On Motherhood

Motherhood is the hardest job in the world. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but so rewarding.

I’ve got to agree with Meagan Francis on this one, it’s really not. Birthing the child was the hardest work I’ve ever done, but that was a one-time deal, and I don’t think it’s what the trite phrases above are describing. Birth is getting the baby out, motherhood is keeping the helpless creature alive. There are jobs out there that are much more difficult than feeding, dressing, and entertaining a child.

A recent Formspring question asked:

can you write a post about the challenges of having a baby the first few months are? You seem to make being a new momma SO EASY & EFFORTLESS that I am wondering either you have an easy baby or you are just so carefree NOTHING phases you! =o]

First, I don’t believe in the good baby. I think there are babies who sleep more, and babies who eat more, and babies who cry more than others. The “goodness” of the baby lies not in the nature of the child, rather in the perception of the parents. I admit I’m a little bummed (or maybe kerflummoxed?) that I’m putting forth this having-a-baby-is-perfectly-easy-and-I-have-the-best-life-ever-and-you-should-be-jealous image though! It has never been my intention to be one of those bloggers. You know, the kind with the perfect life and the perfect husband and the perfect kids. (Ahem, TAMN.) I think I might have across this way though because of my desire to avoid over-dramatic and make things seem worse than they really are. When you write something on your blog it stays there forever and once you’ve moved past it, it’s still there staring you in the face. It’s the same reason I don’t write about fights and difficulties in my marriage, because I don’t want to be reminded of the petty things that would only end up fostering resentment when I stumbled across them in a long-forgotten post. I think the most important thing to keep in mind when reading blogs is that you are only reading snippets, –>self-edited snippets<–, of a person’s life. Add in the craziness of trying to care for an infant and those snippets become blurbs and you glance at a picture here, and a cute video of laughter there, and soon you’ve convinced yourself that motherhood is effortless fun all day every day.

I do think my personality and parenting philosophies contribute to my attitude toward my online portrayal of motherhood though. I’ve mentioned the hygiene hypothesis before, and my belief in this means I don’t stress about wiping down everything he puts in his mouth. I’m not sure if he actually has a stronger immune system due to greater exposure to germs and bacteria, but I’ve never called the doctor with questions , and I’ve only visited at the regular appointment times for shots and measurements. I’m not sure how to best explain it, but I just approach everything as if it’s supposed to be happening. Stuffy nose? It’s just part of life. No bowel movement for two days? He’ll probably have a big stinky one tomorrow. Crying, yet again? He’s hungry or bored or gassy or cold or tired. I have no idea if this is what is best for him (can we ever really know what is the absolute best for our child?) but it absolutely helps with my own level of worry and relaxation about him.

Sometimes, especially in the beginning, I would get so angry that I wanted to shake him. Or slap some sense into him. It’s not that I actually would do these things (and I certainly don’t think I suffered from post-partum depression), it was the lunacy of working all day every day with a being completely devoid of logic and rationale. That was, and will always be, the hardest part of motherhood for me. The inability to communicate clearly, and the urge to scream WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? YOU TINY BALL OF TERROR!!! I can’t emphasize enough that I’m in control of my feelings, that I would never deliberately hurt my child. I voice these feelings because I know I can’t possible be the only one to feel this way. As he gets older I am able to say no with a stern look, and even at 8 months I can see that he sense he is doing something he shouldn’t be. We are slowly beginning to communicate with each other, and it feels wonderful.

But what has the last 8 months actually been like for me? I didn’t particularly enjoy feeding him. Maybe because I’m still struggling with my decision to give up breastfeeding, but when he was younger I passed the time while he was eating by picking up a book. It was a wonderful day when I realized he had developed the muscle strength to hold his own bottle and feed himself. Now he’s old enough to crawl over to the bottle, turn over, and stick it in his mouth. Even better! I don’t have a bedtime routine where we cuddle and snuggle and read books. When he is tired I happily plunk him down in his crib, because it means I get to attend to other areas of my life (you know, like writing this post). I’ve left him for several days at a time, and though I’m excited to see him when I return, it doesn’t pain me to do so. I’ve never felt like my heart was “breaking” when he was crying. Most of the time he cries because he has something to tell me, or because he’s whining for attention, and so I try to figure out what his needs are and meet them so we can move on.

The good times we have though? Oh my, they are just… breathtaking. He is learning new things all the time and I love to watch him grow and develop. Everything he comes across is the most wondrous thing that has ever existed. Sometimes when he can’t settle down at night I cradle him in my arms and sing lullabies to him, as I imagine billions of women before me have done to their own babies. There is no sound you could play for me that would bring me more joy than his laughter (and I’m slowly discovering his secret spots, the ones that make him laugh and laugh and laugh). He can’t get enough of his own reflection in the mirror. I like to crank up songs like “Club Can’t Handle Me” and dance around the kitchen in this really insane way that causes him to open his eyes very wide and rock back and forth in excitement. Soon he will be reaching his arms up, saying mama, and composing cheesy mother’s day cards in his kindergarten classroom.

Motherhood may not be the most difficult job, but it certainly is the most rewarding.

93 thoughts on “On Motherhood

  1. I couldn’t disagree with you more on the fact that motherhood is the most difficult job on the planet! Your son is 8 months old. You haven’t yet begun to parent!

    Sophia Reply:

    Elizabeth, you may disagree with Jenna based on the age of her child, but the link she provided to the article that she agrees with is written by a woman who has been a mother for at least 12 years. So this is not just a sentiment being expressed by Jenna, with an 8 month old. The article she referenced was written by a mother with a 12 year old, and many other mothers agreed with her in the comments.

    It’s just an opinion, different from your own, and of course having more people with a different opinion from your own doesn’t make it or you “right” or “wrong”, but I wasn’t sure, based on your comment, if you had read the article referenced.

  2. Jenna,
    I love your post. We share similar feelings/experiences about raising little boys. The “sacrifices” we make as mothers don’t even feel like sacrifices at all when our sweet boys laugh, play, discover, speak, and so on. The whole experience is so much fun and definitely rewarding. It’s totally worth it!

