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Parenting is a Humbling Experience

I became a mother at age 35, which here in the Middle East is considered relatively old, though more and more women are now getting married here and making a family in their late twenties-early thirties. I was married for ten years prior to that and while I enjoyed traveling, going out, working, and in general, my freedom (all things that I would not be doing for a long time after giving birth to J), I felt at age 35 that I had matured enough to become a parent and ready for all the responsibilities and commitment that go along with it (how ignorant and arrogant that statement seems to me today…). In a culture and society that are very family-centered, your worth as a woman here is very much dependent on whether you have kids or not. So the pressure is on the moment you get married.

I remember thinking I had it all figured out. My baby would never act out in a restaurant or in other peoples houses, moms who didn’t have time for anything but their kids seemed to me as just lacking good organization skills, babies who lacked the capability of falling asleep alone in their beds were, as I thought, just too spoiled. The list goes on and on. Judgments made by me towards moms I’d see around me that I thought to be true, while in reality I was completely ignorant and clueless about everything.

It took me time to get real with myself. The days after J was born were a complete shock to my system. The endless crying. The reflux. The colic. The never-ending routine of changing diapers-warming a bottle-feeding-burping-putting to sleep and then having about a half an hour to eat something before it starts all over again. The tension building up between me and everyone around me because of my serious sleep deprivation. The breastfeeding that I was struggling with and wasn’t going well. The messy house that I never had the energy to clean anymore, the sink that would be overloaded with dishes for days on end. The fact that nobody told me that only in six months is when I’d start to get any sort of real feedback from my baby because apparently newborns don’t do much other than sleep, eat and cry. The constant worry and uncertainty about everything – is he cold? Is he too hot? Is he hungry? Is he tired? Is he putting on enough weight? Is he putting on too much weight? I remember hearing phantom baby cries all the time, disrupting my much-needed sleep even on the rare occasions when J was sleeping soundly. Sleeping each night while holding J in my arms because that’s the only way he’d stop crying and I could finally sleep (if you call that sleeping).

And the guilt….oh, the guilt. The thoughts about how I’m a terrible mom because my son wont stop crying and I can’t figure out why. How he deserves so much better than me. Watching hubby get up in the morning all dressed up and smelling great after a shower ready to go to work while I’m sitting on the couch where I spent the night with J, postpartum and still bleeding, wearing pajamas that have been on me for three days straight because it was a choice between showering and sleeping. And the constant pressure from my well meaning friends and family who kept on telling me that “kids are a blessing” as the saying goes, and “Congratulations, you’re a mom now, this is what you wanted!”. Everything revolved around J. Nobody wants to hear that you’re feeling helpless and alone when you’ve just given birth and started a family, which is ideally what “we’re all supposed to want to be doing”.

I didn’t sink to postpartum depression just because I had my mom close by to support me. Even though I’ve always kept a close relationship with my mom, I only really understood how valuable she is to me the day she realized how helpless and alone I was feeling and stepped forward with all that she had to help me out. Coming over daily, cooking for me, cleaning for me, drying my tears and my baby’s tears simultaneously. Holding J in one arm to help him relieve his colic while hugging me tight with her other arm and whispering, “you’ll get through this. It’s temporary, my love. I’m here and I’ll always be here, just as I always was”. She was my lifeline at that time. Raising a baby has been an eye opener on so many levels, but the main thing has been gaining such a deep appreciation for mothers everywhere who feed, clean, wash and take care of their babies out of some deep primal sense of responsibility and love for the life that grew inside them (or for the life they chose to adopt and mother), without any appreciation from society, all the while enduring endless hardships. And it’s made me feel so much appreciation and gratitude and love for my own mother that I would never have known if I hadn’t become a mother myself.

I know that other new moms aren’t as lucky as I am. Many are battling postpartum depression silently because of the taboo around it and the feelings of shame and guilt associated with it. To be honest, I feel like every mom goes through some kind of version of it. It’s inevitable. The way we are raised and live our lives prior to being parents makes us expect a totally different reality of parenthood than what it actually is. And the gap between our expectations and what is actually happening is so wide that few can make the jump without getting hurt along the way. Questions like what will be the baby’s sex, how will you name your baby, or what color theme you want your nursery to be — these are all, pardon me, bullshit. What society should be asking is, “does the soon-to-be-mom have a support system ready for when the time comes?”, “Who is making sure that mom is eating and getting enough sleep?”, and “How can we help?” Having my mom by my side was what got me back on track and today, a year and nine months later, my bond with my baby is stronger than ever and the feelings of capability and confidence that I have as a mom to my kid are completely unruffled. I’ve come a long way. But it wasn’t easy. And what I’ve learned is that compassion is key. Compassion for all moms. Those who breastfeed and those who don’t. Those who stay at home and those who work outside. Those who yell and those who seem to have it all under control. Those whose kids have meltdowns in supermarkets and those whose kids seem to be super calm and relaxed (trust me, they aren’t like that all the time). No judgments, only compassion. We are all doing our best. And on the bad days, sometimes just showing up for our job is enough.

