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Inside: This list of the 5 mistakes that prevented me from being a happy mom can offer you some great inspiration if If you ever feel that you are not enjoying motherhood as you thought you would be or you’re feeling unhappy and overwhelmed.
Writing about this is hard. Somehow it is like searching deep inside my heart and facing everything that I did wrong in the last years. It’s like being completely vulnerable in front of anyone who will read this.
But I want to do this. Because admitting my mistakes is a way of leaving them behind me for good. And most of all because I hope that this will help other moms too.
A few days ago a friend asked me a question that resonated deeply inside me:
“What if I would never get to truly enjoy motherhood? What if there’s something wrong with me?”
She said this in a low voice as if it was a thought that she didn’t even want others to hear. I knew that she was going through a tough stage in her life, being alone almost all day, taking care of a toddler and a newborn.
I hugged her because I felt that she needed this more than any advice. And I could feel her wiping her tears as I was hugging her.
The truth is that I knew exactly how she felt. And I felt bad that I never shared my struggles with her. We have been friends for a while, but somehow we never talked about the moments when motherhood feels so hard.
I never told her about the moments when I felt exactly how she was feeling. About the moments when motherhood seemed more like a struggle than a joy. About the moments when I was guilty that I’m not enjoying motherhood as much as I imagined I would do.
I love my son more than anything in the world. I wanted him with all my heart, and I was so happy when he finally came into our lives. He is my joy and inspiration.
But at some point in my motherhood journey, I didn’t feel happy. I felt like something is missing. And I felt so guilty about this!
How could I feel unhappy if I had such a wonderful child? How could I not feel fulfilled if I had the family that I always wanted? What was preventing me from enjoying motherhood to its fullest?
I still remember one evening when I just hid in the bathroom and cried because these feelings were so hard to deal with. It was after one of those days when nothing seemed to work. My son was having a bad day, and his behavior was challenging to handle. Every tentative to connect with him ended up in a negative behavior that was pushing all my buttons.
I was exhausted, and I was eagerly waiting for my husband to come home and allow me to have some time to “recover” after that day.
Things didn’t go as planned with this either. My husband was very late and those three additional hours seemed like forever! When he finally got home, my emotions got the best of me. I started a fight that ended up a few minutes later with me going to the bathroom and slamming the door behind me.
I locked the door and sat on my son’s step stool, in the front of the sink. And I cried.
At that moment nothing seemed right. I felt alone, upset, and overwhelmed. Motherhood was so much harder than I imagined.
I was wondering why I’m not enjoying motherhood as all the other moms seemed to enjoy. I was feeling guilty for wanting more time for me, for missing my job, for not being the playful and joyful mom that my son deserved to have.
photo credit: Africa Studio / shutterstock.com
And as the tears were rolling on my face, I heard some little noises outside the bathroom. Worried that my son would once again try to climb the washing machine and the dryer (as he kept trying that day) I wiped my tears and opened the door.
Right there, in front of the bathroom, there were 5 stuffed animals lined up, facing the door. My son was bringing two more from his room.
“What are you doing?”, I asked.
“I was waiting for you! The animals want us to have dinner together.”, he answered as he arranged the last two stuffed animals on the floor.
He smiled and looked at me. Watching him standing there next to the cute little stuffed animals made all the sadness disappear.
I sat next to them and took him in my arms. I leaned back against the wall, and I just let myself feel that hug. We stayed there for a while and for the first time that day I felt like I was not failing.
That evening I promised myself that I would do my best to find the joy that I was looking for. That I will try to understand what is preventing me from enjoying motherhood as I imagined I would be. And that I will allow myself to be vulnerable and to make the changes that I needed in my life without feeling guilty or putting even more pressure on me.
The mistakes that prevented me from being a happy mom
In the weeks after that moment, I kept thinking about my life as a mom. I tried to understand where my frustrations were coming from. I looked for the reasons that were preventing me from feeling happy.
It wasn’t an easy journey because it made me deal with truths that were not easy to face. It made me see mistakes that were hard to admit.
But once I started to understand each of these mistakes I slowly began to enjoy motherhood more. I made peace with those feelings that were not allowing me to feel the happiness that I was looking for.
I learned to be gentle with myself, to rediscover the joy in every little thing around me, to embrace my imperfections, and to allow myself to enjoy life more in the middle of all the chaos that motherhood brings.
Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” (Omar Khayyam)
Mistake #1: I was not living in the present.
I was oscillating between thinking too much about the past and thinking too much about the future.
I was remembering the things that I was able to do before I was a mother and I was missing them so much. The late mornings, the relaxing nights, the uninterrupted conversations, the adventurous vacations, the romantic weekends, and all the other things that I had in the past.
Sometimes I was even missing myself – the “me” from the past. The girl who had no worries or doubts. The girl that was always smiling and having fun. The girl who loved her freedom and enjoyed it to the fullest.
Other times, I was too focused on the future. I was thinking about the things that I will be able to do when my child will be a little older. About the experiences that we will be able to enjoy together. About the days when parenting will be easier and less demanding.
But the truth is that in the middle of all this thinking about the past or the future I forgot to enjoy the present. My life is very different than it used to be. But all those things that I “lost” were replaced by other forms of joy. The morning smiles and giggles, the cute little arms wrapped around me late at night, the funny conversations, the playful weekends, the endless love that we share.
