When I first brought Ben home there were very few opportunities to see, or even talk to a lot of people. My husband and I were on lock-down for those first few weeks, learning how to feed, bathe, soothe, and entertain our new baby. I’m still getting to know my sweet son, but even nine weeks in I can predict what he’ll need just a touch before he can.
Now that I’m a little out of the woods (I feel like every time I say something like this I’m jinxing myself…) I feel this new community around me. There are mothers out there…new mothers, older mothers, mom’s of boys, girls, twins! They’re everywhere!
And I’ve got a membership card.
I wanted to hear from these lovely voices of the choir I have joined, not only for the camaraderie, but to share their insights with other moms in lock-down mode, those out of the woods, and beyond.
I’ve asked ten mothers the following questions:
- What have you found to be the hardest thing about being a mother?
- What is the most rewarding?
- What has been the most surprising?/What has helped you the most with the challenging times?
Here’s what they have to say:
Mother of two: Isabella Rose, 5, and Gabriel, 1, (turning 2 next month!)
The hardest thing about being a mother, in my opinion, isn’t the sleepless nights, dirty diapers, bottles at 3:00 AM, crying or screaming. The hardest part about being a mother, thus far, is a tie between two things: When the kids are sick or in pain and you really have no power over the sickness taking its course, and the second being going back to work.
The separation from your children for the first time is heartbreaking. Whether it be for 4, 8, or even 12 hour shifts. There is no amount of phone calls , Facetimes, or even pictures that compare to the physical ability to see, hug, and love them. Keep in mind, IT DOES GET BETTER.
One of the most rewarding aspects about being a mother is watching your children grow, make milestones, learn, and begin school ( School is as far as I’ve gotten.)
My daughter just graduated Pre-K in June and will be entering Kindergarten in September. I have many milestones and mommy happy cries to come.
I’ll keep this last answer short and sweet. The most surprising thing about being a mother is the capability to love and protect another human being with every amount of energy in me. The overwhelming feeling of LOVE your children give you as a mother is like no other feeling.
Mother of one: Christian, 17 months
The hardest thing that I have found so far about being a mother is not feeling like I have a good work-home life balance, and feeling that it interferes with my ability to be a mother, and the relationship I have with my son. I know this is something that many mothers feel when they return to work after leave and my experiences are similar to millions of other women. I work in advertising and my job is often very demanding and sometimes requires late nights. I commute from New Jersey to New York City every day, and although I do not live too far from the city, I need to leave before my son wakes up in the morning, and I don’t get home most nights until about 7 PM.
As I’m sure other mothers also experience, there are some instances where I need to continue working after I get home from work at night rather than staying later in the office, which is also not easy because I feel guilty for ignoring him when he is literally screaming for my attention. There is no explaining to a 17-month-old that if he just leaves you alone for five more minutes so you can finish an email, that you’re all his for the rest of the night!
I am so fortunate that I have an amazing support system. My son spends the first half of the day with my husband, and then the second half of the day and early evening with either set of grandparents after my husband goes to work. My parents and my in-laws are very involved and do anything they need to do to ensure that my husband and I can work without having to worry about child care. If I need to work late, it is never really an issue; someone is always available to watch him. This does, however, come with its own set of struggles, as it often seems he is forming attachments to everyone but me.
A few weeks ago, I needed to take a late conference call so my mother in law kept him at her house, then brought him home to me when my work was complete. Overall, work was very stressful at the time and I was so excited to finally be done for the evening and spend time with him, but unfortunately, the feeling that night was not mutual. He threw a temper tantrum in the middle of my driveway at 9:30 PM because I was taking him away from his grandmother. He wouldn’t let go of the handle of the front door no matter how hard I pulled him, and then cried for at least 20 minutes after she left. He’s 17 months old, was developing a very bad cold and it was late at night; he was just super cranky. At the time though, my overworked, overtired and irrational brain didn’t handle this well, and naturally, the conclusion I came to was that my child just hated me (which when I woke up the next morning and was back to being rational, I realized this was obviously not the case). It’s those kinds of moments, however, that truly challenges you as a mother and you need to remember to keep a thick skin.
Although I know he is in good hands all day, there are so many normal “motherly” things that I would like to do with him during the week that I’m not able to do – getting him dressed, feeding him meals, or just simply spending time with him. He recently started day care a few afternoons a week, and unfortunately, I am not involved in dropping him off or picking him up. The teachers at the school do not really know me, I don’t get to see him interact with the children there, nor do I know any of the other parents.
Eventually, I do plan on making a switch so I can work a few minutes away from home rather than having an hour and a half commute. I’m hoping this will allow me to be a more involved mother and I will be able to experience those little things that I often feel like I’m missing out on.
The most rewarding thing I think, that most parents will say, is that being a mother or father is the most important role they will ever have, and it’s true. It’s a huge responsibility to bring a person into this world, and I think all you can do is hope you did your best raising them. I think there are so many rewards that come with being a mother; some of which I’ve already experienced, like the immense love that I feel for my son, as well as things that are yet to come throughout his life that I’ll get to experience along with him. Every day I get to have with him is a reward in itself.
