Should You Feel Guilty if You Hate Being a Mom?
For most of my life, I remember wanting to be a mom. I had tons of dolls and was always playing family or baby as a kid. As a teen, I loved babysitting and working with kids. Finally, at 30, I decided to become a mom, which altered my life's path entirely. I quickly discovered being a parent was nothing like I expected in both good and bad ways.
As a first-time mom, I would ride the bus home through Washington, D.C., to my neighborhood north of Dupont Circle. My baby would be strapped in a baby carrier, usually sleeping, and I would observe all the people on the street. Some days I resented the people I saw walking about, sitting at cafes, or lounging around, seemingly without a care in the world.
Much like kids think adults have it all, I would think, “These lucky people can do whatever they want at the drop of a hat.” I didn’t hate being a mom at that point, I just felt a pang of nostalgia at the temporary loss of some freedoms, but I also realized that came with the territory of being a parent.
Related: Mom Burnout is Real, Here Are 5 Ways to Avoid It
On other days, I would pop my son into a stroller and walk the beautiful tree-lined streets to my local Starbucks, and I was the proudest mama in the world. I had a beautiful, healthy, and happy baby.
However, eleven and a half years and two kids later, I’ve had several moments where I have honestly hated being a mom.
What No One Tells You About Being a Mom
Currently, my 8-year-old with ADHD, whose meds haven’t kicked in yet and is on his last week of summer vacation, is in his room banging magnet tiles and singing at the top of his lungs.All because he wants my attention, and I won’t drop what I’m doing to guess what he wants for breakfast.
Last night I was sassed repeatedly by my tween trying to leave for an event he wanted to attend, which had me thinking, “Why do I even bother?”
Then there are days when my depression and anxiety spike; I feel like I’m being pulled from every direction imaginable with a work deadline, a pile of dirty dishes, baseball practice, doctor’s appointments, and three baskets of unfolded laundry. In moments like these, I hate being a mom.
The Stigma and Shame of Moms with Depression or Regrets
One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned about motherhood is no one tells you how hard it is to be a parent. No one preps you for the toll it takes on your mental health. People don’t talk about how hard it is because admitting that parenting is hard somehow equates to being a bad parent. There’s an unspoken message that if you are having a hard time, you must not love your kids or enjoy spending time with them.
It’s considered taboo to admit you don’t like being a mom, and parents, especially moms, are wracked with mom guilt for even thinking they don’t like being a mom.
Impact of Social Media on Real Moms
Social media amplifies the feeling of mom guilt because we are inundated with pictures and posts by family members and friends and their “perfect children” or examples of how they are the “perfect mom.”
As we scroll through our Facebook page and see picture after picture of happy, ideal children and moms, we begin to think, “Why can’t I have it all together like them?” or “Why does their child never have tantrums?” These thoughts affect our self-esteem and make us question whether or not we are good moms because we feel stress and burnout at the end of the day.
In addition to all the perfect, smiling children on Facebook, there are battles between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding parents. Parents who favor “cry it out” and those who think that’s terrible, there are proponents of room-sharing and those adamantly against it. The list goes on and on. It can feel next to impossible to feel good about any parenting decision we make because someone always has to comment about it.
It seems there’s an opinion around every corner on how to be a good mom or dad with little thought to the fact we are all human beings, doing the best we can every day.
Kids and Parents Can't Be Happy All the Time
Ask yourself this simple question, “Do you like everyone you meet?” The answer is probably no. Ask yourself a second question, “Do you always like your spouse, sister, best friend, or favorite co-worker?”
Again, the answer to that is probably also no. Well, guess what? Your kids are people too, and you’re not always going to like them. However, not liking your kids or their behavior doesn’t mean you stop loving them.
I love my kids, but sometimes they get on my nerves. I love my kids, but sometimes I need time alone for my well-being.
There is nothing wrong with saying to your child, “I love spending time with you, and I would love to play a game, but right now, I need some quiet time. I’ll let you know when I'm ready, and we can play.” Not only does this type of language establish healthy boundaries, but it cues your children into your emotions and that you are a person with feelings and needs.
To be a good mother or father, self-care is essential. It doesn’t matter if you are a new mom or a veteran; alone time with a book, hiring a babysitter for date nights, or even a trip to the grocery store alone can provide a respite from the demands of caring for a young child.
Engaging in a hobby you love can reignite a sense of self and give you a break from the monotony of diapers, playdates, and bedtime routines. If you are a single mom or stay-at-home mom or dad, it is especially vital you get a break now and then from your little one. Not because you don’t love them, but because you are an individual with unique wants and needs.
Understanding Postpartum Depression
If you’re like me, you’re one of the millions of parents who suffered or suffer from postpartum depression, which only amplifies the negative feelings or thoughts that you’re a bad mom for feeling the way you do. But even for parents who don’t have depression, being a full-time parent is exhausting, even on a good day.
Postpartum depression or generalized depression disorder are serious medical conditions that require treatment, but they don't make you a bad person or a bad mom.
Postpartum depression typically begins a few weeks after giving birth or adopting and affects roughly 15% of new parents. In most cases, with treatment, postpartum depression lessens or dissipates in months to a year. However, in some cases, ongoing treatment is recommended.
If you think you are suffering from depression or anxiety disorder, contact your doctor or local mental health professional and seek treatment.
As I wrap this article up, the same 8-year-old who was having a tantrum over breakfast just came to me with a sticky note. On the sticky note, he wrote out his breakfast schedule and hung it on my office wall so that I now know what he wants for breakfast each day. I stopped typing to listen to his explanation and thought, “This is one of those moments when I love being a mom.”
Being a parent is hard; we will make mistakes, lots of them, and that’s ok. Having moments of “I hate this” are normal and should be normalized. It is challenging to ignore the messages of social media that unless our kids always look clean and happy or unless we pack picture-perfect lunches each day, we’re doing it wrong.
But I think it’s important to remember life is messy. It’s ok to think, “What if?” and to have moments of frustration. Your kids don’t need you to be perfect for you to be the perfect mom for them.
For more strategies to avoid mom burnout and make some time to care for yourself away from all the stress of kids and managing a house, check out our Favorite Stress Relievers for Busy Moms.
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About L. Elizabeth Forry
L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with 15 years of classroom experience.