  3. What … on earth WAS that TAMN blog you linked to? Is that for real? Her grandmother died and she’s upset because she’ll lose her hair appointment? And the comments on that entry are sympathetic and asking her what cute maternity wear she’ll put on for a funeral? Please, please let that be a joke.

    Life of a Doctor's Wife Reply:

    I believe it’s a parody site.

    Marissa Reply:

    It is a parody site where she makes fun of most SAHM LDS bloggers to the extreme- hilarious much of the time, and commenters play along.

    Kate Reply:

    Okay, phew. Maybe it’s the cold meds, but I was seriously confused! Thanks!

    Katy Reply:

    It very much is so a parody site. If you read all the typical Mormon mommy bloggers that I do you’ll see that it’s pretty spot on sometimes – sometimes hits too close to home! – but once you realize the hyperbole, it’s quite hilarious.

    Colleen C Reply:

    Kate check out the “In the Press” at the top – it’s a satire. I had the same reaction you did initially!

  4. Very interesting perspective, Jenna! I am especially intrigued by your “it’s meant to happen” attitude. Remember that episode of Friends where Rachel calls the pediatrician every time Emma got a sniffle or a hiccup? My fear is that I’ll be hyper-vigilant like that – worrying over every little thing – when/if I have kids. (It’s just my personality to be anxious.) I’d love to be able to have a dose of your “it’s just part of normal life” attitude!

    I love hearing your views on motherhood. Hoping you’ll write more.

  5. I have to agree with Elizabeth… it’s gonna get a WHOLE lot harder. (I’ve had two natural births too, and I can tell you they are not the hardest part! There was an end in sight with that part of having children) With my first baby, I was like you and thought “this isn’t so bad.” In fact, at my 6 week check up after having my first son the nurse asked how things were going and I told her “It’s a lot easier than I thought.” Yeah, babies are. Or, my babies I should say (they are the sweetest, calmest creatures on the planet). Then the toddler years hit and parenting is brought to a whole new level. Just a warning; YOUR child knows exactly which of your buttons to push to make you the MOST angry/upset. But at the same time, they know exactly how to make your heart sing the most. They are such wonderful creatures, our children.

    AND, motherhood is A LOT more than just feeding, dressing and entertaining a child. That is babysitting. As a mother (and father), you are shaping the person they will become. And it’s a huge responsibility.

    Katy Reply:

    When I read this, the first thing I notice is that you’ve had TWO children. Of course my life changed when I had my first, but I was really thrown into a tail-spin when the second came along. I don’t think my brain functioned normally for the first 6 months!

    Lots of other mothers I talk to with 3 kids say that the hardest transition was from 1 to 2 kids and that 2 kids to 3 was not as bad. Something about already have two and moving to three I hear is easier – I hope so! But I feel better hearing from other women about their transition to two and it makes me feel like I wasn’t crazy for feeling overwhelmed for a time!

    AmyLynne Reply:

    I completely agree with both of you. I built up a lot of confidence in myself as a mother during my experience only having one–which was great! But going from one to two, was a HUGE adjustment for me. I finally realized that I could NOT meet everyone’s needs all the time, and that was hard for me to swallow. While I can’t attest to motherhood being the hardest job on the planet, I CAN for sure say without a doubt it is the hardest thing I have ever done. But I wouldn’t have said that before I had my second. Katy, I agree, my brain hasn’t started functioning normally until recently–my second is 7 months old. Haha!

    Katy Reply:

    Love it! Again, this makes me feel more normal! I was on the verge of cancelling last Christmas (my first with the two little ones) because I felt so overwhelmed and pathetic. I was so bothered that I didn’t seem to have th ability to send out Christmas cards (ended up sending them after all) but it made me realize that sometimes you just have to let things go. Take stuff off your plate for awhile.

    Now, I look back at times when I only had to take my one baby to run errands and wonder why it seemed so hard! At the time, it was difficult, but in comparison to running errands with TWO, it was cake! Now when one stays home with daddy and I take the other out with me, it’s like a fun little excursion – like a mommy-baby date and it’s lots of fun to get that one-on-one time. On the bright side as well, I do less shopping and save us a little more money! ;)

    AmyLynne Reply:

    I also have noticed I spend a lot less money now that I have two because I only go on errands with both of them if I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO. Haha!

    I’ve heard from some people that the transition from 2 to 3 is easier because you’re already used to life being crazy and hectic… Here’s to hoping that’s true. :)

    Sophia Reply:

    Jax- I think this comment by Meagan Francis helps flesh out the point she was trying to make (I shared it below as well). She said-

    “YES, motherhood is tough. YES, it’s emotionally and physically grueling at times. Points that were made within the essay, several times.

    I still don’t believe that–in general– (there are always exceptions, right?) it’s accurate or even helpful to moms to term it ‘the hardest job in the world’. I like Kathreen’s point that those are just words–platitudes that don’t do anything for us or give us any practical support.

    I’d rather we all felt as though motherhood didn’t HAVE to be the hardest job in the world. Then we could lay off ourselves and each other. I really like what Chatty Daddy had to say: “Perhaps the biggest problem with the challenge=virtue equation, which is a deeply American sensibility, is that it causes us to parent against the grain, to seek challenge and overcome it, rather than find the elgantly simple solutions and savor every moment.” YES. I’m not arguing that motherhood is not hard. I’m arguing against the general notion that it should be and is “the hardest job in the world”.”

    Erin Reply:

    Yes, yes, yes!! I am superfluous over here as long as Sophia is commenting!

    Jax Reply:

    After I wrote it, I realized it was a little “harsher” than I intended…

    What I was trying to do with my first comment was try and sort of “soften the blow” for Jenna. The day will come when overnight you’ll go from (at least in my case) a naive “I’ve got this!” line of thinking to “Who is this MONSTER?!” and “WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?” kind of helpless feeling. (does that make sense?)

