Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What I Don't Like About Motherhood

I have had a pretty positive experience with motherhood so far. In fact, I absolutely love being a mother. I even like being at home with little R every day all day, providing 90%+ of her care. When I hang out with other mothers, I talk about problems I have had, because it helps with social bonding; gives those who are struggling confidence or at least a sense of companionship; and is more interesting ("My life is great!" makes really boring conversation). But if I was truly honest, I am really satisfied with my life, and am possibly the happiest I have ever been.

However, that said, there are still things I don't like about being a mother. B finds this confusing when I try to discuss it with him (ie complain to him), because "I thought you liked staying at home?" The truth is, it's possible to find things to hate about any situation, even being beautiful, rich, young and famous for instance (read a typical celebrity interview).

Motherhood does have a special set of challenges though. First:
1. As my own mother told me (with her very much appreciated honesty), the worst thing about caring for a child is that it's relentless. You can do anything for a little while, but having to do it every single day and night without fail for the foreseeable future can be rough. Little R has no off switch (anyone who comes up with this feature for babies will make a mint). Even though I like caring for her, sometimes I get really tired of it and want to scream "Just give me a BREAK!!!" It's especially difficult on weekends and holidays, when I somehow subconsciously expect that I should get time off.

2. Most of my child-related tasks are kind of boring. Changing diapers, feeding her, dressing her, putting her to sleep, waking her up, taking her here and there...they are the same time after time, day after day, and all blend into each other. I really like change for its own sake (viz: living in 4 different countries so far), so this is hard for me. I try to mix it up by leaving the house a lot (usually 2-3 times/day). But there's really no way to make diaper changing interesting, especially because children like consistency (so little R has to go to bed every night at the same time, in the same way, with the same routine).

3. It's very difficult to be spontaneous. I can still do everything I did before, but now I must plan ahead (for example, get someone to watch little R if I want to go to a nice restaurant; or bring a small pack train with me if I want to travel). And everything takes twice as long: for instance, leaving the house means I must feed little R; change her diaper; pack/check/get her bag; and put her in her carrier/stroller. There is no "just pick up and go". I like planning and being prepared, but sometimes it would be nice just to run out for a few minutes without the whole production.

4. I am no longer free. Of course, freedom is an illusion, as we all have obligations (to family, friends, society) and are only able to shape our lives within certain parameters (our genetic endowment; our life experiences/opportunities; our society and its mores, etc.). But being a mother means that I must always think of someone else in addition to myself: my life choices (where to live, what to do), my everyday behavior (whether to lose my temper or not; whether to sleep or not; what to eat; what to wear) and my decisions about the future all now have to be shaped by what would be good for little R. It's kind of like being married, but more all-encompassing and with less wiggle room.

In addition, I feel like a tracking chip was installed in my head during labor, and now I am aware of little R at all times. Part of my mental capacity has been reassigned to continually update me on little R's status, and there is no way to turn it off. Even when she is sleeping, or with a trusted watcher (like her father), I am constantly thinking about her. Sometimes it's unpleasant (like when I'm worrying about her), sometimes it's just a fact, but I can never really escape and pretend that I don't have a child.

The other lame things about being a mother don't bother me that much (lack of sleep, exposure to all things disgusting, loss of social status, the increased potential for heartbreak and emotional suffering). But the four above certainly can be hard!


  1. Interesting. So, when you became pregnant, what exactly did you think parenthood was about, and what it meant as far as lifestyle changes go? Did you think you could continue on the exact same way and simply carry along a silent, weightless, needless addition that required no attention? Seriously, you didn't realize these things? Lame.

  2. This is kind of a weird comment. The post is simply about things I don't like about motherhood, and does not mention what my expectations were one way or the other. So as far as the post goes, you don't have any way of knowing whether I did or did not realize these things.

    However, to answer your question, I had pretty low expectations of motherhood (as I have written about elsewhere). I expected it to be extremely taxing emotionally and physically, stressful, and the death knell to most of my fun and happiness. I definitely have been pleasantly surprised!

    The really interesting question is why did I want children at all when those were my expectations. Perhaps I will write a post about that someday.