About Sherrie W.

Sherrie is a part-time contributor to All the Frugal Ladies. She currently works for a small publishing firm in New York and enjoys writing about her frugal (and not so frugal) life experiences and lessons learned along the way :)
  • Robin Rue

    It is definitely harder than I thought it was going to be. But you’re right – we are all just doing our best.

  • Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle

    Motherhood is the MOST humbling experience. I’m a go getter type woman. I always know I can do anything, but when I had my kids I was totally freaked.

  • Bill Sweeney

    I’ve done a lot of things, but parenting is the only one that ever had me questioning my ability. Great read.

  • Vera Sweeney

    This was a great read. Parenting is the hardest job anyone will ever do. There’s a huge pressure there! I mean, you’re responsible for molding a tiny baby into a productive, decent human being and not a big fat jerk.

  • Depression after having kids is for real and parenting can definitely take a lot out of you. I’m Mom to 5 boys and I’m not sure what I would have done without my support system. It’s great when you have your mom there to just call up and talk to.

  • It’s a serious shock to finally experience some of the things you may have heard about before becoming a parent. A lot of it is difficult to deal with! It’s great that you had some support from your mom!

  • Marcie W.

    Postpartum depression is much more common than many people assume. Making it an open topic of conversation and breaking the stigma is so important.

  • Veronica Solomon

    I wonder what causes this? You hear about it so much more these days than when I was growing up. Really eye opening.

  • themommyfiles

    Postpartum depression is definitely something that happens to more people than we think. Blogging was one of the outlets I needed and used when my kids were babies.

  • Pam

    I had postpartum depression with my son. It really makes parenthood harder. We definitely need to lose the stigma around it.

  • gogrowgo

    Being a mom is a never ending task that can make us all feel guilty. Thank you so much for sharing so openly.

  • Annemarie LeBlanc

    Every time I would read a post like this, all that comes to my mind is the song Sandra of Barry Manilow. “Oh God I love my husband and I love my kids. You know I wanted to be like my mother. But if I hadn’t done it as soon as I did, Oh there might have been time to be me. For myself, for myself…” Parenting is so tough but God blessed us to be mothers because He knows we can accomplish this mission He gave us.

  • Nikki

    Parenting will humble a person. When kids grow up to their teen years,
    many of them spend day after day trying to tell Mom and Dad why they’re
    soooooooo wrong and sooooooo stupid.

  • Toni Dash

    This is a great read! Thank you for sharing your story! Love that more people are being aware of postpartum depression. It’s really hard for us women to explain what we feel after all the changes of giving birth.

  • Amanda Love

    Parenting is really going to teach us a lot of things, this includes patience and humility. I think it takes being a parent to realize all of these things, regardless of how old we are.

  • Amy @ Marvelous Mommy

    I remember hearing phantom baby cries too. Breastfeeding was sooo much harder than I had anticipated. I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to do it with my first born. All new parents struggle those first few months!

  • Rachelle

    Oh I remember the phantom cries very well. I had my daughter at 19 years old. She was born a tiny 4lbs. Super thankful for my parents and my husband. Couldn’t have done it without them!

  • I think this is a known topic but still seems taboo for people to talk about or admit. PPD is real an us women should continue to have open dialogue about it for healing.

  • Shannon Graham

    I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one wanting to wait until my 30s to have children. This is an encouraging post.

  • Crystal

    It’s wonderful you had support. That’s what all new parents need, even those who are not dealing with depression. Once we are comfortable opening up about our needs, we will all be better off.

  • katrina gehman

    oh yea, i laugh at friends that don’t have kids and say their kid will never do xy or z. parenting is very humbling for sure. we do the best we can.

  • Shannon Graham

    I know a lot of people that struggled with this. It is so important to push through, it gets better!

  • Brianne Manz

    Such an important topic. I struggled with this with my first child and it was really hard!

  • Kelly Hutchinson

    I struggled with this after my youngest baby Thank you for talking about such an important topic.