    But I DO agree with Jenna’s way of parenting. I chose to have natural births because women have been giving birth naturally since the beginning so I KNOW I can too. And we don’t have strict schedules or sanitize or run to the doctor for every sneeze either. I believe very strongly that as mothers we have intuition regarding our children, so I go with my gut before google. I think in modern society we definitely make parenting harder than it needs to be (because it’s already hard enough!:) ).

    And I think the reason so many moms say that motherhood is the hardest job in the world is because it is the most emotionally draining job in the world. Nothing stretches the extremes of human emotion quite like raising a child. I honestly had NO idea the depth of emotion I would feel once that tiny baby came out, and how it would only get deeper as time went on. And if it weren’t for the fact that you get both ends of that depth- both the highs and the lows- I’m not sure any of us would survive:)

    And I’m not sure if you’re LDS, but a friend wrote this post when she found out they were having a boy: http://aagards.blogspot.com/2010/11/ultrasound.html
    You may not believe the same as we do, but I was also trying to point out earlier that being a mom is more than just keeping the baby alive. We have a “higher” calling than just babysitting, and I think she explains it beautifully.

    And, 2 is harder than 1. It’s a hard to define kind of harder too. My baby is 6 months and I’m starting to feel more like myself again, but at the same time I never felt like I wasn’t myself. It’s in hindsight that you realize “Oh wow, that was tough.”

    Sophia Reply:

    I didn’t think you were being harsh at all :) I just found that comment by the author to be a bit more… nuanced than the article itself. Thanks for the link!

  6. This is a great post. I plan to come back and look at it when I am pregnant / have a newborn to remind me to just relax and enjoy the amazing ride.

  7. With no personal experience in motherhood but having watched a lot of examples in my huge family, I think there’s a lot of truth to what you say (esp. the it’s supposed to happen attitude), but I do think a bit of a qualification is necessary because parenting becomes less and less about needs meeting and more and more about directing, guiding, shaping and then letting go when you’re raising a child and then a teenager who (God willing) is getting progressively more independent. I would imagine not worrying over a few baby sniffles and not being a total nervous wreck when your teenager drives away in the car for the first time are two very different things.

  8. “I’m not sure how to best explain it, but I just approach everything as if it’s supposed to be happening. Stuffy nose? It’s just part of life. No bowel movement for two days? He’ll probably have a big stinky one tomorrow. Crying, yet again? He’s hungry or bored or gassy or cold or tired. I have no idea if this is what is best for him (can we ever really know what is the absolute best for our child?) but it absolutely helps with my own level of worry and relaxation about him.”

    You. described. me. spot. on.

    In my circle of friends, I’m the last to run to the doctor over every little thing, the last to boil and sterlize everything, and you won’t see me consumed with worry because something in his typical routine is a tad out of whack one day. I just can’t imagine being so hyped-up and nervous all the time. I’ve learned to harness and understand my gut instincts though – if something is nagging at me about one of them that I think needs to get checked out, I definately will, but that doesn’t happen very often.

    I’ve known this about you for awhile and it makes me wish all the more that we were mommy friends who could get together to play in real life!

    Jenna Reply:

    Only if you would let me enforce the house rules when I have your kids over. I’m not looking forward to the day when I start ostracizing other mothers because I say “no” to little tommy or betty sue when they eat where they aren’t supposed to or don’t follow any other rules we have in our house.

    I’m starting to hear stories that go along those lines (she disciplined my child and it hurt my feelings) and I admit I’m a bit aghast. Spanking someone else’s kid? Unacceptable. But telling them sternly that they can’t eat on the couch? Ummm, yeah.

    Katy Reply:

    Yeah, those parents have transfer-of-power issues and will have a VERY hard time when their child enters school and another adult has to manage their behavior. Luckily I had no parents in my class that struggled with this, but I definately heard stories from other teachers about parents getting up in arms because the teacher initiated a consequence to a broken rule.

    If my child’s behavior got so bad that you felt they needed to be removed, then I’d want the call so I could deal with my child, but telling my child ‘No’ is completely within the bounds of the adult whose home we are in. I would definately want another mother to let my children know what is appropriate in their home – if you don’t allow something to occur, then that’s the law! If the child and/or parent doesn’t happen to agree or think that rule is silly, well, they should just find a different friend to hang out with then! There is a difference between “disicipline” and enforcing/informing about your own particular rules.

    Maybe you are referring to how to enforce and manage the kids while mom is around as well, which is sometimes a delicate thing to navigate – - you start to say something to another child and hope the parent will jump in and help so you don’t have to carry the primary enforcmement role, but sometimes that doesn’t happen! Most of my friends are good about paying attention and following up with anything the other parent is enforcing.

    Jenna Reply:

    Sorry, I went on a bit of a rant there! I’m just not looking forward to that stage of my life.

    Katy Reply:

    No, you didn’t rant! It’s unpleasant when you have to start managing other people’s young children so I hope you always have friends with common sense that will allow you to run your home the way you want it.

    Hayley Marie Reply:

    I think the key is to just be open about the rules and make sure they are communicated clearly. No one should be upset if you say “we don’t eat on couch in our house” or “we always take our shoes off”. I think the problem comes when a mother walks in to see the neighbor getting cookie crumbs all over the furniture and treats the child the same as they would their own when the child didn’t know the rules to begin with. I don’t think that telling another child the rules of your house means you are taking over the parent’s job (although I think some parents feel that way). I remember one mother got upset with me when I was babysitting and asked the kids (who were 10 and 12) to put their dishes in the dishwasher when they were done with dinner. Apparently she wanted them to place them in the sink (I still have no idea why) but from her reaction, you would have thought she had told me. I had no problem following her rule once she had stated it but I think establishing rules first saves a lot of trouble for everyone involved.

    Erin Reply:

    My mother has often said that nothing divides friendship like becoming parents. People that you get along with swimmingly before kids may have very different parenting styles and the clash makes it difficult to spend time together and the friendship dwindles. I’m in the Katy and Jenna camp – I don’t want to parent out of fear.

