When Asked About New Motherhood, I Lied (Because It was Going Well)

new motherhood with baby and tea

When other mothers ask you how you’re handling new motherhood, what do you say?

I used to be honest, but I recently changed my normal, natural response to appease and meet their expectations. And frankly, I’m horrified at myself.

My response used to be that I was tired because we were getting up every hour and a half at night with our twin girls. Getting them on the same schedule was hard. Then life at home normalized a bit, and things became more manageable. When I was asked how things were going after that, I’d usually say, “Oh, fine. They’re sleeping through the night now.”

 

The reaction was either one of shock or a half-joking comment about how they hated me and wanted to punch me in the face.

In a way, I felt judged because my babies slept 6 hours at night starting at two months, and then the full night a few weeks later.

Because I never wanted to make someone feel bad or upset over their current situation, especially in comparison with my own, I changed my responses. I learned not to mention the twins sleeping through the night unless I was asked that direct question. It upset other parents sometimes.

Instead, when I was asked how I was handling being a new mother to twins, I exaggerated to appease them. I said, “Well, you know. We’re all still alive, so that’s something.” And they would smile knowingly, completely satisfied that I was struggling. I wondered when it became OK to judge a parent who has figured out a parenting routine that works for that stage of life?

 

When did it become OK for people to want other parents to fail?

It got me thinking about the motivation behind those comments, those looks, and those reactions. Did they want me to fail? Did they want to offer support but couldn’t when I say I’m fine? Are they struggling with parenting, and looking for someone to commiserate with and understand their plight?

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer.

The truth is, my husband and I are currently managing this crazy thing called parenting relatively well. We have a routine that works (most days), and I’m able to still work from home.

 

That doesn’t mean we don’t struggle, that we aren’t tired, and that we aren’t overwhelmed and frustrated sometimes.

We have been.
We are.
We will be.

It’s not easy. None of it is. I still get intense anxiety taking them out in public by myself and avoid it as much as I can. I get nervous taking them to church because I don’t know if they’ll be quiet and calm. I struggle with disrupting their routine to accommodate life activities, events, and family gatherings. But I’m content. In fact, I’m happy most of the time. That’s success enough to be celebrated and not judged.

I know that when my twins hit that next stage, we’ll need to buckle down and figure it out again. Maybe then I won’t be sleeping a full night. Or maybe I won’t have as much time to work from home. Or maybe I’ll cry myself to sleep or shout curses to the heavens because I am overwhelmed. But no matter what parenting woes or triumphs are waiting for me on the other side of this, I’m going to be more honest in my answers moving forward. After all, they’re the ones asking me.

 

I shouldn’t feel shame or guilt that I’m surviving.

As parents, we all go through the hills and valleys of raising a human being. We’ve all been there in one form or another. It’s tough, but we don’t need to make it tougher than it already is. We can all be kinder and more open, honest, and supportive.

 

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20 Comments

  • This is wonderful, and thank you for sharing. I try to be honest in my answers, but find myself softening the blow with certain friends or parents, depending on their situation. I don’t think that’s altogether bad, but it’s also like you said – they’re the ones asking. I also really appreciated what you said about getting anxiety taking them out or to church; I feel the same way running errands with my toddler and 4-month-old. At some point, someone’s going to be crying and/or whining and it stressful. It’s just good to know I’m not alone in that.

    • Hi, Amelia.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read the article and comment! I appreciate that!

      I know babies cry, but the public whining or crying sets me on edge. I worry that it annoys or frustrates others, too. Plus, it puts me on high alert. I just want to rush home and get back to the normal routine/environment.

      You’re definitely not alone! It’s nice to know that I’m not alone either.

  • Loved reading this! I can totally relate. Our baby started sleeping through the night around 3.5 months. We have friends whose baby was still waking often at that point, and is a few months older. Realized we had to stop talking about how good our baby’s sleep was when the friend came up and asked how our “perfect” baby was doing, her voice dripping with envy. Oops. Sleep is a sensitive topic, especially for those who aren’t getting much of it!

    • So true, Rachel! My heart goes out to those who are dealing with sleep trouble. That’s not easy!

      The “perfect” baby comments kill me when they’re “dripping”. It’s a good way to put it. I’ve had people tell me that they don’t think my babies ever cry because they never hear them at church or other public places. I do have anxiety that they will be disruptive, so as soon as they start to get a little fussy, I take them out so I don’t destroy the experience for someone else. Made me feel like they think I’m nuts and I make up all the stress their crying in public gives me.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • I’ve actually just written a post on the same thing, hoping to get it up on my blog soon (not written as well as yours admittedly but i’m working on it) but its ridiculous how we have to ‘pretend’ we’re not doing so great in order to please the other mothers of the world in fear that we’ll lose those new mummy friends! I’ve come to the realisation that we shouldn’t worry about what others may think. If we’re doing great then we should all stand an support each other regardless. High five to you my lovely! I feel your frustration! xx

    • Thanks for your comment, Sarah! It’s been amazing to see that I’m not alone in this. Sometimes we feel like there is something wrong with us, but all these comments help me see that it is an issue, and I’m not alone.

