I work with mothers for a living. Every week, I hear dozens of stories from creative, motivated, educated, and relatively well-resourced women who love their children deeply. These mothers are intentional, committed to the health of their relationships, and willing to make tremendous sacrifices to ensure the well-being of their families.
Yet, for all their good intentions and hard work, the degree of frustration felt by most of these mothers is astounding. Though their life circumstances and personalities vary greatly, frustration is, undoubtedly, one of the brightest, thickest threads woven throughout the tapestry of their collective narrative, which I believe to be a microcosm of the larger narrative shared by most mothers in our culture. I’m even going to be so bold as to proclaim the following:
For all our many differences, frustration unites modern-day mothers. What, aside from the love we feel for our children, do we feel more frequently than this?
If it were mere frustration we were feeling, I wouldn’t be so concerned. There’s an inherent amount of frustration that seems quite natural when it comes to managing chaos, after all, and kids are, by nature, chaotic.
But we’re not merely frustrated. As a whole, we’re also incredibly stressed, drowning in self-doubt, and filled with anxiety. No matter our demographic, many of us also feel ashamed of our messy lives and inability to “keep up,” isolated and unsure of who we can trust, and guilty that we can’t give our children more of what they deserve.
The irony is that we’re more intentional, better resourced, and more informed than any generation of mothers in the history of the world, yet we still feel inadequate, burned out, defeated, and unfulfilled much of the time.
I hear variations on the following questions nearly every day:
What else do I need to do/learn/buy/add to my plate, in order to alleviate some of this stress and discontentment I feel?
What am I doing wrong?
And most heartbreaking of all:
What is wrong with me?
This last question not only pains me, but more and more, it infuriates me. From my vantage point, the question, “What is wrong with ME?” from an overwhelmed, hardworking mother, sounds like the brainwashed confusion of an abuse survivor who’s trying to figure out what they did wrong to bring on the mistreatment.
“What’s wrong with ME?” is simply the wrong question.
Or, in the language of poet David Whyte:
It’s a question that’s keeping us trapped in a conversation that’s too small for us.
Here’s what I think we need to be asking ourselves (and each other) instead:
What circumstances are contributing to the epidemic of frustrated, self-doubting, overwhelmed, anxiety-filled mothers in our culture?
Or, more simply stated:
Why does modern-day motherhood feel so frustrating?
So, I decided to start a list of all the contributing factors that I’ve observed in my work, my personal relationships, and my own experience as a mother. My desire in doing so is three-fold:
- To begin a conversation worthy of today’s amazing mothers (and our very legitimate and too-often minimized concerns).
- To have a resource to share with every mother I encounter who feels like she’s failing.
- To reach more mothers with this message: The frustration, stress, anxiety, self-doubt and overwhelmedness you feel are not reflections of your inadequacy. They are reflections of a confused, patriarchal culture that hasn’t yet figured out how essential the health and well-being of mothers is to the thriving of us all.
Clearly, we’re not going to solve all these problems overnight, nor even in our lifetime. But each of us can take the first and most important step toward making things better. We can begin to dismantle the “What’s wrong with me?” narrative that has us keeping ourselves trapped, confused, isolated, and disempowered.
Without further ado…
Why Modern-Day Motherhood Feels So Frustrating
(The Beginnings of a Master List)
- Parenting standards and expectations have risen, while support has dropped. Just a generation or two ago, it was considered perfectly acceptable to beat, shame, embarrass, scare, or threaten children in order to “make them” behave. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way toward healthier and more loving parenting practices, BUT, simultaneously, our culture has shifted farther and farther away from a collaborative child rearing model (think grandparents, neighbors, and cousins), which means that the pressure to meet these higher standards is often now on one primary parent (who is also expected to wear many other hats). Mothers feel this pressure most.
- Motherhood is all-consuming, yet often inadequate for the job of cultivating a whole sense of self. Motherhood heavily engages some aspects of who we are, while leaving almost no room for the growth of other, equally essential parts. Unless we’re aware of the need to balance this out outside of motherhood (and can manage to find the time and support to pull that off), wholeness and thriving can feel quite elusive.
