Want to know one universal truth about motherhood? We all, and I mean ALL, doubt ourselves sometimes. I think it is pretty normal and natural to doubt ourselves a lot when we first become mothers. I mean, you go from being a person who is only has to care for yourself to a person whose every need is reliant on you 24/7 for, like ever. And it is a job you’ve never done before (even if you have had siblings or nieces and nephews or dogs that you’ve cared for — it is so not the same thing when you’ve become a mother), comes with no “orientation period” or instruction manual, and you have to start it when you are your most exhausted.
I think another really tough aspect of being a mother is seeing other mothers do what you are doing, day in and day out, and seemingly easily. No matter who you are or how long you’ve been a mother or how many kids you have, you know another mother who has more kids or tougher circumstances that seems to be doing it better. “She is always dressed. Her kids behave in public. Her house is clean. She actually looks happy!” And you wonder — how does she do it? Why can’t I? What is wrong with me? It isn’t just the new moms that feel this way either — I still do sometimes. And I’m three kids and almost 7 years in.
I was not a confident mother for a while (like probably the entire first year) when I had my first baby. I had a lot of anxiety and was very overwhelmed. Trying to leave the house was overwhelming. The thoughts of “what if my baby poops while we’re on a walk” or “what if he gets hungry and I need to nurse him” plagued me, as if those things would be the end of the world. I used to take my oldest to the Mommy + Me movie mornings at The Grove, which was walking distance from where we lived. We went every single Monday just so I could get out of the house and because everyone else there were fellow parents with babies who also pooped and got hungry so I knew I wasn’t alone. But my anxiety was still so isolating because I would sit there and look around at other mothers and they just didn’t look like they were having a hard time like I was. This was before Instagram was really big (I can’t imagine the kind of pressure and anxiety new mothers feel now in this era of Insta-mom perfection) so the real life moms I saw in public or my friends who were also moms and who I saw peeks of through visits or Facebook were what I had to compare myself to. What I didn’t realize then is that I was seeing them when they were also putting on their bravest face. It took years to realize that many of those moms were feeling just like I was. We were all just really good at hiding it.
I also didn’t realize it at the time, but I was suffering from major Postpartum anxiety and depression (you can read a bit more about that here). It wasn’t until I got really sick when my oldest was around 6 months old and I finally went to the doctor (and was diagnosed with Hashimotos and hypothyroidism) that I realized what I was going through was not normal, but was also not my fault. There were things happening within my body that were causing my extreme feelings of being anxious and overwhelmed. And getting myself healthy through diet and exercise, counseling, and medication helped tremendously.
The more time that went by and the more children I had, the more confident I began to feel in my abilities and my mothering. I had a period of anxiety and being overwhelmed each time we added a child, and I remember feeling scared to be left alone for the day when I had two children. But that got less and less. I mean, they were all still alive and they were happy most of the time. They clearly loved me based on how little time I had with them not glued to my side. So I realized I was doing something right. And when I had three I didn’t feel the panic at having all three on my watch alone the way I did with one or two. I’m more confident and more relaxed about stuff now that I have three kids versus when I only had one. And it certainly isn’t because things are easier. Because easy isn’t even a word that factors in to our lives anymore. It is because I realize that my best is enough. I have hard days for sure. I’m actually in a tough season right now where I’ve found myself really overwhelmed at all of them making SO much noise at once and demanding things from me all at once. I’ve even been having anxiety attacks recently. But I think that comes more from issues I deal with regardless of being a mom (I’m a sensitive person, I can get anxious and overwhelmed, I need consistency and control to thrive) — being a mom just magnifies them. And then when you add hormones, nursing, periods, etc. on top of it things can get a little rocky sometimes.
I think one of the biggest challenges to confidence is fear. Sometimes the fear is valid and sometimes it seems irrational. The key is to to remember that we’re all scared sometimes and we aren’t alone (even when we feel alone) because every mother has dealt with a poo blowout in public or had to nurse a screaming baby under pressure or had their kid give them attitude in front of others, or whatever it is that is causing you to doubt yourself at the moment. We have ALL been there in one way or another. And we’re all just trying to do our best.
When I start to doubt myself, I look at myself in the mirror and remind myself that I have grown life in my body, delivered three babies, nursed them through some tough times, and I still meet most of the needs of three little humans. Me. I did that. I do that. And if I can do that, I can handle anything.
Be sure to check out how some of my favorite blogger mamas found their confidence in motherhood as well!
How have you found confidence as a mother? What has been your biggest struggle and how do you power through it?