Years ago I had someone tell me how bad they felt for my generation of moms. “You’ve got too much information,” they said, “and it makes you worry too much.”
I sat there mulling over that statement and feeling small. I did feel worried, but I couldn’t say what I really felt. I didn’t have the guts to talk about the root of it all. Sure, the information age is a difficult time to parent in, but that wasn’t my issue—the truth is I felt like I was drowning under the weight of expectations from the generations before me.
I was struggling as a new mom. Endlessly sleep-deprived and in a seemingly constant state of overwhelm. I loved being a mother, and yet I felt hopelessly lost, like I was wandering through the dark, looking for a glimmer of light or a hand to guide me through. I longed for compassion, a knowing smile to show me that somebody, anybody understood. Maybe a story of their own struggle to fight back all my fears that I must be doing this whole thing all wrong. A simple “I remember feeling that way” would have meant the world to me and given me so much hope.
I needed a friend.
Someone who had been in my shoes and remembered how big they felt, but instead, I felt alone.
I’d try and get my bearings as a mom and just as I’d hit my stride I’d hear an, “In my day . . .” and be knocked right off my feet. My cries for help fell hollow in the wind because apparently, they had it harder and they did it better. Who was I to shed a tear when I had it so much easier? And what was wrong with me that I found motherhood to be so difficult? In reaching out, I was met with a seemingly innocent one up and though the message was subliminal, it was clear, I had to toughen up, of course.
And I did, well I tried to at least. I tried to keep up. Be tougher. Do more. Be more. I gave it my all, but it only made it worse. I think I desperately wanted to feel respected as though I earned my way into the “Tough Moms of Days Gone By Club.” They were the goal, right? It felt like it anyway. Like strength was independence. Doing more was the gold standard, and filling these big motherhood shoes meant hiding any sign of struggle along the way. I tried.
I tried so hard, but it didn’t feel right.
I attempted to fill those shoes, but I felt too small. There were so many expectations and as each opinion hit me, I would shrink and those shoes just kept on getting heavier and more and more impossible to fill. I couldn’t keep up and I felt weak, but that was a lie.
Moms like me get a bad rap sometimes. We’re softer, sure, but don’t be fooled into mistaking it for weakness. When we talk about our struggle, we are being brave. See, I don’t think this is anything new. I don’t think my generation is the first to feel anxious, exhausted, and overwhelmed. We didn’t invent any of those emotions that are so deeply ingrained in motherhood, but we just might be the first generation talking about them. Who knows, maybe we’re the first ones to have that right, the opportunity to be honest about how we feel, but it’s not new to my generation of mothers.
Today’s mothers are giving ourselves the grace to be honest, and it’s long overdue.
Mothers before us were mentally and physically drained. They wanted help, they desperately needed it, I’m certain, but too often they didn’t have it. Maybe they tried but were met with a one-up story or with a cold shoulder instead of a helping hand, but we can change that now. We must! Not just for the mothers like us, but for their children. Families shoulder the burden of struggle, and they suffer for it, so we can’t continue this way anymore.
Struggle is not a badge of honor, and though motherhood is hard, drowning in it is not a right of passage, so I propose an idea. Let’s be the friend who says the shoes don’t have to be so big and painfully heavy. Let’s remind each other that we are not defined by more. There is no competition here, just women who understand, so let’s look back on our struggle and choose to be the friend we needed. The knowing smile at the grocery store. The reassuring story of someone who understands. Let’s be the hand in the dark.