  9. I thought this post was great. I completely agree with you about blogs being a snapshot and the fact they are self-edited sure does add a different perspective to my reading of them! One of the reasons I love your blog is your honesty, which comes through in this post. I hope you can keep that relaxed approach of yours and good luck for the next 8 months and beyond.

  10. I think there is a myth out there that motherhood is and should be easy. Afterall its “natural” right? My daughter is a month older than your son and when she was born and we came home I cried everyday for 3 weeks straight. All the while telling everyone I was happy. It wasn’t until I told myself I wouldn’t participate in that myth anymore that I felt real freedom. Saying “no…sometimes my daughter gets on my nerves” seems cruel to people and most of those people in my life didn’t have children. Yesterday I wanted to throw my daughter in a snow bank because even though I had her in my arms along with several bags she still thought it was a good idea to throw her toy on the ground outside. I wanted to cry. I think mothers and fathers should be able to share those feelings because honestly it feels lonely. I mean, doesn’t everyone want to throw their 9 month old into a snow bank at one point in time?

    Sophia Reply:

    Meg, I can tell you that as a person who currently does not have children, I so APPRECIATE the candor and honesty of mothers like you and Jenna who can say “ya know what? sometimes it’s hard and my kid annoys me and I want to flip out”. Because as a I person without children, it is terrifying to think that the “qualifications” of being a mom include endless patience and the ability to derive pleasure from cooing and playing with baby for hours on end. Knowing that moms get annoyed/pissed/want to flip out makes motherhood seem more real, and less like a saint’s walk that I can never accomplish!

    Kristy Reply:

    Agreed. It’s so refreshing to get an honest perspective on how motherhood can be.

    Hayley Marie Reply:

    I think it is funny that it is taboo to say your child gets on your nerve but it seems like some people expect that to be the norm once they are teenagers!

    I remember someone telling my mom that she was “in for a ride” when I turned 16 and my mom just started laughing. We’ve had some bumps but we have (and have always had) a great relationship. She is my best friend and she would be the first to say that I’ve been an “easy” child.

    My brothers have (for the most part) been the same. It just seems funny that at one stage you can’t say your child frustrates you or is on your nerves but at another stage it is almost odd to say they don’t.

  11. Jenna, you have just summed up motherhood for me as well. I have a 5 month old, in the beginning, he ate a whole lot more than most babies. If he wasn’t eating he was crying. Looking back it was that simple, but when I was in the thick of it the crying got to me. I didn’t know what he wanted and I’d run through my list of things and always end up back at boobie. My boobs were always sore, and I got very frustrated to the point that I wanted to shake my baby too. Family and friends would come over expecting to see the baby and we would invariably be held up in the nursery. People would ask me “Aren’t you so excited/happy?” or “Doesn’t he just pull your heartstrings?” “Don’t you want another one?” My answer was always “NO.” I felt very judged because I was honest. People looked at me like you aren’t supposed to say things like this, but I wasn’t very happy with him, I didn’t love him yet, and I never wanted another newborn again!!! But I also wasn’t afraid. I felt like what we were going through was normal. I knew the love would come. Switch to 5 months out, I love him dearly, he outgrew the newborn phase, and yes I want more. I can’t imagine life without my Little One.

    Brie Reply:

    When my daughter was a week old, my sister asked if I liked being a mom. I answered “No”, that I loved her, but I didn’t love being her mother yet. I cried at least once a day for 6 weeks (did not have depression) due to problems with the birth and breastfeeding mostly, and support problems with my husband. I don’t want another child yet, my dd is 18 months, because I remember how hard the birth and the beginning were. By far, it was the hardest time in my life and I’m not eager to go through it again with a toddler to take care of! Motherhood has been easy since then for me, even though my dd still wakes up up to a dozen times a night, has food allergies and is a dare devil. She’s not the easiest, most care free child, but she’s also not the hardest. Being a mom is what I was made for, it’s basically all I’ve ever wanted and I think that makes it easier for me than some others. I also have a great, supportive husband who adores his child, and I also only have one!

  12. I admire you for being confidant in your skills. And also for admitting sometimes you feel like shaking your kid. I think its a very, very normal phenomenon. It’s important to learn and practice self-control of course. I’d encourage all new moms to realize its better to walk away from a screaming baby for a few minutes to calm down than to try and fix things right then and there.

    I think its good to let the kid sleep when he’s tired, but I also believe that bedtime routines are very, very beneficial for kids. Especially the reading/snuggling part. Right now, he sleeps when he’s tired because its just a reflex. But soon (very soon!) he will learn how to fight that reflex, which is a skill that stays with us throughout our lives! (Come on, when was the last time you thought…okay I’ll read one more page and then go to bed?) Routines help teach children how to recognize when its time for sleep, even though it’s not there top choice at the moment. If you try to teach these routines after he’s learned to fight to stay up, it gets more difficult. Reading for bed its a great time to encourage mother-child bonding (not saying you aren’t bonded! it’s just a good way to reinforce it). Children who are read to regularly learn thousands more words by age 5 than those who aren’t. So reading before bed = teaching your child self-help skills by learning when sleep is best for them, encourages mother child bonding, develops vocabulary skills.

    Not saying you are a “bad” mom for not, or that you’d be a “good” mom if you did. I just think there are lots of benefits to establishing bedtime routines!

    Katy Reply:

    Yes, it’s a very normal feeling to want to *do* something to your child when they are crying a lot or you just can’t seem to understand why they are acting a certain way. Add any possible sleep deprivation in there and it makes dealing with a screaming child all the worse.

    And yes, walking away and letting them cry is okay if you’ve gotten to the point where you just don’t think you are thinking clearly anymore. I’ll admit to going downstairs, putting on my headphones for a few minutes while baby safely cried upstairs. Then after getting that breather, I can smile, walk back in, and try again to soothe them. So much better to let them scream then to do something you’d later regret.

    Meg Reply:

    I agree. We have a bed time for our daughter. 8:30 no ifs ands or buts. We feed her,bathe her, and let her crawl around for a bit and then put her to bed. Unless she doesn’t feel good or is sick, she goes right to sleep. Not only are bed routines good for children but they are wonderful for parents. 99% of the time I l know that at about 8:45pm each day I have time to catch up on things and spend time with my husband. Even if the day is a mess of her schedule the bed time is consistant. Its heaven.