- We’re bombarded with unrealistic images of what motherhood and womanhood are supposed to look and feel like. Marketing and image crafting are everywhere, and mess with our sense of self more than we even realize.
- Our instincts are being minimized. We live in a culture that teaches us to look to experts and Google for answers, which means that our intuition receives very little of the validation and engagement that it needs in order to be strengthened. Those of us who are able to hear the voice of wisdom within, often feel that we have to justify it to the many rule followers and skeptics around us (and within us).
- The 1950s wasn’t that long ago. Though things are shifting quickly, we’re still parenting right on the heels of generation upon generation that expected certain things of mothers and other things of fathers. Even if we see such expectations as antiquated, most of us did not have what we’re now wanting modeled for us growing up, which means we’re having to figure out healthier and more equitable versions of family and relationships for ourselves.
- We’re being spread thinner than ever. Today, in addition to being homemakers, we are expected to simultaneously build careers, be exceptional parents, stay fit, practice self-care, and hold the awareness of so many things that our mothers never even thought about, such as food sensitivities, school options, internet safety, emotional wellness, and sustainability, to name a few. Never before have we expected so many different things of mothers (or of ourselves).
- We know more, and feel the need to do more with that knowledge. Though the information age has clearly led to amazing advancements, it’s also overwhelming us with more information than we can possibly make sense of or put to good use.
- We have no villages or tribes to support us, which means we either go it alone, or attempt to create a tribe during seasons of our life when we have the least time and energy to do so. It’s quite unnatural for mothers and children to go about their daily lives without other mothers and children around. We’re meant to be sharing in the joys, sorrows, workload, and celebrations. (My most popular post was about this topic.)
- Postpartum care is entirely inadequate in our culture, which sets us up to feel like failures right from the start. This tender, vulnerable, overwhelming, sacred and often scary season of a mother’s life is a time when she needs her tribe most. In the absence of a village, and with such short maternity and paternity leave at most workplaces, many women begin their journey into motherhood in survival mode, which all too often becomes their norm from that point on.
- Our energy is already limited. Sleepless nights, constant kid chaos, infrequent breaks, and the mental load we carry exacerbate already frustrating circumstances.
- Grandma doesn’t live next door. And neither do the aunts, cousins, or sisters who used to help share the load. Even if we do live near our extended family, our value systems and parenting practices are often misaligned. Without the necessity of interdependence for survival, these differences in values are often enough to keep us from investing in these relationships. Whether this is ultimately healthier for us or not, it’s decreasing our sense that we’re well supported.
- We don’t have much interaction with our elders. Though they need us as much as we need them, we’re more disconnected, intergenerationally, than ever.
- Car culture is especially hard on children, and mothers as a result. I don’t need to describe this to those of you strapping flailing kids into carseats day in and day out. It’s extremely draining, and for most of us, inescapable.
- We’re wired to care deeply. We are biologically wired to care about the needs of those around us, but given all the extra pressure to fill so many roles, we’re often as emotionally exhausted by caring as we are physically exhausted by doing.
- It’s us against marketers backed by millions. We’re the ones in the trenches, observing the effects of so much stuff, screen addiction, excessive sugar, etc., on our children, yet we’re up against marketers and social trends WAY bigger and wealthier than us, which often makes protecting our kids from these realities feel like a losing battle.
- Part-time jobs with benefits are few and far between. Finding a full-time job that provides affordable healthcare for the whole family is challenging already. But part-time jobs with benefits–which is what so many mothers need in order to strike a healthy work/life balance–are nearly impossible to find. The stress that comes from having to choose between going uninsured or putting babies and young children in full-time childcare is immense and widespread.
- We’re accustomed to survival mode. I have a theory (based on my observations and personal experience) that mothers are so evolutionarily accustomed to survival mode that we actually gravitate toward it, and unconsciously keep ourselves stuck, even when thriving becomes possible. (After all, if we’re in survival mode, we have a built-in sense of purpose.) Rewiring our minds for thriving takes patience, support, and self-awareness, but it is possible.
