It's true when they say motherhood is hard. There's nothing else like it and you really can't define it, describe it or relate to it until you become one and experience it first hand. They also say that nothing can prepare you for it, which is true too. But more than how unprepared I was for keeping a child alive, I was most unprepared for the constant deluge of martyr messages that would come my way once I entered the stay-at-home-mom club.
"Being a stay-at-home-mom is the hardest job in the world. I wore the same shirt three days in a row. When my head hits the pillow, I wonder what I accomplished. My heart is so heavy because the job is never done. I can't remember the last time I had a full nights sleep. I'm so exhausted, I just need a moment to myself."
Over time, I found these messages making their way to my heart. Wrapping around it and tightening their grip, telling me that it's okay to constantly vocalize and lament about my complaints, hardships and woes as a mother. In fact, I started finding that the messages began to create frustrations and indignities, not just highlight them.
I began feeling like I was supposed to wear a spit-up ridden shirt all day. Like I should be in a constant zombie state. Like toys on the floor must annoy me every single minute. That motherhood should be difficult, dirty, disgusting and tiring - and if it wasn't, I was doing something wrong.
It seems today's stay-at-home mom has become a new kind of citizen. We've elevated her to an angelic status, a martyr for the greater good of society's future. She has become a self-sacrificing saint, tirelessly wading through her duties of chauffeur, chef, maid, accountant and administrative assistant all while covered in puke and throw up, with the sound of crying babies and screaming toddlers in the background. While she recognizes how blessed she is to soak up cuddles and kisses from her littles all day, deep down she is unhappy, restless and searching for a greater meaning among the diapers and pacifiers.
She's allowed to complain unhindered, wearing her victim-complex badge loud and proud, front and center, because she will always win the, "Who has it the hardest?" game. A game that seems to only have one contastant - the SAHM.
As a SAHM myself, I see it (and have participated in it) more often than I care to admit. We conglomerate together, in person and even more so online, rallying around our "woe-is-me" status. We lament about how no one understands our job, envying "other people's" ability to finish a still-hot cup of coffee, not have their noses singed by the stank of bodily fluids, and to start their day with a shower and end it with clean pants.
It's a fine balance, this line we toe. On one hand, everyone needs a space to vent, to have their feelings acknowledged and affirmed, to know they are not the first to feel these things and they won't be the last. It's healthy and necessary to talk through what we're going through, and a SAHM needs a support system just as much as anyone else.
But there's a difference in venting and complaining. And I feel, particularly online, it's a line we've crossed all too often. It's become not only tolerated to express our sighing and grumbling over yogurt on the walls, the 15 loads of laundry in the basement and having to cart two screaming children to the doctor's office with us, but it's expected and reinforced that we let everyone know just dire our situation is - in hopes of receiving some accolades and affirmation for our self-sacrificing ways.
It seems talking about the life a SHAM leads has become more than just an outlet where we can identify with each other, encourage each other, and move on to the next sleepless night. Instead, it's now often moved to griping and complaining about how exasperated and annoyed we are with our duties, children, spouse or all-together life. It's moved beyond just a type of healthy group therapy to become a self-depreciating pastime and hobby - and it's definitely something that we all seem to be enjoying just a little too much.
And as for me, I want out. I came into motherhood with visions of frosting and sprinkles and while it's no cake walk, I think motherhood is a whole lot sweeter than the dish I've recently been served up by my peers. I'm done with the motherhood martyr act. I'm done indulging in every little difficultly as if it just adds to my victim resume. I'm done feeling like I need to live my life in an unkempt state, like I need to feel frazzled and worn and just a little bit out of control all the time.
The woe-is-me act just makes motherhood harder. Thus far, motherhood has been some of the best years of my life and I don't need outside messages telling me that it's harder than I perceive it is. There are certainly days that I need a quick wake-up-call to remind me that I'm making it harder than it is, but do I really need to hear that I'm not viewing it has hard enough? I don't need more reasons to throw myself a massive pity party - I can generate quite enough on my own, thankyouverymuch.
Yes, motherhood is hard. And being a SAHM comes with it own unique difficulties. But so does everything else this life throws at us. Let's stop throwing rocks on the mountain of martyrdom we're building by complaining together, and instead mute our natural desire for self-pity before it can creep its way into all our conversations. I think we'd all find our day is filled with less frustration if we unwrapped the victim message that is wound so tightly around our hearts. Let's hit the brakes on our stress-filled dialogues containing all the reasons why we have it the worst and remember why we'd really say time and time again, deep down, that we have it the best.
It's a good life we lead. Let's not make it harder than it is.
Like this post? Here are some of the top posts in my "Motherhood" series. I also share a whole lot more on this motherhood gig over on Facebook (Oakland Avenue), Twitter (@oakland_avenue) and Instagram (@laurawifler) and I'd love it if you followed along!