      You’re right! We shouldn’t worry about the opinions of others. We just have to be sure we’re doing right by ourselves and our children. That’s the most important thing.

      I’m sure your piece will turn out beautifully! Write on, sister!

  • I really appreciated articles like this when I was pregnant. Everyone loves to tell horror stories and joke that you’ll never sleep again. It’s not helpful when you’re already terrified of being a parent. Hearing about people who are getting sleep and managing the responsibilities gave me hope.

    • I agree, Miranda. I was told a story where the medicine didn’t work and she felt them cut into her for the c-section. This terrified me. I just knew that I’d feel it. I just knew it.

      When the time came, I was panicking, tears leaking down my face. The anesthesiologist asked what was wrong, and I told him. He did the cold-water test. He said if you can feel cold, you can feel pain. I didn’t feel a thing.

      it was all fine, but I still feel bitter at someone telling me such a horrible story when I was already anxious and overwhelmed with the idea of getting twins out of my body.

  • My son was an awesome sleeper and people would get mad when I told them I wasn’t tired , things were going great , we got 8 hrs! I started telling people that asked that I was tired and things are tough to please them!

    • It’s crazy isn’t it?! Totally unfair to be judged by other parents. What they don’t realise is just because we get a full nights sleep doesn’t mean we then get it easy throughout the day.

      • It sure is, Sarah! That’s a good point. I know I get a full night’s sleep, but my days feel nuts! Whenever I walk past my bed, I look at it longingly. And then when the day is done, I crash. Parenting is hard work, no matter if your kids sleep at night or not. It’s all hard.

        Thanks for your comment!

  • Great article, Charlene! I am always impressed with how well-behaved your girls are and the grace with which you handle it all. It seems easy to just forego the schedule for special occasions and let them nap when I’m ready for them to nap, but we definitely reap those consequences later, which is why we rarely let it happen. My husband has been really strict about sleep times and follows it to a T, so we too have missed out on a lot due to nap time. It’s a minor sacrifice in the grand scheme of things. Kudos to you guys, and I hope the next phase goes as well as this one!

    • Thanks, Heather! I appreciate the comment.

      We’ve stretched the girls way past their nap times on many occasions, and I always feel awful for them. They’re miserable! And that makes me miserable. 🙂 I feel like I’m torturing them when all they want to do is sleep.

      It’s hard to miss out on things sometimes. I budge a lot more than I would like to, but I don’t want to disappoint my husband either by not going or taking the girls to family events. It just gets hard sometimes.

      How did you deal with naps when church was in the middle of it? That’s what we’re struggling with right now. We can’t figure out how to make it work.

  • I LOVE this post! Living for it, actually. I think we should be happy for other people who ‘get it’ and find something that works for them. Why can’t we celebrate their victories? It should be our victories too, as a fellow parent. Hell, maybe we could learn something if we stopped being so damn judgemental! Parenting is like a dodgeball. Sometimes you navigate through the game (day) without being hurt. Other days, you get smacked in the face. Multiple times. It’s all part of living, but if we don’t celebrate the GOOD THINGS, what are we celebrating? Well done, mama!

    • Thanks for the comment, Victoria! It’s so true! I’ve been thinking about writing an article titled: “Just when you think you have parenting figured out, you stick your kid’s head in the ceiling fan.”

      Ha! That’s what parenting feels like sometimes. Just when you have things under control, things get nuts. So, we need to celebrate and enjoy when things are working out. 🙂

  • I love this! I feel the same way about motherhood (most days!) and am always surprised by the negative reactions of other parents, especially regarding sleep. I have the same reluctance about disrupting my son’s routine for outings, but I feel like part of why he’s so calm and happy and sleeps so well is precisely BECAUSE of that routine! Bravo to you guys for figuring this stage out – I hope everything continues to go smoothly for you!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting! Thankfully, they still sleep through the night. Now it’s just mainly mass chaos during the day. One is walking and the other is almost there. 🙂

      Gosh, I love having a schedule. It makes things so much easier, but most people don’t get it. I’ll get a few eye rolls when I mention it or how I can’t meet them at a certain time because that’s when the babies are sleeping. They just don’t get it.

  • I’m tired of the judging and so are my friends. Let the miserable moms vent and let the easy-phase moms share their success. It doesn’t have to diminish your own story! ‘Cause here’s the thing, every kid and family is different. What is easy for me will be the hardest months of your life for you. (Pregnancy was horrible for me but those newborn days??? I’d take them again in a heartbeat!) In my friendships that I pursue and maintain, we vent and celebrate together, without feeling diminished by the other. I don’t get why some people can’t seem to get it.

    • Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I agree. Why can’t we be happy for others who aren’t dealing with certain issues? I mean, we all are dealing with something, but just because it’s not the same as yours doesn’t mean we should get those looks or eye rolls. Parenting is a roller coaster. We have to enjoy the fun parts because there will always be times where we are overwhelmed or stressed. Let us enjoy the good!

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