Parenthood is hard and everyone lies about it. Ok, not everyone but moms and dads (myself included) walk around congratulating newly pregnant women telling them how amazing parenting is. We tell them to “savor every moment” and warn about how fast things go. We give teeny onesies with embroidered names knowing that they will soon be stained with poop, reek of spit up, and likely be covered with tears of a new mother wondering what she’s doing wrong.
We lie for two reasons. One-we have completely blocked the hard times from our memories to save ourselves from reliving the trauma. Two-we don’t want people to ever think that we felt stressed, angry, and depressed after having a baby. Both reasons are problematic.
My husband and I always say that we were much better parents before we had kids. In fact, at one time in my life I was actually a “parenting expert.” I had read the books, gone to the trainings, and logged countless hours of continuing education on the topic. I successfully helped parents get their kids to stop tantruming, communicate feelings, and bond. I was positive that I would be the perfect parent. I would apply all of those strategies and I would rock this thing.
Then I had a kid. The birth was traumatic and after 4 days of no sleep, a new baby in my arms, and a body loaded with pain pills I couldn’t remember how to form a sentence let alone a parenting strategy. The exhaustion took over and the adrenaline wasn’t logical. I forgot everything I knew about parenting and never regained my skills.
Those newborn days are long gone and I can barely remember what we went through (thus congratulating my newly pregnant friends and telling them how lovely babies are). But what I still know is that parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had.
I’ve talked to so many mothers since starting this blog about their use of alcohol increasing since parenting. So many of these them say that they drank less in their twenties than they do now that they are in their thirties or forties. Somehow they transitioned from a wild weekend every now and then to drinking more at home on a nightly basis.
The role of mother is basically impossible. There are so many demands and we are living in a constant state of stress, guilt, and attempted overachievement. We are stressed from working all day (in or out of the home), taking care of kids, having no time for ourselves, never feeling good enough at any of our roles, and the never-ending tasks (papers to sign, birthday parties to plan and/or rsvp too, shoes to tie, diapers to buy, signing up for camps, remembering to buy vegetables, and this list never ever stops).
Then we are overwhelmed with the guilt. Just the other day I realized that although Kate was buckled perfectly in her car seat somehow the seat wasn’t fastened into the car! I laid awake all night going over every terrible thing that could have happened. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was in a nasty thought loop about my crappy parenting skills, my edgy tone at times, too much screen time, and feeding them a diet low in fiber.
If you’re any good at having unhealthy guilt then you already know the best way to overcome it is by trying to overachieve in other areas. I woke up the next day and rocked my parenting. I was chirpy and engaged. I didn’t cut a single safety corner. I made sure they ate fruit and vegetables. I gave them my absolute all. But somehow that all or nothing effort left me completely depleted and anxious.
This is when I used to drink. I felt like a failure. I didn’t know how to give to them but conserve for me. I couldn’t keep up with all the demands (mostly placed by myself). I couldn’t physically escape so I tried to mentally escape. I bought into the idea that after a hard days work I deserved a drink….After all, this was the hardest job I have ever had.
As you know the short term escape turned into a long term consequence and instead of coping with the overwhelming task of mothering I added a hangover, an edge, and basically a whole bunch of unhappiness.
So, while it’s still fresh in my mind and before I block out the memories I am here to remind all parents (but especially new mothers) that parenting is hard. Not, it’s hard, but so rewarding (making you feel guilty for not “savoring every moment”). But, it’s just HARD. You’re not doing it wrong, you’re not failing, you’re not missing something, and most importantly you’re not alone.
Things are way easier for me now. In fact, the greatest parenting skill I have ever mastered is being sober. It’s helped me learn that anything worth doing is going to be hard.