An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. – American Proverb
Well, I’ve got a busy mind, with thoughts running a mile a minute, but the devil sure didn’t mind setting up shop there either. And the devil’s name? Negative Nancy.
I don’t know about other moms, but I know for a fact that I make my motherhood experience more difficult for myself than necessary, purely from over-thinking things. And over-thinking them with a negative twist.
Mind over matter, the power of positive thinking – all of this is real. Motherhood is hard work and that is also real. But if you put them together – the perspective you choose to have on things will determine how much harder things will be for you as a mom.
Today was an average stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) day. Dentist appointment, lunch date, errands, cooking, parent-teacher conferences at school. I had everything planned out and was ready to go – until Negative Nancy decided to join me at my dentist’s appointment.
I grew up with having the best teeth – never had tartar issues, no cavities, no problems. In the past five years, I have consistently either been pregnant or nursing, and therefore have had a surge of those awful pregnancy hormones running through my body, destroying me bit by bit. One of those destruction sites is my mouth. Your gums get weak during pregnancy, and mine have basically never had a chance to recover. So as a direct result, I’ve been dealing with a lot of periodontic problems since last year and every dentist visit brings more and more depressing news about how my teeth or gums are in bad shape.
My post-partum mom brain immediately went into full speed tallying up all the things I have had to sacrifice with my health and body for the sake of my children. And negative Nancy joined the ranting session. It’s so unfair! Guys get to have these beautiful children in their lives with only a fraction of the work. It’s not that dad’s lives don’t change after having children – they do. But they do not have to sacrifice themselves and change their lives at the level moms do. And then moms get flack for “why are you always complaining?”. Grrrr.
Today I plan on asking my husband, having children gave me gum disease – what did it do to you? My entire body is weak, my joints and muscles ache all the time, I have extra weight in places where it’s not flattering at all, my hair is falling out like crazy, and my face looks like crap because I’m sleep-deprived. Not to mention, pregnancy hormones are messing with my head and leading me to having some degree of post-partum depression. So even when I try to be positive, my brain literally starts working against me. What changed in your dad bod? NOTHING. You literally woke up one day and had a cute baby in your arms.
Being a mother doesn’t make me immune to human nature. I am not perfect. I have selfish moments. And some days I have a hard time dealing with my whole world changing – while you still get to be you. And then the world judges me for it and calls me ungrateful.
Despite living in a time where men and women genuinely try to split the household responsibilities and care for the children together, there is still an unspoken expectation for the mother to do more. Whether she works or stays at home, it doesn’t matter. Kids end up being the mom’s responsibility at the end of the day. Here’s a short example list of how the scales are unfair:
- Mom wants to go out with friends: Make sure kids are fed or their food is prepared, baby is nursed, and everyone is “settled” before leaving. She also has to make sure all her girlfriends kids are fed, food is prepared, their babies are nursed, and everyone is settled so that they can still make it.
- Dad wants to go out with friends: Hey, I’ve got plans – are you good?
- Mom wants to work out: Make babysitting arrangements for the kids, or feed and change the kids and take them to the gym’s childcare, get interrupted in the middle of the workout if baby is crying too much, and eventually go home. Also, need new workout clothes because you’re triple the waist size you used to be. Embarrass yourself by having zero stamina and being out of breath in 15 minutes on the cardio machines because your body is still recovering from having a difficult pregnancy. Leave the gym feeling farther away from your size goals and health goals.
- Dad wants to work out: Call wife and tell her you’ll be late coming home because you’re going to stop at the gym first. Also no embarrassing panting on the machines, no fifteen extra pounds on the waistline, and end up coming home feeling refreshed from a good workout.
- Mom watches kids on a Saturday so dad gets time off: Kids follow their usual routine, bathe, eat, change, etc. House is clean, food on the table.
- Dad watches kids on a Saturday so mom gets time off: Kids are entertained, but they remain in their PJs all day, only eat snacks, house is a war zone, and you get texts asking “What’s there to eat?”
Obviously to make my point I’m being a little dramatic – but I’m not that far off the mark. These are real scenarios that my mama tribe and I have discussed numerous times. So when we say motherhood is hard and we sacrifice more than men – it’s real.
Now back to the dentist visit. As I was wallowing in my depressing thoughts, I texted my husband to see if he was up for a lunch date since I was close to his work. He agreed and I was so excited for this spontaneous kid-free date that I left all the depressing thoughts behind.
Or so I thought. It was going to be one of those days.