- Neighborhood kids are nowhere to be found. Thanks to technological temptations, extra-protective parents, and climate control (to name a few factors), neighborhoods that once served as giant playgrounds to roaming packs of kids, are now seemingly childless. This means that the pressure is on us to keep them engaged in healthy ways (lest they become even more addicted to their screens than they already are).
- Mothers’ needs are not often honored within workplaces. Though there are exceptions, many mothers are forced to act as if they are not mothers, or risk losing their jobs. This means constantly choosing between the sick kid or the disgruntled boss, etc., which keeps us stressed and feeling like there’s no winning.
- Fathers’ roles are shifting, too. Thankfully, more and more fathers are playing an active role in child rearing and housework. Because men and women are wired differently, however, this is creating a whole new terrain to navigate that we don’t have much support for, which is stressing many couples and families.
- We’ve been fed unhealthy messages about independence. Our culture celebrates and rewards independence, rather than interdependence, which has led many of us to believe that asking for help and needing support makes us weak.
- Our souls are starving. We have more stuff than ever, but less of what our souls hunger for most, such as inner peace, nourishing connections, quiet, easy access to nature, and harmony within our homes.
- Marriages and partnerships are severely stressed. We’re looking to our partners for things our communities are meant to give us. We’re meant to spread our needs for connection and support around many people, but this is easier said than done without vibrant local communities around us.
- Our needs are rarely considered. The needs of mothers are often the last to be considered, even by us, as mothers. The story that good mothers are self-sacrificial and self-denying is one that was modeled for many of us by our own mothers, which makes it that much more challenging to break free from.
- We’re trying to make up for so much that’s missing. For example, most of us want wholesome, inspiring, nature-filled lives for our children, but we can no longer simply send them out to play in the woods or down the road to the neighbor’s farm. We now have to create such experiences for them, as our neighborhoods become less wild and children more accustomed to playing indoors.
- We’re drowning in our stuff. Consumer culture has set up a model of living that keeps us shopping, organizing, feeling overwhelmed, purging, and shopping again. This cycle may satisfy us to some degree (we’re cyclical beings, after all), but it doesn’t satiate the deeper longings of the soul.
- We’re starved for deeper connection. We try to connect with one another in the ways most readily available to us, but many of the more surface level, virtual connections feel inadequate. We hunger for deeper, more authentic, more soulful connections, but again, it’s hard to find them, and we’re too busy to create them ourselves.
- We’re taught that we’re supposed to bounce back after having babies, which disrespects and dishonors the incredible transformation that occurs when we become mothers. I wrote a whole post about this.
- Sacred ceremonies and rituals are few and far between. As a whole, we aren’t properly honoring the power and beauty of womanhood. Menarche (first menstruation) rituals, blessingways, and new moon gatherings, etc., are gaining some popularity in more openminded, progressive communities, but they’re still far from commonplace. Unfortunately, the women who need them most are those in vulnerable phases of their lives, which means they’re in no position to create them.
- We rarely feel successful by conventional measures. Our culture defines success in ways that conflict with what’s possible or even desirable for most mothers. I wrote a post about this, too.
- We’re a pain and discomfort-avoidant culture. Because so many of us have been taught to numb, minimize, and deny uncomfortable emotions instead of seeing them as a natural, healthy part of being human, we tend to think we’re weak when we feel the many big emotions that motherhood brings up in us. We’re meant to feel deeply. We simply need more spaces within which to be honored and respected while we feel what we feel.
- We’re disconnected from women’s stories, myths and traditions. As a culture, we’re almost entirely disconnected from oral traditions, story and song circles, and myths that honor a woman’s journey and help us make sense of our lives, growth, and struggles. (Notice how most old, powerful women in classic children’s stories are portrayed as ugly and mean?) Many ancient, sacred texts and traditions that honored and revered women were lost as native and pagan traditions were systematically destroyed. This means that most of us don’t even know what we don’t know. (Ready to reclaim what’s been taken from you? Start here.)
