“I love my child, but when he throws a tantrum in public, I want to get on the floor and scream with him.”
“I love my child, but she’s up every two hours at night right now, and I’m just so tired.”
“I love my child, but I could really use some alone time.”
“I love my child, but . . . ”
Why is it that any time we want to talk about the less-than-amazing aspects of parenthood, we feel compelled to add those seemingly innocuous five words in front?
As if there’s any real doubt that we love our children. As if our fitness to be mothers would otherwise be held under a microscope and scrutinized. As if we have to stamp a big, fat disclaimer onto any feelings about parenting that aren’t overwhelmingly sweet and positive.
I can’t help but think we broach our frustrations this way so frequently because we’re afraid of judgment. We’re afraid that someone, somewhere, is going to call us out and expose us for the ungrateful, sniveling whiners we must be: “Why are you complaining? You’re lucky to be a mom at all.”
That’s what we hear, even if it isn’t explicitly stated—you’re lucky to have something that so many want, but can’t have. Check your privilege. Besides, motherhood means sacrifice, right? You signed up for this.
“I love my child, but . . . ” is a nod to the guilt lurking there beneath the surface. A subtle acknowledgement of its presence—its power—like a hovering specter waiting to sneak in when we least expect it and steal our joy. They may be only five words, but strung together, they speak volumes. Those five words plead, “Please don’t think I’m selfish, ungrateful, or entitled. I know how good I have it. I probably shouldn’t even be saying this.”
But here’s the thing, mama:
Gratitude and frustration are not mutually exclusive.
Gratitude and exhaustion are not mutually exclusive.
Gratitude and the need for space are not mutually exclusive.
You can be eternally grateful for the miracle of motherhood while simultaneously wanting to lock yourself in the bedroom and scream into a pillow on occasion.
You don’t need to make your perfectly legitimate frustrations, disappointments, and concerns conditional upon the fact that you preface them with “I love my child, but . . . ”
You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. You don’t need to justify or defend your feelings. Yes, you love your child dearly. Yes, you are lucky to be a mom. But your job is never-ending. Your job is exhausting. As wonderful and rewarding and fulfilling as your job can be, it is the hardest one in the world.
So I’m giving you permission to let go of the guilt.
How about this—I’ll start.
I’ll start by being the first to drop that five-word phrase from my vocabulary, forever.
I hope you’ll join me.
Because it does more harm than good.
Because it hurts all moms.
And because I do love my child, but I’m also human. I’m not perfect. And I would challenge you to find anyone who is.