What’s helped me the most is to talk to other moms about their experiences. I tend to exchange stories with my co-workers who have children and ask for their advice. I think it can often feel like everyone around you has it together so much more than you, and it’s nice to hear that even those people are having their own challenges. By exchanging stories with other moms, I think you also tend to realize as you recount an event that it probably wasn’t as serious as it seemed at the time it was happening. I also talk to my family a lot when I feel like I’m having a hard time and they’re very helpful. My mom, especially, is always willing to lend an ear when I need to talk!
Mother of one: Makayla, 19 months
The hardest thing about motherhood is finding a routine that I never even had, so I had to make a new one. It’s also trying really hard to communicate with your other half, especially if you’re the new parent and he’s not. And also having patience, which I feel I have so much of now that I’m a mother.
Everyday is rewarding, but most of all it is the love I have for my daughter and the love she has for me.
The thing that has helped me the most through the challenging times is to breathe (haha who does that?). No seriously…just breathe. Take a minute and put yourself in your child’s shoes (if they wear shoes yet) and think: why is what they’ve done so wrong? And then actually talk to them: “I know you’re upset and you can cry if you want but (blah blah blah)…”
Oh and my parents…just drop the kids off at Pop’s and Yeahma’s house….THEN you can really breathe.
Mother of one: Asher, 5 months
The hardest thing about motherhood is there’s so much to remember and think about. When’s the next doctor’s appointment? Are we going to be out when he’ll be hungry? How much milk/formula should I pack? Did I pack an extra outfit and burp cloth? I feel like I’m constantly adding to my to-do list.
The most rewarding thing is seeing his beautiful smile, cute little laugh, and snuggling with him during feedings. There’s no better feeling than making Asher smile just by walking in the room or singing him a silly song. And when you wonder if you’re doing a good job, it’s an instant reminder that nothing compares to mom when he needs a snuggle from you to go to sleep.
What helps me the most is my husband. He is a huge help and is a very hands on parent. It’s helpful to know we’re both in this together when things get tough.
I also always remind myself that no one knows what they’re doing and what seems hard now will pass.
Mother of three: Landon, 6, Jackson, 4, Aiden, 2
The hardest thing about being a mom? To me the obvious answer is maintaining an ever flowing well of patience. My kids test me constantly. And as a single parent I feel that I’m always trying to be extra “on point” so to speak. It’s so hard sometimes to remember that they are children, not tiny adults. The less obvious answer…answering questions. Questions you never thought they would ask. Questions you knew they would ask but thought it would be years from when they actually do ask you. Questions you’ve already answered 10 seconds ago. Questions about the answer you have to the previous question. It’s not always easy to find the words to explain a concept to a child when their vocabulary and life experience is so incredibly limited.
The most rewarding thing, hands down, is hearing or watching one of my children being kind to another person. Whether it’s to a family member or a total stranger. It melts my heart and puts tears in my eyes to see them expressing kindness freely. And it also makes me think that maybe I’m not doing such a bad job after all.
This last question is really hard to answer. I’ve gone through a rough past couple years since my ex decided he no longer wanted to be a part of our lives. I’m still working on getting back on my feet and getting my life together. I’ve been in pure survival mode for so long that I don’t know that I could pinpoint any one thing. A few major things would be: Take time for yourself and try not to feel guilty about it. You don’t have to do anything extravagant. And it doesn’t have to be constant large blocks of time. But you need that time to yourself to be the best mom you can be for your kids. Vent to a best friend. Seriously. Sometimes you just need to whine about how awful your kids are being to avoid turning into Momzilla. Let friends or family help you if they offer. Within reason of course. It’s ok to cry in front of your kids. Don’t burden them with the adult problems, but you’d be surprised how comforting they can be. Take a breath. Or 20. It’s cliche, but remember that they really are only small for so long. You will only have so much influence over them for so long. You only have today to cherish today’s moments. So do something fun with them. Even if it’s just snuggling up and reading a book.
Mother of two: Mackenzie, 2, and Grayson, 4 months
The hardest thing for me is being able to balance all of my time. I feel like I never have enough time with the kids and I feel guilty when I get or want time to myself. And of course child care! It’s so expensive and it’s so hard to leave them with strangers. I’m basically working to pay daycare and get insurance. Another challenge of motherhood that I dealt with is postpartum depression. I think it’s something all mothers shouldn’t feel ashamed about it’s hard being a first-time mom or a second-time mom.
The most rewarding thing for me is how amazing, smart, and beautiful they are. Watching them grow into the human beings they are going to be is the greatest. There’s nothing better then waking up to your kids smiling at you! If I’m having a bad day I just look at their faces and I feel better.
What helps me the most during the challenging times is my rock, my best friend and love of my life, Kiernan. He’s is the best daddy and best fiance ever. He keeps me sane. Mackenzie adores him and Grayson is still adjusting! We are a team and we do everything together. And of course our parents, mine and his have been a tremendous support for us and I don’t know what we would do with out them.