- We’re taught to resist aging. We’re conditioned to think that in order to be beautiful and desirable and powerful, we must be youthful and sexy (by unachievable, Photoshopped standards, nonetheless). Couple this with the fact that our elders are no longer revered and held in the highest place of honor, and it’s no wonder we’re afraid of getting older. But by resisting the aging process, we’re also resisting the trail of wisdom and fulfillment that lies ahead of us. We must be willing to let go of our maiden bodies and minds in order to fully embody the mother archetype, the wild and wise woman, and eventually, the crone. Our culture is desperate for the fruits of this natural progression.
Of course, each of us is human, which means that none of us is perfect. We all mother imperfectly, all the time. But this doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us. As Tara Brach says, “Imperfection is not our personal problem—it is a natural part of existing. We all get caught in wants and fears, we all act unconsciously, we all get diseased and deteriorate. Yet, when we relax about imperfection, we no longer lose our life moments in the pursuit of being different and in the fear of what is wrong.”
Abuse survivors are imperfect, too. But that does not mean they are responsible for the choices of their abuser. We did not create the aforementioned circumstances. But we can choose more empowered reactions to them.
Naturally, we all want to reduce the feeling of frustration in our lives, but I think it’s essential that we not do so too quickly. Frustration–as well as all the other challenging emotions we feel day in and day out–is there to show us something. When we mask or minimize these emotions with quick fixes, and without first recognizing the gift of illumination they offer us, we miss out on opportunities for growth and healing.
Our everyday lives are given more purpose and meaning when we begin see our frustrations as lamp posts along the trail of transformation. There is always light being shone on the path to wisdom and thriving.
Have points to add to the list? Please add your voice and perspective via the comment section. My one request of you, should you feel inspired to join the conversation, is that you do so from a spirit of service rather than victimhood. Collective illumination is the goal, not blaming or shaming.
We’re worthy of a better, bigger conversation, mamas. A conversation created by us, for us, and in service to us all.
In it right alongside you,
Announcements and Offerings:
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*Photo credit goes to the incredible Jote Khalsa, who captures the beauty and power of motherhood like no one else.
“When it comes to the inability of the modern day mother to relax in her own skin and feel comfortable with her own human imperfections it certainly hasn’t helped that for over 100 years we’ve all been bombarded with the obsessive parent blaming practices/therapies coming out of the psychology/psychotherapy professions. With mothers especially continuing to this day to receive the largest share of parent blame and shame it’s no wonder modern mothers have become overly frustrated, out of touch with their instinctive natures and fearful of failure. I don’t believe any other outcome could have been expected.” ~Anue Nue
What an important point. You’re totally right.
I just came upon this post, and it is all very true. I am in the third month of a new, part-time job (no benefits of that I took partly because it felt like something I could do as a new Mom, playing into my existing skillset…even tho it is the kind of job I ultimately had been trying to avoid doing again. Without a new babe I might have taken more of a risk, but I went for this one because it felt “safe” and familiar. However now I feel I undersold myself and am a bit frustrated with the position, stagnant professionally. I made this choice because as a Mama I felt out of the loop of the working world (after a year at home) and unsure of my abilities. I know this is common – insecurities around career and feeling like we have to make tough choices…but then feeling frustrated because of them…meanwhile the men/partners in the situation often aren’t faced with this (even if they are helpful with the kid(s) ).
Yes and thus resentment builds which contributes to the stress in the relationship. I’m starting to see why so many families are divorcing – seemingly more when the kids are young.
Incredibly true, honest and empowering. Thank you.
This is such a powerful post, thank you. Negative emotions, like physical pain, are often a blessing (though in our culture it’s so hard to realize that). We need to use them as guideposts instead of getting stuck on them.
Great article!! I’d add overmedicated pregnancies and birthing – there’s nothing more empowering than having a natural, unmedicated birthing experience. It’s tough, but it gives you such strength at such a vulnerable time in your life – becoming a mother.
