We all expect to feel love for our child, but it can be a shock to discover that motherhood involves so many other emotions. There are at least 13 common emotions mothers experience every day, all mixed up with the love, of course.
Even the most patient mother feels intense irritation multiple times a day. Things that cause parental irritation include whining, sulking, tantrums, toilet training, lost shoes, gloves, or homework, uneaten lunches, the questions 'Why?' 'Are we there yet?' and almost any question that starts with 'Can I have...?'. Irritation cannot be banished; it can only be dealt with. Humor helps. So does yoga. Leaving the kids with Grandma, even for an hour or so, may help more.
It's frustrating teaching a toddler to sit at the table, use a cup without a spout, or tie his shoe laces. But don't assume frustration ends with toddlerhood. The tween and teen years can be worse.
It's frustrating to give someone you love sound advice, and then watch them ignore it. It's more frustrating when you end up drying the resulting tears. This happens when your daughter is two and doesn't hold on tight to her new balloon, or when she's seventeen and accepts a date with the high school bad boy, and countless times in between.
There is nothing slower than a small child who knows his mother is in a hurry, unless it's a teenage girl getting ready for a social event. Practice patience daily. The good news is you can learn to become a more patient parent, but don't expect miracles.
The pride we feel in our children is unique in its intensity. Enjoy it, but remember that like other forms of pride, it often comes directly before a fall.
We worry that they're not walking or talking early enough, not eating their vegetables, failing at school, or not making friends. We worry that we did or said the wrong thing as we drove them to school this morning, or that traffic will make us late to pick them up.
We worry about their grades, health, happiness, activities, friends and boyfriends. We worry they're too quiet and withdrawn, or noisy and disruptive. We worry they may have a learning difficulty and need extra support, or not have a learning difficulty, so they can't get extra support. We worry about predators, bad influences, drugs, sex and teen pregnancy.
Sometimes we worry that we're really busy right now and don't have time to worry.
Most of what we worry about is transient, or it doesn't come to pass at all. So every day we feel some level of relief. He made a friend, ate a carrot, got an A, or came home smiling. The worry-relief-worry cycle is constant.
We all feel guilt because none of us are perfect, and we all fail at some aspect of motherhood. This is because being an awesome parent requires an incredibly diverse skill set that no human being has naturally. Kids are always changing. As Julianna Slattery puts it in her book Guilt-Free Motherhood: Parenting With Godly Wisdom, 'With each new stage of development come a handful of opportunities to experience failure.'
Do your best. Then let it go. Learn from your mistakes. Don't obsess over them.
Inadequacy is closely tied to both guilt and worry. It overwhelms us when we see other mothers doing the motherhood thing so much better than us. While we're forgetting to pack the kids' lunches or cobbling together a bread roll filled with last night's leftovers, they're putting together elaborate themed Bento boxes and cutting sandwiches into the shape of hearts, stars and angels.
Every mother does some parts of motherhood better than others, but many of us only focus on the parts where we fall short.
Your child will surprise you, constantly. Sometimes it's good: an A+ when you were expecting a C-, or a bouquet of wild flowers. Sometimes it's bad: earthworms in the kitchen sink or purple swirls on a formerly white wall. Sometimes it's just surprising. They express a view that's totally unexpected or (accurately) use a word you didn't think they knew. A lifetime of surprises is a free bonus that comes with every child.
It's a secret, but moms envy their child-free friends, their neighbors whose kids appear to be perfect, and their co-workers who seem to be doing it all and loving every minute.
We have to tell ourselves every day that sometimes the grass is greener on the other side because it's fake. There is no perfection; no-one is doing it all, and some, though not all, of your child-free friends may be feeling envious of you every time you're insensitive enough to complain about your lot.
It's not only your child that confuses you (how can anyone go from laughter to a full-blown tantrum that quick?) but also all the choices. Breast or bottle? Crib or co-sleeping? Back to work or stay at home mom? Daycare or nanny? Public school or private? Or homeschool? Which school? Which neighborhood? Which activities? Which college? Sometimes you just want to take a deep breath, flip a coin, and hope for the best.
There are few things more exhausting than parenthood, and few moms who don't feel at least little weary by the end of the day. Being a good parent is tiring, emotionally and physically.
People say motherhood is a thankless task, and on a day-to-day basis, it often is. But there's something about getting through another day, and finally watching your child sleeping peacefully in his bed (or yours) that simply overwhelms you with deep, unadulterated satisfaction.