Once Negative Nancy joins you for the day, she’s kinda clingy. The amazing lunch on our own just reinforced how much I missed aspects of my old life. And I kept reflecting on how I never get time to focus on my marriage anymore. Then fast forward to the parent-teacher conferences at my daughters’ Montessori school in the evening and negativity reared it’s head again as I took all of the teacher’s constructive feedback as an attack on my abilities as a mother.
As a former teacher, I’d been on the giving end of these conferences, and I used to try and be as delicate as possible about sharing any sort of “bad” or constructive news about kids. But I never knew how hard it was as a parent to take that information. Until today. Thankfully both girls had glowing reviews and there were actually no points of concern from the teacher’s side. I, however, had a a lot of questions. The girls are developing beautifully at their school, and I’m so glad I chose this place for them. Their social skills, motor skills, life skills, academics, all are progressing well. However, I don’t see any of these habits or learnings carry over into our home. At home, my girls are clingy, not independent, constantly bickering, not eating their food, challenging me when I give instructions, etc. Am I raising little monsters? Am I a bad mom? Any sort of ideas for improvement that came from their teacher felt less like advice and more like an announcement of my failures as a mom at home. I should give the girls more attention, follow up on things they’re learning at school, etc. But, I already do those things. How much more attention and life-lessons am I supposed to add to our already jam-packed days? Enter negative Nancy who did not hesitate for a second to fill my thoughts with despair: I’m failing as a mom, I’m not trying hard enough, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m not raising the amazing girls I had planned to raise.
I then headed to pick up the girls from their grandparent’s place. When I walked in, they came running and crawling towards me at top speed and flew into my arms with excited squeals of “Mommy’s back!”. Their joy upon seeing me was all I needed. I was ready to send negative Nancy packing.
Yes, I went to the dentist and my gums are in bad shape. So what? They’ll give me a good deep cleaning and then I’ll better my cleaning habits at home. My post-pregnancy hormones will eventually go away, and my gums will heal with proper care. Does it suck? Yes. Do I really need to waste so much emotion on this? No.
Yes, moms sacrifice more than dads in every aspect. So what? In Islam, the Prophet Muhammad teaches that “Paradise lies under the feet of your mother.” And another teaching says:
A person came to Prophet Muhammad and asked: “Who among people is the most deserving of my fine treatment?” He replied: “Your mother.” He then asked, “Who next?” The Prophet replied: “Your mother.” He asked again: “Who next?” He said again, “Your mother.” He again asked, “Then who?” He then said: “Your father.” [Sahih Bukhari]
When you know that Allah recognizes your efforts and sacrifice and has elevated your rank as a human, just because you are a mother, doesn’t all the sacrifice and trouble become worth it? YES. People in society, including fellow moms, and sometimes even dads will continue to judge you and piss you off from time to time, but does that mean you aren’t actually an amazing mom? No.
Yes, lunch dates and alone time with my man or my friends is rare. So what? At least I still have SOME rare dates and girls nights out. I’ll just appreciate that time and enjoy those outings even more! Lunch today was so great and Faris and I finally got to catch up like a normal young couple. Should I just be happy in the moment? Yes. Will missing the past accomplish anything OR do I even want to go back to life without my precious kids? No.
My girls are driving me crazy at home. So what? That’s motherhood. They’re 11 months, 2 years and 4 years old. Even adults don’t always do what they’re supposed to – so what can we expect from kids who have far less understanding? As long as I keep reinforcing good habits and model good behavior, eventually the girls will get in a good routine about picking up after themselves, finishing their food, getting along with each other, etc. These things are a lifelong work in progress for children. Should I try to improve by using new ways to teach them? Yes. Should I let one casual conversation from a conference get to me? No.
I took a good look at my daughters faces last night as I tucked them into bed. They were all smiles and sweetness. We said our nightly prayers, told each other that we loved each other, and said goodnight. And I remembered that I love my life, as it is today. My job requires constant sacrifice but it is worth it because I get to have this – three sweet little girls. It’s worth it to be a mother and to see my husband be a father.
This job requires constant love, consistent patience and lots of effort. Thinking about all the negatives just slows you down and distracts you. It’s impossible not to have days where you have these kinds of thoughts – but the most important thing is that you snap yourself out of it and re-focus. Cuddle your kids, pause and pray, take a ten minute chocolate-binging break in the pantry. Just do something that will center you and remind you of why all this hardship is worth it. Don’t overthink the challenges and put things in perspective. And then suddenly, it won’t even feel that challenging anymore. It’ll just feel like every day #momlife. 🙂