I also feel that spreading this idea puts unnecessary pressure on woman. Breast is best, no medication during pregnancy…. etc. These messages can set Parents up to feel like they have somehow failed. No parent should ever be made to feel any lesser (or in some way that they didn’t do the best for their child, or ‘missed out’ on an important ‘experience’) for choosing formula or medication during birth. In many instances it’s not actually a choice.
THANK YOU for saying this, Torri. I had a very necessary emergency c-section due to a cord prolapse, prior to which I had placed an inordinate amount of pressure on myself to have this sort of magical, mystical birthing experience. My experience initially didn’t live up to some notion of what birthing should be, but it taught me that birth is just ONE DAY in a series of many days of a mother and child’s life together, and I have modern medicine to thank for ensuring my daughter’s health and safety.
IEVA, I certainly celebrate your birth story and am glad you gained strength from it, but this constant need to compare and contrast birthing experiences is yet ANOTHER source of pressure for many women, including myself.
Lauren and Torri,
Thank you for your comments. I currently am sitting on my sofa with my 3 week old son nestled in my arms, whose birth went anything than like what I had wanted. I planned on having an unmedicated birth and ended up having pitocin, an epidural, and an emergency c-section. I think I was in shock for the rest of the day and after felt guilt, anger, and like I had done something wrong for my baby. It was something I had to work through after. What I wanted and what actually happened we’re not aligned for me and I am thankful that the doctors were there to deliver him safely and keep me safe too.
The facts are though that unmedicated, unassisted birth and breastfeeding ARE what’s healthiest for baby. It can not be achieved sometimes, but a MAJORITY of the time it can be. The woman below you said she had a c section after pitocin and epidural. That’s the goal of the misogynistic medical industry. The cascade of intervention leads to surgery. Read Male Practice and it will highlight how your way of thinking can be toxic. “Both mother and father are important in the home and ideal” is not shaming single moms anymore than “home birth and breastfeeding are ideal situations” is shaming mothers who cannot do these things.
What is “empowering” for birth definitely depends on the person. I felt extremely empowered during my birth, and I had an epidural and couldn’t feel anything (I was at 7 cm with no meds before that). Turning off the pain and thus feeling like I could think clearly and calmly was what made me feel empowered, like I had some control over what was going to happen to me instead of giving up control to a painful process that I didn’t want. I can’t describe to you the joy I felt after my baby had arrived and I thought to myself, “I was allowed to do this MY way!”
So, to each his own.
Lovely to read your blog again for the first time in ages. Your list is fantastic – number 24 is my special prickly one!
Thank you x I deeply feel like a lone force pressing back against the negative forces of pop culture and marketing. Just reading this post made my heart expand and helped me link in wider xx Here’s to all of us, traveling with our big hearts xxx
Yes, 1000x! I’d also add that the pressure for “independence” at the expense of community has harmed our social safety net. We can feel like the stakes are so high. What does it mean if I cannot pre-pay college for each of my children? We don’t know how best to prepare them and so there is pressure to do ALL of the options – if they are good at sports, they need individual coaching in elementary school and certainly travel teams, if you value music, you should do group and individual lessons from age 3, they need constant ‘enrichment.’ My husband helped the kids make bird feeders and bird houses (mine are ages 6, 6, and 3) and I looked up the calendar at our nature center, and there were expensive classes on this. And part of me felt like it would be “better” to do it as part of a class even though I KNOW that is not true. Our culture has a very narrow definition of success and this can be hard to manage for ourselves but also hard to manage when we think about our children.
So many of these are so true to me, especially the need for community when emotional, physical, and mental, as well as time resources are so low to draw from in order to create it. I know I need elders! I would love to hear more about 17, 25, & 27 and any thoughts/ideas you have about dealing with these. For example, in #17, in some ways I am getting to a point where I am not in sheer survival mode all the time. However, I feel so much more pressure to do and become more both personally and as a mother. Self-actualization seems like it should be attainable now that I can keep my head above water, but the expectation of that is overwhelming. The podcast was great btw, and I have loved so many of your articles!