    Lisa Reply:

    I completely agree with you–for me a routine is more about my sanity than my child’s (although he is definitely a kid that prefers order/routine anyway so it worked well for him). I liked to know that I would get “my time” at fairly regular times in the day each day, and I loooove knowing that every night around 7:15 my mom switch is turned off :). On the other hand, I admit to feeling a little stressed if something knocks our routine out of whack a little…something I need to work on :).

    I think when it comes to routines or no routines, everybody and every child is different. We all work and thrive in different ways, and there really is no “right” way. I do believe that there IS a “right” way for each family though and everyone needs to figure that out on their own.

  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I have been wandering the halls of my mind for months now (maybe years?), wondering about motherhood and whether it’s right for me.

    Reminders that one can become a parent and retain some semblance of themselves, and of reason, and of perspective on the world are so very important to those of us who hear nothing but tales of how hard and all-consuming parenthood is, because it’s important that we know that it doesn’t HAVE to be, and whether or not it IS is ultimately up to us and how we choose to perceive it, despite what the nay-sayers and the “you’ll seeeeee!” crowd have to say about it.

    Gogo Reply:

    It is really nice to hear a perspective like Jenna’s. I totally think you can still be yourself, a you that has evolved and is evolving to grow with your new role. But, as is true in any relationship or work, if you can’t recognize yourself anymore, no longer feel like ‘you’, then it isn’t healthy and you are probably doing it wrong.

    Also, can I just say that I am really looking forward to when people complaining about their kids finally stops being trendy? I think it’s getting better than it was 3-4 years ago, but still. Talk about how challenging it can be to parent? Acknowledge that it comes with hard times? Sure, absolutely. But, I am really over the who has it worse competition that some people seem to engage in. I just want to give them a shake and say “Your kids aren’t awful. Probably. And, if they are it is probably because of you in the first place. Please stop talking about it.”

    Sophia Reply:

    Michele, have you ever read Offbeat Mama? They have a great article on the “you’ll seeeeeeeeeeeee’s” that is spot on.

  14. Thank you for this post! I really must say that I love your outlook on things. I’m not a mom yet (3 more months!) but I feel like this post adds balance to some of what I’m reading on other blogs and hearing from other people about what the first few months will be like. I get panicky at night when I’m trying to fall asleep and start thinking about how I’m going to spend my entire maternity leave a frazzled mess and will never shower, much less leave the house again until I’m an awful mother leaving my child in day care! Other times I feel like if I just go with the flow, it’s got to be easier, at least some days, to just get out and about and do something. Or to leave the baby with a family member for a few hours.
    Being around my niece I’ve really realized that I don’t mind crying, though I’m sure it’ll affect me much more when it’s my own child. I also share your attitude toward germs and such. It was never a huge concern when I was growing up and I’m usually very healthy.
    I certainly don’t expect parenthood to be super easy, but I’m also really hoping that it’s not the hardest thing I’ve ever done either.

  15. Jenna, I loved this post! I also loved the article you linked.

    I think there is a need to talk about motherhood as the “hardest job in the world” because then it will be respected in our culture. Which, to me is insulting, because it puts motherhood- an important relationship and responsibility in one’s life- within the value structure of a job, and then further tries to “bolster” it by saying “and not only is it a JOB, but it’s the HARDEST ONE!!”. I find it incredibly demeaning that the intrinsic value of being a parent has to be bolstered and defined within our job centric, paycheck dependent value system. Basically it puts motherhood into a pissing contest with every job in the world, because apparently motherhood, in it’s own arena of responsibility and relationships, is not “good enough”.

    Motherhood does not have to be, and should not have to be, the “winner of all jobs” in order to be respected. It has an intrinsic value- as does fatherhood!- and all this fighting over the title of hardest job in the world is quite frankly ridiculous to me and is demeaning to the true value and meaning of parenthood.

    Kristy Reply:

    Oh my gosh, yes. This. So spot on.

    shannon Reply:


    Virginia Reply:

    Very well put.

  16. I also love this comment by Meagan Francis, that she made on the article-

    “YES, motherhood is tough. YES, it’s emotionally and physically grueling at times. Points that were made within the essay, several times.

    I still don’t believe that–in general– (there are always exceptions, right?) it’s accurate or even helpful to moms to term it ‘the hardest job in the world’. I like Kathreen’s point that those are just words–platitudes that don’t do anything for us or give us any practical support.

    I’d rather we all felt as though motherhood didn’t HAVE to be the hardest job in the world. Then we could lay off ourselves and each other. I really like what Chatty Daddy had to say: “Perhaps the biggest problem with the challenge=virtue equation, which is a deeply American sensibility, is that it causes us to parent against the grain, to seek challenge and overcome it, rather than find the elgantly simple solutions and savor every moment.” YES. I’m not arguing that motherhood is not hard. I’m arguing against the general notion that it should be and is “the hardest job in the world”.

  17. You are brilliant! I am dying to be a mother but I am also really scared about the lack of sleep thing – because I do NOT do well without it! So I’ve always been fascinated by stories from other moms about sleep training. I think it’s a great idea, and will make us all happier, and I totally understand that it will also entail some crying from a healthy, warm, safe baby. In my mind it’s a no brainer, so I’m always really perplexed by the comments of “my heart is breaking” when the baby is crying. Really? Sometime he just needs to cry! To use up energy or whatever…

    Anyway, thanks for the honesty and I loved that you mentioned how you are able to go on trips or be away from him and be ok. I think you are a really healthy, balanced person and THAT is what makes you an amazing mother and a wonderful wife. I hope when my turn comes I can be half as great as you are. Keep it up! :)

    Sophia Reply:

    I agree Stephanie, I appreciate that she mentioned it as well- so many mothers seem to feel guilty over the desire to spend time away from their child, so even if they want/need it, they don’t allow themselves to do so.

