I Feel Like a Bad Mom: The Internal Voices
If you’ve read my blog post on my struggles with postpartum depression, then you’ll know that I’ve experienced a lot of sadness and confusion in the last six months. I also have already experienced heartache about not being the good mom that I want to be for my daughter. I feel like I am grieving both the loss of my old life (and how my marriage has changed) and also the loss of what I thought motherhood was going to look like. Thoughts that I am a bad mom pop into my head more then I’d like to admit.
One of the most difficult parts of postpartum depression is the constant feeling that I am a bad mom. I know that this is a feeling that many moms struggle with, but in the throes of depression it can even feel worse. As a stay-at-home mom there is no way to get away from the feeling either. I am basically on duty 24/7, or at least it feels like that at times. That’s not to say that my husband isn’t a huge help when he is home, but during the week he is gone during the day and many times it feels like I am watching the clock, waiting for another day to be over.
Yes, I love my daughter. Yes, it does give me the warm fuzzies when she smiles, laughs, or when I cuddle her. But taking care of a baby is incredibly draining. She sometimes wakes up multiple times a night, even though we are currently weaning her from the middle of the night bottle. My internal clock keeps getting reset, which means that sometimes I wake up at times that she used to wake up, even if she doesn’t that night. And my anxiety often keeps me awake as well. I hardly see my husband because I go to bed soon after he gets home so I am able to wake up with her during the night. And sometimes I feel like I would give anything for some actual quality sleep.
I Feel Like a Bad Mom: Other Moms
I stopped breastfeeding after two weeks, which in some people’s minds makes me a bad mom as well. Even though she was starving without formula. I don’t know anyone personally that formula feeds. Everywhere that I encounter other moms, they are all breastfeeding. It is an incredibly lonely feeling. And I also wonder, are they judging me? It also means that I have no one to ask for advice. There are about a million lactation consultants, but I can’t find one person to advise about formula feeding. And internet searches turn up very little useful information and a whole lot of rantings about the harm of formula. The first time she got sick at 3 months, all the information available indicated that since she wasn’t breastfed, she was more at risk for illness. While reading a book about baby led weaning, formula feeding is acknowledged, but the superior benefits of breast milk for both the health and feeding development were extolled again and again. I went to a mom’s group where there were three exclusive formula feeding families, yet a combo feeding mom felt the need to pat herself on the back because she was “so stubborn” that she hadn’t quit and that she had all the time in the world to both breast and bottle feed because she was a stay at home mom (yes, she actually said that).
And speaking of other moms, some of them are your worst enemies. It seems like when a group of them get together everyone is so critical of each other that you don’t dare show any weakness. Some moms just have to let you know how advanced and smart their baby is (oh, and it’s because they are so smart, too). Others spend their time boasting about all the new (and expensive) baby products they’ve brought recently. I know that in reality most are just trying to compensate for their own insecurities, but the put-downs and negativity just make me want to avoid all other moms and especially “mom groups.”
It seems like if I want to be a good mom, first I have to breastfeed. Then I have to baby wear (even if I can’t due to back pain and a recent injury). Except I can’t baby wear too much, because attachment parenting and co-sleeping and all that stuff is definitely not okay. I shouldn’t use any form of cry it out sleep training. Or still have a baby that is waking up multiple times at night. Or have my baby nap anywhere other than in her crib. Using a pacifier is out of the question. I shouldn’t feed my child purees and baby led weaning isn’t quite right either. I shouldn’t bring my baby out of the house during cold and flu season. But if I stay at home I’m not socializing her enough.
I Feel Like a Bad Mom: Mom Shaming
Everyone, including myself, has a different version of what it means to be a good mom (and a bad mom). Unfortunately a lot of people subject others to what their version is. Mom shaming is a very real and rampant problem among 21st century mothers. Moms do it to the moms they know and the ones they don’t in the grocery store and on social media.
Several weeks ago I read a blog post (that was so offensive that I don’t even want to link to it) that concluded that moms that ever had thoughts of regretting having children didn’t love their children, and that women who were ambivalent towards motherhood wished their children didn’t exist. The conclusion was that they should simply “shut up and grow up” for the sake of their children. The comments largely devolved into women suggesting various things, such as women that didn’t love being mothers therefore hated being mothers and that anyone who ever had regrets was selfish and even abusive of their children. This follows the line of thought that moms must completely sacrifice themselves for the good of their children. This blogger then proceeded to continue the discussion on her Facebook page by criticizing women who believe motherhood is hard and suggest they should just find ways to make it easier.
This is the kind of crap that moms are currently up against. Constant criticism, being told their feelings and thoughts about motherhood aren’t valid, and having other moms not even let them own that being a mom is hard. You feel it internally in the voice in your head that calls you a failure and makes you feel like the worst mom when you are fed up with the crying and just want to cry yourself. When the days feel incredibly long and you feel like you should be doing this “better.” When someone posts their “perfect motherhood” on Instagram and you definitely don’t measure up. When someone criticizes you for your parenting choices or simply not feeling being a mom right now.
I want to know, all you moms out there. How do you cope? How do you silence the internal and external voices that make you feel like a bad mom?