Mother of two: Jack, 4 1/2, and Ryleigh, 10 months
There are many challenges! But, I would said the hardest thing for me is being a working mom and not getting to spend as much time with my kids as I would like. With my son he was with a sitter at four months and the sitter got to see many of his firsts. It always made me sad that I was missing out on those first moments. With my 10-month-old daughter, she is with my mom and stepfather everyday so they get to see a lot more than I do, but at least they send me pictures and videos throughout the day which helps a lot!
There are so many rewarding moments it’s hard to pick just one. Coming home at the end of the day and seeing the smiles on my kids faces is so rewarding and instantly relaxes me. If I’ve had a bad day they make me forget about it. We spend a few hours playing when I get home and seeing their faces and hearing their giggles is such a rewarding feeling.
Hmmm, things that have helped…well wine has helped me a lot lol! But, in all seriousness, my husband and my parents have helped me the most during challenging times. Sometimes I just need time to myself, even if it’s just 30 minutes. My husband will take both kids for a drive or he’ll stay home and watch both kids while I take a trip to Target by myself . So much easier to look around when you don’t have two kids with you. I am also very fortunate to have my parents. They live close by and watch the baby every day and if my son is sick and can’t go to school or my husband and I have something to do they are always there to help and take care of both kids.
Mother of one: Benjamin, 2, and another boy on the way!
I think one of the hardest things so far for me would have to be discipline. He has been a biter and a hitter since he was about 10 months old. Getting him to stop these behaviors was difficult and not fun at all. Now that he is a little older and talking he is able to be reasoned with to a point and understands that those behaviors aren’t nice. It took a long time to get there and of course with age there are new behaviors. A time-out works for him, which is a good thing for me.
The most rewarding thing is watching him learn and grow. Every day he is speaking new words and learning new things and it is AMAZING. Also, of course, all the snuggles and I love yous make me feel like I am doing a great job! He is a very easy going kid and makes this job easy on me.
The most surprising thing? This question was a littler hard for me. I have worked with children from ages birth to 5 years for about 12 years now. (I am currently a Pre-K teacher, but I have been in every classroom at the daycare I teach at). I would have to say though that how fast the time goes, no matter how much someone tells you it will fly by, is truly very surprising. It seems like just yesterday I had my son and now he is two and going to be a big brother. So, whenever someone tells you the time just flies by…believe it!
The hardest thing about being a mother is that you fundamentally change. And you absolutely cannot anticipate the ways you will change and what the experience will be like. No matter how many books you read, no matter how many mom friends you talk to, you will have no idea until it happens to you and then you’re changed. Forever. Even though I’m still me, I am now someone’s mom. That’s a part of my identity, and in those early years, it sometimes felt like my only identity. Some days I feel like I’m just meeting an endless stream of other people’s needs, and that can be draining if you aren’t mindful of caring for yourself, too.
The most rewarding thing, for me, has been seeing the relationship develop between my two kids. The joy that I feel watching them is a new kind of joy that I’ve never experienced before. It’s also amazing to watch their personalities emerge, and to see them developing their own tastes, relationships, and experiences that have nothing to do with you!
What helped me the most through the challenging times was, in the early days of motherhood, searching out likeminded “mom friends” who became my community. Now, as we’ve become the older, more seasoned moms, and as we’ve weathered years of motherhood together, we’re no longer “mom friends,” but just friends. If you do not have women to go through motherhood with, go find them! Be brave. When shit gets real, you need someone to tell you that it’s normal and you’re not ruining your kid.
Mother of one: Maya, 8
I think the hardest thing about being a mother is worrying about how your child will be affected by the influences of the outside world. The journey of motherhood begins the second you find out your pregnant. From the moment you see the plus sign on that pregnancy test, everything changes. Your number one priority is that baby. I began eating healthy, drinking more water, exercising, taking my vitamins and playing soothing music near my belly. When my daughter was born I made sure she was the healthiest and happiest she could be. I made home-made baby food, gave her soothing baths, and massages. When she was a toddler we went to mommy and baby story time at the library, mommy and me at the Little Gym, painted ceramics, went to movies, and even did yoga together.
And then real life began.
Reality set in and my baby was off to school. She was no longer with mommy every day. She was in school being influenced by all of the other children. I guess what I’m saying is that you raise your child to be the best she can be. I had to cross my fingers and pray that she followed in the footsteps of my teaching and as a leader.
The most rewarding thing for me is stepping outside the picture and looking in and realizing that I raised a wonderful little girl who is smart, funny and beautiful inside and out. There is nothing more rewarding than being told by teachers, camp counselors, or even someone at a table in a restaurant that my child is so sweet and well behaved. That is rewarding in itself because it reassures me that I did a great job as a mom.
This last question was easy for me. What has helped me the most during the challenging times is my mother. My mom is my rock and my savior. She is what helped me through. She is there for me day in and day out, 24/7. She is my shoulder to lean on and ear that listens to my problems.