    Stephanie Appel Reply:

    I really think the WORST thing a mother/wife can do is to give up 100% of their own needs and wants, and just “selflessly” care for their child. Burning yourself out means you can easily turn into a martyr, and no one wants to feel guilt about receive love and care from their parents! Plus I feel like this can be death to a marriage…

    Just my two cents, sorry to rant but I often experience this first hand (ahem, in-laws) and it annoys me!!!

    Keep up the great mothering, ladies! :)

    Sophia Reply:

    No, I totally agree! It becomes this super annoying martyr cycle thing, where you just want to roll your eyes and say “ok, whatever, 10 different people offer to babysit and you say no, you’re bringing this on yourself lady!” :)

    Gogo Reply:

    Absolutely. The reality is that children are a lot less needy then we tend to make them out to be.

    Sophia Reply:

    Yes! I think some people want to *make* them more needy than they are in order to satisfy a selfish need of their own.

    Erin Reply:

    I’m looking forward to (trying to!) being a mother – and it sounds like we have the same point-of-view: I am SO worried about sleep deprivation and I don’t want to be with my kid all the time :)

    Erin Reply:

    I only have one, so I don’t know everything, but in the beginning, mine slept for 3 hours at a time, and after eating and maybe a diaper change when right back to sleep, no problems. 3 hour chunks of sleep seemed fine for me, and I’m an 8-9 hours sleeper. I was struggling during the day, not at night.

    Now when he got sick, or we changed his sleeping place then I was losing sleep, but by then I had taking care of him down pat, so it was just a nap that I needed to help with the lack of sleep.

    I don’t know, maybe he was/is a good sleeper, who knows???

    Stephanie Appel Reply:

    Hi Erin –

    That’s great to know, I am definitely afraid of going batty from lack of sleep, but I know if there were at least a schedule I could deal with it. Sounds like you did great!

  18. As I’ve mentioned before – I’m also a supporter of the hygiene hypothesis. What I like about this post is that it seems more like the baby has fit into your life, rather than your life disappearing for the baby’s – if that makes sense. I’m sure a lot has changed, but you’re still able to do things that you did before (like travel and blog). I’m hoping that I can transition to having a little one just as well – but knowing my personality it will be a bit more of a battle. I’m a tad bit clingy. :)

  19. Interesting post, Jenna! :) And good conversation so far in the comment. I likey.

    I disagree (not surprisingly, probably, haha).

    But when I say motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I don’t mean it because I have to change diapers or give her bottles. I mean it because of the magnitude of love I feel for this tiny baby girl. It is overwhelming. Frustrating. Scary. Exciting. Beautiful… etc. It changed my soul over night. It changed my priorities, my aspirations, my thinking, my worries… everything.

    Motherhood may do that for *every* mama (and that’s fine, too of course!) but I think the reason the phrase is so popular is because a lot of people feel like it transforms them so quickly they don’t have a chance to catch their breath… and it takes quite a while to adjust for some.

    It’s not so much the sniffy noses that makes it hard. It’s the blurring of self. The fear of remote dangers. The sacrifice of certain leisures. The responsibility.

    Kalen Reply:

    Motherhood may *not* do that for every mama, is what I meant to say! :)

    AmyLynne Reply:

    This is exactly how I feel. The actual feeding, diapering, etc. isn’t hard. It doesn’t take much skill or education to be able to do those things. It’s the emotional part of it that is draining:

    When should I take care of my children’s problems? When should I let them figure it out on their own? When should I discipline? When should I ignore? How do I get multiple children’s schedules to align so that everyone’s needs (including mine) are being met? How do I still be a good and loving wife after dealing with all of these choices all day long?

    While each individual choice may not be life-altering, over time they help to mold and shape children’s personalities. That’s huge.

    Gogo Reply:

    This is a good point. I think though, that Jenna and the article she linked to aren’t saying that it can’t be the hardest thing you as an individual have done. Definitely they both say that it is transformative. But talking about it in comparison to a job isn’t a good analogy. Because first, it isn’t the hardest job in the world, and two, it isn’t a job.

    Sophia explained really well further up about how comparing motherhood or fatherhood to a job actually devalues those roles.

    Kalen Reply:

    Yeah, I can kinda see the difference in saying “job”. I think the word is used loosely, but I also think it’s a way of validating (rightfully so) stay at home mothers when people don’t realize what their daily life is like. If you don’t call it a job and just call it an “awesome blessing” or something like that (which it is) – it may devalue the choice of some women (and men) to stay at home and parent.

    I dunno, I can see it both ways.

  20. I just wanted to say that I’m really happy that you have developed the boundaries so that when something is happening (like T1 crying), it’s not a reflection of you or your parenting skills.

    It’s also so refreshing to see someone who isn’t freaking out every minute of the day because “heaven forbid that your child do anything not perfect or touch something that has *germs* on it!”

  21. I loved reading your views on motherhood thus far. I imagine that I will be a similar parent to you (as my mother was to me). It’s always fun seeing that other people have a similar perspective.

  22. Jenna, this type of post is why I read your blog! I am 6 months pregnant and I am SO happy to read a blog by a mother who seems loving but really sane and laid back and not obsessive over her kid. Thanks SO much.

  23. I think you are so right. It has always bothered me a little when people refer to motherhood as the hardest job in the world. Like the article you linked to notes, there are so many other possible jobs that are much more physically demanding, that are emotionally draining and that have little of amazing reward that comes with parenting. I also really like how she prefers to frame motherhood as a ‘relationship’ rather than a ‘job’. And, you know, it probably is the most challenging relationship one can have.

    Gogo Reply:

    And motherhood is hard. Really hard sometimes. I do want to be clear that I know that. It’s just that comparing it to a job does not make much sense to me.

  24. The first month of motherhood WAS hard for me. I had some baby blues and O cried and cried and cried. In the sense that I too wanted to shake him and say “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” (I didn’t!), it was a difficult time for me.

    I love being a SAHM, and while I don’t think raising him these past 5 months have been specifically “hard” since the blues passed, I would say it has been challenging at times. (Lack of sleep, specifically, can do a number on me.)Yes, the basics are self-explainatory (change positions, nap, clean diaper), but the adjustments you make within yourself are “hard”.