I just needed to allow myself to enjoy the present without missing the past or chasing a future that no one can guarantee.
Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” (Jim Rohn)
photo credit: Jan Faukner / shutterstock.com
Mistake #2: I was feeling guilty for too many things.
I was beating myself up for not being the mom that I wished I could be.
But all these negative feelings were hurting me. They only built up more frustration and lead to more mistakes. It was a vicious cycle that was keeping me captive. And it was robbing my joy!
It took me a while to learn to forgive myself. I took practice to learn to be as gentle to myself as I would be to a mom friend who would make the same mistake. I slowly learned to let go of guilt. And this meant so much!
Letting go of mom guilt doesn’t mean that I don’t always try to do better. Of course I do! But I understood that I could learn to be a better mom without beating myself up for every mistake. And it’s actually easier this way.
Mistake #3: I was looking for perfection, and this took a huge toll on me.
This was the mistake that it was the hardest to notice because it was so deeply embedded in my personality. It wasn’t something that I did on purpose. But it profoundly affected my perception on motherhood.
I have always been a perfectionist, ever since I was a child. I don’t know how it started, but I feel like this desire of doing things perfectly was always in me.
Before becoming a mom, perfectionism didn’t affect me so much. But things changed dramatically after my son was born.
Motherhood has nothing to do with perfection, especially in the first years. For me, it was tough to let go of my perfectionist side.
It took me some time to realize how much it was impacting my happiness as a mom. My perfectionism made me have high expectation from myself. In my mind, there was a clear picture of how my life “should” be, how my house “should” look, how motherhood “should” feel. And the reality was so far from this perfect picture.
Perfectionism also made me want to be in control of things all the time. I’m sure that you can imagine how this was completely incompatible with having a toddler. Every moment when I felt that I was losing control made me feel powerless and triggered fear or anger.
I was only able to let go of perfectionism when I realized that it would impact my son’s life as well. Having so high expectations of me made me unconsciously also have expectations of him. Also, my need for having things under control was a trigger that prevented me from being a calmer and more positive mom.
I didn’t want my son to live with this burden of feeling the “need” to make things perfect. And I knew that I could only do this if I let go of my perfectionism.
I can say that now I am a “recovering perfectionist”. Perfectionism is not something that I can leave behind whenever I want. It has been with me for so long! But I’ve learned to recognize it in my actions and not to let it influence me anymore. At least not as much as it did.
Letting go of perfectionism had a significant impact on my motherhood journey. It took away some of the pressure that I felt, and it helped me enjoy motherhood more.
Because here is the truth: We are the ones that put the most pressure on us. Our kids don’t ask us to be perfect. They love us exactly the way we are. Our children don’t ask us for perfect homes, perfect vacations, perfect birthdays. They just want to enjoy our presence and connect with us.
Embracing my imperfections and learning that most things are not under my control (and they don’t have to be) brought that peace and acceptance that I didn’t even know I was missing.
Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.” (Brené Brown)
photo credit: Jurij Krupiak / shutterstock.com
Mistake #4: I was blaming others for my unhappiness.
Unfortunately, I did this a lot!
I was blaming my husband for not being more supportive. I was blaming our parents for not helping us more when our son was a baby. I was blaming our move to California for being so far from my family and friends. I was blaming my husband’s schedule for not having more time to build my business.
Although these were all factors that contributed to some of the difficult moments in my life, blaming others is only making things worse.
When we place the blame for our unhappiness on other people (or situations), we admit that we have no control over it. And this is not true!
I am the only one responsible for my happiness. I can either place the blame on others and make excuses or deal with the difficulties and find solutions. Keeping this choice in mind has made a big difference!
Mistake #5: I thought that I need to “sacrifice” myself for my child.
Motherhood is all about selflessness. It’s about putting the child’s needs ahead of yours and making sure that they feel safe and loved.
After I became a mom, I felt like I need to sacrifice everything to be a good mother to my son: all my free time, our couple time, my hobbies, even my sleep.
But this took a significant toll on myself and our marriage. I missed being able to be alone and enjoy an activity that I love. I missed spending quality time with my husband.
On the rare occasions when I was able to convince myself to put my needs first, I felt guilty. It seemed like I wasn’t a good mom if I wasn’t there for my son all the time.
But I quickly realized that this was the direct road towards parenting burnout.
I understood that self-care is not only something that I need to do for me but also something that was beneficial for my child. Taking good care of me allows me to be a more peaceful and playful mom.
Kids don’t need us to “sacrifice” for them. What they need is for us to find that balance in our life that allows us to be the happy parents that they deserve.
In the end, I am the only one who can give my children a happy mother who loves life.” (Janene Wolsey Baadsgaard)
If you ever feel that you are not enjoying motherhood as you thought you would be or you’re feeling unhappy and overwhelmed, I want you to know that you are not alone!
I hope that reading about my mistakes will help you find more answers to your own doubts and worries. Motherhood is a challenging journey, but it can also be a wonderful source of happiness.
We just need to allow ourselves to enjoy it, to embrace our imperfections, and to build that happy family life that we deserve.
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