Nobody is ever really 100% prepared to become a parent, but I thought I’d handle motherhood just fine.
After all, I was a longtime yogi so I totally got the importance of finding balance and going with the flow. And I’d meditated on and off for years (ok, mostly off, but I still tried regularly) so I figured that would help me keep a cool head. And I loved kids. I mean, I loved other people’s kids because I didn’t have my own yet, but I was sure that would translate into loving my own kids so much that motherhood would be smooth sailing.
The truth is nothing prepared me for the realities of motherhood.
Not loving kids.
Nothing prepared me for the challenges of dealing with an extra tiny newborn who was struggling to eat.
Nothing prepared me for being alone at home all day with an infant.
Nothing prepared me for the immense guilt I felt when I found motherhood exhausting, utterly unsatisfying, and depleting.
The first year of motherhood for me was especially hard because I also wasn’t taking great care of myself (more on that later) and even though I did have a new moms cohort, I still felt really alone because not only was I trying to care for my daughter, but I was also caught in between the worlds of being a work-at-home/work-outside-of-the-home mom.
It was rough.
I learned a lot in that first year but there was one thing that took a lot longer to learn and I wish I’d learned it sooner.
I wish I’d known that not every mom is recharged by motherhood.
Not sure what I mean by that?
Well, let’s take a little Myers-Briggs detour.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Myer’s Briggs personality test, you can read more about it here, but I talk about it a lot with my husband because he’s kind of obsessed with it.
One of the conversations we often have is about being an introvert vs being an extrovert. I’ve always tested as an extrovert, but within 1 or 2 questions of being an introvert and so I’ve always identified as an extrovert but my husband says he thinks I’ve been screwing up the test to prove what I want to see. He says I’m really an introvert because being around people doesn’t recharge me but depletes me.
I’ll say that again and rephrase, because it’s important: what recharges you or lights you up or makes you feel most comfortable is what determines whether you are an extrovert or an introvert. You can love being around people, but if you are drained at the end of the day by it and recharge by turning inward in some way, that is introverted.
So do you feel excited at the prospect of going to a big social event or do you feel exhausted?
Do you feel energized when you’re hanging out with lots of people or do you feel depleted?
Do you need to rest after spending time in the company of others or do you feel a little wired?
That’s the shortcut to determining whether or not you are an introvert or an extrovert.
For the record, I’m still on the introvert/extrovert cusp. I do get totally recharged when I teach a yoga class in public but I often get a little stressed out if I have to go to a place where I don’t know anyone and I have to socialize. To use a phrase my dad likes, “I am an extrovert trapped in an introvert’s body”. Editor’s note from my husband: “that is still just an introvert”.
So what does this all have to do with motherhood?
Ok, so knowing what recharges and what depletes you matters.
I always thought that I’d be in love with every second of motherhood. I thought I’d adore sitting down and creating crafts with my kids. I thought I’d love having tea parties with them and playing games. I thought I’d love reading them books every night and tell them stories. I thought I’d love taking them on adventures and teaching them how to cook with me in the kitchen.
The truth is that I don’t love all of this.
I mean, I love some of it but not all of it and for years I felt really guilty about it.
I felt guilty because I didn’t always want to play games with my kids and truthfully, I don’t love pretending with them. And sometimes, I’d rather not have them help me in the kitchen because it takes so much longer and it stresses me out.
I felt like a failure as a mom because motherhood stressed me out and exhausted me. And I’d see instagram posts from other moms talking about the joys of motherhood and being BFF’s with their 2 year old and loving every single moment with their precious babies. Which mostly made me want to gag. But it also made me intensely jealous.
What was wrong with me?
Why wasn’t I equally high on motherhood?
Because motherhood doesn’t recharge every mom. And that’s ok.
I love my kids but mothering them depletes me.
Some days I yell.
Some days I end up in a puddle of tears on the floor (from both them and me).
Some days are full of rainbows and magic and smiles all around.
Some days have all of these things in them.
Once I realized that motherhood didn’t recharge me I felt a little liberated.
I can love my kids and also know that spending time with them is exhausting.
We, as moms, need to know that there is nothing wrong with us if we don’t love every moment of motherhood.
We need to know that it’s ok that motherhood doesn’t feel easy.
We need to know if motherhood recharges us or not, and that if it doesn’t, that’s ok. We are not bad moms.
We just also need to learn what does recharge us. And also what brings us back into balance.
I know I said yoga didn’t prepare me for motherhood, but it did give me some of the tools I needed to start listening to myself.
Yoga, meditation, ayurveda – all of these practices gave me insights into who I am, what my tendencies are, and how to work with myself instead of battling against myself, in motherhood and pretty much everything else.
In that first year of motherhood, I wore myself down trying to be the perfect mom. If I’m honest, that lingered beyond year 1, but who’s counting.
Once I got clarity and understood that I couldn’t force myself to be that mom on instagram who makes motherhood look easy and natural, I felt like I could be myself instead. And it was a huge relief.
And now that I’m not trying to be something I’m not, I am taking better care of myself.
It’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. Motherhood is not perfect.
And I’m slowly getting more and more ok with that.
If you want to learn more about the tools I used to discover what recharges me and what doesn’t, take my self-care style quiz. It’s fun and easy to take and it will give you some insights into what makes you tick, what makes you tock, and how to work with what you’ve got.