    But, I think the real “hardness” of motherhood is yet to come — when there’s more than one child; when the responsibility of teaching him right and wrong, morals, etc. falls on us; when I have to dry his tears the first time he is teased; when I am home worrying about his well-being the first time he gets behind the wheel of a car and hope he was listening when we tell him not to drink, not to smoke, etc.

    What I think makes being a parent hard is that there’s no manual; you just have to do the best you can and hope they turn out to be the kind of person you strive for.

  25. Can I just tell you that I really enjoyed reading this post? This is the exact kind of parent I want to be: making sure my child’s needs are met, and not obsessing about whether I’m doing everything perfectly. My husband and I probably won’t be able to do much traveling before we have children, and I fully intend to leave our kids with our parents so that we can have those experiences when we can afford them, and I don’t expect my heart to break over it, either. And so on. :)

    So, yes. It’s helpful to know that it *is*, in fact, possible to love your child and not get so caught up in how that needs to be done that your identities merge.

  26. I can’t stop laughing at the TINY BALL OF TERROR line. I was there last night (thank you crabby toddler and screamy baby)and I so know how you feel.

  27. Thank you so much for this post Jenna. I’m a new Mom of a 2 1/2 week old daughter.

    Your post was beautifully written and a reminder of taking each day as it comes in motherhood.

  28. I think it’s mostly an issue of picking apart semantics. I don’t think moms who say “motherhood is the hardest job in the world” really mean that it’s physically more grueling than other jobs, or even that motherhood can be equated as a “job.” But I’d have to say, if motherhood were indeed a “job,” then there are few other jobs where the “worker” is as personally vested. Superlatives aside, motherhood definitely has its unique challenges and rewards and it’s hard for me to form a really solid opinion on it as a whole, without having raised a child to adulthood, esp. since I’m learning each stage seems so different from the last!

  29. I’m proud of you for being able to leave P and not feel bad about it. We started shooting weddings again full time when Dorothy was a month old, and people seemed genuinely shocked that I would leave my baby with my mother overnight that early. I firmly believe that I’m a better mother because I regularly let both my kids stay overnight with my folks so that I can sleep in and be selfish with my time. We have date nights. We took a 4 day trip to Chicago. Before she’ll be a year old, we’ll be gone for a week on a cruise. She’ll be fine.
    Nervous mothers make nervous children, I think. Yes, it will change when you have more than one child to worry about. It’s definitely harder. But staring out with this attitude is going to help you in the long run!

  30. Great post Jenna! I totally agree with your more laid back approach to parenting… I see other moms that are so uptight and who complain ALL THE TIME about being so stressed, so over worked… Yes, being a mom is tough work, but it is in part as hard as you make it. My way of looking at it is that there were many many babies before mine who didn’t spend their days being sanitized or at the doctor 24/7. (And on the topic of doctor’s offices… I will do anything in the world to avoid going to the peds office. There are SO MANY sick kids in the waiting room that I fear what they could catch may be worse than what’s wrong in the first place!)

    Your blog has never come across as one of “those blogs” before, nor have I ever thought that you were trying to make it sound easy peasy… IMO, you paint a very real picture of what motherhood can be if you choose to make similar parenting decisions.

  31. I wonder if mom’s who have babies with special issues (colic or reflux, for example) may be able to legitimately say that it is the hardest thing they have ever done? Or have a harder time not running to the doctors office or worry about germs? I know that I’ve said something like, “Wow. Being a mom is the toughest thing I’ve done!” With my little one’s issues with reflux and multiple surgeries, it HAS been the hardest thing I have ever done–to invest so much emotionally in a tiny being can be overwhelming at times! I think with problems like milk allergies and reflux becoming more common, it is hard, and sometimes unfair, to judge those moms who legitimately think it is thing hardest thing they have ever done. I agree with comments above that I think the statement “being a mom is the hardest job” is more about the emotional aspect of parenting. I also agree that it shouldn’t be compared to a job. But, I think its OK for mothers to sympathize with each other that at times, when you in the middle of it, being a mom can be really hard. I appreciate the honesty of mothers who don’t think its all roses and blue skies. But, boy is it worth every tear and worry and frustration when you see your little one smile, or progress with learning, or laugh. Motherhood is hard. Sometimes the hardest thing an individual has done. But, it is an amazing blessing.

    Kelli Nicole Reply:

    I think “motherhood is the hardest job in the world” and “being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done” are two different things. While I don’t have kids, I completely agree that it is probably the hardest thing many (most?) woman have ever done (particularly, the emotional aspect, being so invested, worrying about raising a child to be a good person, etc), but I don’t think that by saying it’s the hardest thing you (or anyone else) has ever done discounts the other hard things people do or vice versa and I hope people realize that! I don’t really seek out a lot of extremely difficult things/jobs (I’d never become an astrophysicist or brain surgeon or something, those would be really really hard/impossible for me, partly because there is no desire to do those things), so I fully expect motherhood to be the hardest thing I’ll ever do!

    Mary Reply:

    I agree with you! I was referencing the very top of the post “Motherhood is the hardest job in the world. It’s hardest thing you’ll ever do, but so rewarding”.

  32. Interesting that you write about this today. As you might remember, my baby boy is nearly 8 months old now. I’m pretty sure he’s teething but he has been SO incredibly fussy and cries SO hard for SO long when I put him in bed. And then he’ll wake up an hour later and do the whole thing again. Last night I was so frustrated with all the crying (no help from my whiny two-year-old) that I found myself wanting to just shake him and yell ‘stop crying!!’ I put him back in bed and ran to the bedroom to put myself in time out. (I would never shake my baby, of course!)

    It just goes to show you that ever mom, whether it’s your first baby or your 20th, struggles with their new baby. Even their ‘old’ baby (at 8 months). Because babies are all SO different, with their own reactions and personalities, and they are constantly changing.

    (over all I still think my baby is easier than my two-year-old!)

