A few months ago, I was experiencing some difficult personal struggles, especially as a mom of two. Everything felt like an epic battle that I just was not gaining any ground on, and I was weary of trying to maintain it all. I was the duck in the analogy: by all appearances, I was serenely floating on the water, but in reality, my feet were frantically paddling under the surface. In an effort to not be labeled a complainer or Debbie Downer, I tend to keep these seasons of struggle to myself, internalizing the chaos or only venting to my husband or my mom. But during those few months of distress, I happened to mention these circumstances and the inherent emotions to a few close friends: “I’m just not winning at anything right now, especially at being a mom” I lamented to them. “This is happening, and this, and this.”
I was surprised when, almost without fail, each woman responded to me with authenticity and honesty as she admitted “Same here.”
“I know what you mean.”
Every woman I talked to responded with kindness and reciprocation. Every battle, every frustration, every anxiety I was facing was also being faced by these dear women who I count as trusted friends. The details might be slightly different, but the general experience was the same. And as my friends reassured me that they too were living the same struggles, I breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn’t alone! Other moms were in the trenches with me! And in most cases, they offered me sound advice and some much-needed prayer and encouragement.
During these gut-wrenchingly honest interactions, I came to realize that I had come to think of motherhood as a competitive sport, and one where I was the only player on my team. I wasn’t pretending to be a perfect mom; I know I’m not. But a lot of effort had gone into making my life look effortless, and when push came to shove, that image crumbled when I did. But I cannot describe the relief I felt when, after several of these conversations, I realized that being honest with my mom friends invited reciprocation.
Since then, some of the issues I was dealing with a few months ago have gone away, only to be replaced by new ones. Some have changed slightly. Some are still very much there. The difference is that I’m working on being more transparent with my mom village, allowing myself to pour my heart out to a friend as needed. We may not solve my issue(s) over a cup of coffee, but simply expressing it out loud in words to an empathetic listener can do wonders for my outlook.
Why we need authentic motherhood
Our culture places a lot of value on image, and the stakes seem even higher once we have those precious babies. We may have differing ideas of what makes a perfect mother, spouse, employee, or homemaker, but we all strive to maintain those expectations in fear of doing it “wrong.” But with this striving, we lose the ability to be our authentic selves and the community that comes with true authenticity. In my experience, honesty engendered honesty, which was both a relief and a gift. My friends trusted me enough to share their struggles even as I shared mine, and it was enough to show me that I wasn’t alone.
Motherhood is a hard role; we need a strong support system. We need more women who aren’t afraid to say, “Here’s what I’m struggling with. Here are my battles.” We need more imperfect moms, the ones who are okay with sometimes admitting “I’m just not winning at being a mom.”
Chances are, someone else feels the same way.