account on Monday the 29th April. My little chat about all things anxiety and motherhood is saved in their Highlights
- I chatted with Avril Flynn on the Motherboard Podcast where we chatted about the Supermum Myth and Maternal Mental Health
- I also shared my coping mechanisms, my story and my recovery from anxiety on my own Instagram stories which are all saved in my Highlights