Motherhood is unlike anything else. I know that sounds incredibly cliche, but it’s true. It’s more than a job. It’s more than a position or trait. It turns your entire life upside down and spits you out on a new planet. There is beauty and magic and oxytocin and happiness and soul-crushing love. But there is also heaviness.
Motherhood can feel heavy.
I can’t think of another word to describe it. I used the word “relentless” once, but that is more task-specific. Sometimes it’s an unspoken feeling of burden, for lack of a better word. It doesn’t always have to be a bad burden, but it is heavy.
When multiple children are crying in unison, and the high pitched wails of one set off the sobs of another, motherhood feels heavy. During those times when your child is sick and it is two in the morning and you have no idea what is wrong or how to fix it and all you want is sleep for both of you, motherhood feels heavy. When your child is having a level five meltdown in a public place, and the only thing you can do is endure the screaming until it passes, motherhood feels heavy.
When you are feeding a child for the ten thousandth time, or rinsing another spoon, changing another diaper, or wrestling shoes onto an unwilling toddler … motherhood feels heavy. There are a million monotonous tasks that we complete multiple times a day, day after day, week after week until they melt into years.
It’s exhausting, boring, necessary and fine, but also heavy.
Motherhood feels heavy when you are reading a book for the tenth time in a row while your children both lean onto you at once, but all you can think about is the mountain of tasks you should be doing; or maybe the baby is screaming like she is being tortured while you are just trying to drive to the grocery store.
Thankfully, the heaviness doesn’t usually last.
In my case, I take a deep breath. Sometimes it’s getting the screaming baby out of the car seat and offering sweet kisses to calm her. Then the feeling of being frazzled or annoyed passes.
I look into their sweet faces and remind myself that this is literally all I ever wanted: motherhood.
I have two tiny humans who depend on me for almost everything. Yes, it is a heavy responsibility. And there are moments of sheer exhaustion. It will get easier, then it will get harder again, and this cycle will continue. I’m told that even after their children are grown and are out on their own, mothers still lose sleep worrying about their children.
My husband and I recently had an evening out, and I neurotically/obsessively noted that it was the longest I had ever been away from my 9-month-old. She is going through the typical separation anxiety (and maybe moms can have separation anxiety, too), but I needed to have an evening of reminding myself who I was before I was a mother.
The heaviness, day after day, can weigh you down to the point that you need to revive yourself once in a while. I am working on this; I really am.
By “working on it” I mean I have intentions of being better. I need to take time for self-care and tell myself that my girls will be fine without me for a few hours. Even if the baby screams for whoever is watching her, the caregiver will survive as well. But by tethering myself to my children in an attempt to always meet every need they have, I am depleting myself.
I become exasperated, worn out, and irritable. I feel heavy.
As we left for the evening, my stomach was in knots. I was nervous and anxious. It didn’t really make any sense. I had left them multiple times for almost as long to go to work multiple times, but this time I think the fact that it wasn’t work–I was choosing to leave them for my own entertainment–I felt guilty. I worried the baby would need me, and I wouldn’t be there. However about an hour later, I was relaxed. I got a text with a photo of the girls smiling and happy. It reminded me of what I already knew: they would be fine.
In the end, the baby did have a minor meltdown when it was time to go to sleep. But she was loved through it and everyone was fine. But the best part was that I came home feeling lighter.
I all but ran through the door to snuggle my girls, but I was rejuvenated. My husband and I enjoyed an evening to reconnect as adults without high chairs, strollers, or baby carriers.
I only fed myself at dinner. It was wonderful.
This was me practicing “do as I say, and also as I do.” As a therapist, I preach self-care to my clients, but I am admittedly not good at taking my own advice. I feel like this was a step in the right direction toward me making a more regular effort to take time for myself and for my marriage.
So when motherhood feels heavy, know you are not alone. If you are one of those mamas who simultaneously feels exhausted and burnt out but also afraid to take a break, know you are not alone.
But push yourself to take care of you. “Put on your own oxygen mask first.” Start small, with a trip to a coffee shop or for a pedicure. Go see a movie. Go for a run. Go somewhere alone (or at least only in the company of other adults). You will be a better mother for it.
(Friendly therapist PSA: If the heaviness ever feels like it won’t go away, please consider talking to your doctor or a counselor, as depression and anxiety can certainly manifest themselves in a feeling of overwhelming heaviness that never subsides.)