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 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.