  33. My favorite post of yours so far since I’ve started reading you. You have to fly by the seat of your pants and go with the flow. Having any one child is way easier than two, even if they both slept through the night, didn’t cry, ate every three hours as infants, etc. With ten- or twenty kids. You have to do your best and go with your advice. I love it!

  34. I’m so with you on the WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM, YOU LITTLE MONSTER?!? line. At least, that’s how I put it.

    I can’t wait for my son to be able to communicate with me too but at the same time, the thought of it scares the heck out of me. Probably because he’ll become even more of a little individual than he already is. At least right now *I* decide what’s good for him but whoo boy, the day he tries to do that himself and we don’t see eye to eye? That’s where the hard part of mothering happens… or so I imagine. I don’t yet know for sure but suppose time will tell us soon enough.

  35. I agree, and disagree. Motherhood, in some respects, is only as hard as you make it. If you drive yourself crazy trying to be the best mom in the world, and make sure your child never eats anything but free range organic, and knows their ABCs by 12 months and is potty trained at 15 months, then yes, motherhood is going to be much harder on you than on the women who are more laid back!

    But in some unchangeable ways, motherhood is hard no matter who you are. Not in the day-to-day care part, because caring for a baby is easy. You feed them, you satisfy whatever need they have when they cry, and you keep them warm. That’s it! But it’s when they get older and you have to set boundaries and teach them manners and instill good values and remain a shining example for them when you yourself are only human- that’s when it gets hard! The hardship of motherhood, in my opinion, lies in the fact that we all want what’s best for our children, but we can never really KNOW if what we’re doing is what’s best for them until they grow into adults and show us what kind of person they’ve become. We are simply guessing along the way, doing what feels right without any concrete knowledge that THIS IS RIGHT. There’s a lot of second guessing, and guilt, and self doubt and THAT is what makes motherhood hard.

  36. I really believe breastfeeding would have impacted your opinion for sure. I cannot possibly leave Brady overnight or for very long at all. Reason being, my body is still producing hormones that urge me to go to him, wherever he is. If I leave him very long and my milk lets down I feel like I would move mountains to feed him and have to really distract myself and fight the urge to go pick him up wherever he is, if I do in fact have to leave him.

    With that being said, it sure does make for a whole lot more work on my part and I really wish I could be more like you in how you are so relaxed.

    Kalen Reply:

    I had never thought of this, Liz!

    While I definitely understand parts of breastfeeding may make it seem like more work (I think specifically breastfeeders “suffer” in the area of sleep), bottle-feeding is no picnic.

    Washing bottle parts constantly (the bottle I have has 5 separate parts), buying formula, preparing the bottle,packing bottles for travel, warming formula, mixing formula, etc. is all a lot more work than just pulling out a breast and feeding. It’s one of the main reasons I wish I would have stuck with breastfeeding, actually – it’s MUCH quicker.

    That being said – bottle feeders have hormones that make us feel similar, but mine kick in when Everly cries. I feel my stress skyrocket and feel an urgency to feed her immediately, which is why I get so frustrated that it takes time to make a bottle.

    I’d never thought of it when being away from her, though, because I have the security of knowing someone else can feed her. Very interesting!

    liz Reply:

    Kalen – totally agreed… bottle feeding can be such a pain! I am feeding B formula now as well as breastfeeding and sometimes when I know that he has ate all I can give him and needs a bottle supplement, I wince. I do not want to have to get up, mix everything, heat it up blah blah blah. It’s so much easier to pull up my shirt and say, “Here!”

    They are both lovely and annoying in their own ways. :)

    Kalen Reply:

    Absolutely agreed! Hopefully I’ll get to experience breastfeeding next time :) I’m looking forward to it!

    Erin Reply:

    I haven’t left my 5 month old for longer than a grocery trip. Breastfeeding really does keep me tied to him, and that he hates the bottle, and will cry bloody murder until I get home, makes it pretty hard to get away.

  37. I loved your post. I chose not to have children and have never regretted it. However, I have many friends and family members who did decide to be mothers and I see the variety of approaches to their parenting styles. What really impresses me about your post is your matter-of-fact approach to mothering and the fact that you seem to have established good boundaries between you as mother and separate person and your (adorable) son. Good for you for having the confidence and faith in your choices and not creating drama around separating and routines, etc. This seems like good modeling for any parent……

  38. I think this “hardest job in the world” ties in with my beef with some people who claim they “chose” to be a SAHM. I have friends who truly chose. They had careers they loved and chose to be a SAHM (or chose to return to work) and I had friends that chose to not pursue careers because they wanted to be SAHMs. But then there is this third group that kinda irks me – SAHMs who didn’t choose – they just hated their job (they tended to have ‘jobs’ more than ‘careers’) and weren’t motivated/couldn’t find a job they enjoyed more. And then when they had kids, they suddenly “chose” to be SAHMs (often at a financial cost to their family) when really they just didn’t like their job. And then they tell me how they chose the hardest job in the world (and I feel a bit judged b.c. I’m obviously taking the easy way out b.c. I’m going to continue to work after I have kids?!) and I just want to scream. So maybe that’s my beef with it – I feel like SAHMs tell me it is the hardest job in the world all the time – but i never hear it from working moms. It’s like the SAHMs feel they need to justify that they don’t work? And the SAHMs with kids in school from 7:30-4pm every day – being home without kids at home doesn’t sound that hard, and certainly not “the hardest job in the world.” I’m totally rambling now (or ranting), so I’ll just endorse all of Sophia’s comments and call it a night :) Thanks Jenna for the great post.

    Sophia Reply:

    I’ll endorse you right back :)

  39. O My Goodness, Jenna. You don’t seem to be a my life is better than yours type of personality. Please don’t worry that. You do seem to have a great attitude about take it as it comes. You seem optimistic which I think is a great attitude to have. Your son will be blessed to have that in his life. The job of parenting is the hardest/most and least rewarding career you will ever embark on. No one has all the answers, but you seem to be doing fine. The main thing is you love your child. don’t worry what others think.

Comments are closed.