I really share that… that there is a ‘pass’ Issued for mother’s of small babies but after a while… I feel I should have upped my game! I should be doing more- my youngest is now 4 and I feel I should be doing WAAAAY more but it would fell me – cooking good food and keeping everyone clean and hair brushed and the floors clean and clear.. alone with a bit of craft and nature time (need a lot more than one or twice a week!) and that’s all i find room for… hmmm.
Totally agree. I would add up-the-anti on food sensitivities to add EPI Pens, Autism, 504 Plans, absent fathers, vaccination causes, court expenses and court orders for part, if not half, of Mothers.
Also, many people are having children later in life …in our 40’s when we physically have less energy and our careers demand more. We are taking care of our parents who may be fatally ill and many are mourning the loss of a parent
Thank you for this comment. I agree completely with your additions to the list. The effects of racial and socio-economic oppressions and inequalities on motherhood are widespread and overlooked.
Beth, your voice has been very missed. You speak to my inner womanhood, the one that has a deep connection to all women past and present. You are a gift to me when you speak. I hope your healing is bringing you more fierce courage and inner peace. I am staying home with my 4 year old (have a middle schooler too) after having worked full-time since his birth. It has been one of the hardest and most isolating transitions of my life. My partner has been super helpful and supportive, but that weight of the “plan” and future education and transition back into the work field weighs on me. We are very open about this in conversation, but he admittedly says that it’s a whole different way to think and navigate life, one that we are figuring out as we go. The inner groaning is loud and heavy. I fluctuate between wondering if I am depressed or awake and adjusting to a new social change that is all very “normal” with growing pains. It is a constant paradox of mind and body. Awareness of all you mentioned is definitely there, but the intentionality and ability to make changes is not… I ‘m too exhausted and overwhelmed mentally, emotionally, financially, and in physical health limitations to make changes. This is the same voice I hear from my other mother friends. We are aware but unable to make changes. That is the real next step and one that is going to take some serious gumption from all parties involved. My sanity comes in yoga practices and meditations, when there is time. All this to say this article nails the real day to day that I muck through. Every. Single. Part. Thanks for the thoughts and voice. Much love.
I have recently relocated back from Bali where I have lived with my 3 children. In Bali I felt I was surrounded by warm family culture where everyone was available, made an effort, and I never felt so nourished and happy because of these deep nourishing connection. Now, I am once again in the UK which feels like such hard work on every level. When I first had my children I thought this was ‘normal but now, coming back from a better place I know it’s not. I myself facilitate the red tent and women’s ceremonies and this will at least contribute to creating connection between likeminded women but am aware how much we’d need to change in the actual culture and the way people live for mothers to feel supported and a sense of belonging.
Annnnnddddd….. when you have teens they know everything and have access to everything….you’re out of your league. Social media makes it look like everyone else’s teens are doing everything socially acceptable…in reality, if you make yourself vulnerable and open up to other moms, you realize we’re all dealing with increased numbers of depression anxiety. That’s if everything’s “normal”… don’t even get me started on when you’ve had to go through chronic illnesses or trauma as a family. Whew.
Thank you Beth. Logic shows that it’s pretty simple. High-quality widely-available public childcare, used by everyone in every income bracket (Scandinavia, Canada, much of Europe) makes ALL the difference. There’s no stigma or sacrifice in sending your child to daycare when it’s not prohibitively expensive and much better than what you could provide at home. And guess what? That’s why Norway has mostly women at the top of its political system. 40 years of excellent public childcare.
Hi Lisa – just want to correct the record a little bit from up here in the great white north – subsidized quality public daycare which is available to all income brackets is only actually available in one province, (Quebec), and the rest of us struggle through the same kinds of outrageous cost, patchwork coverage, shocking waitlists, and no-oversight/hope for the best home care arrangements. And yet we persist and we lobby and we protest and all the things.
I disagree. I live in the conflict where I wouldn’t WANT to give my kids over to strangers to raise them for most of their awake life. However, without that “village” I’m overwhelmed. So there’s this dilemma of no matter what we choose, we are unhappy as stay-at-home moms, even if it’s what we wanted. Yes, I want to raise my own kids. I don’t want to be the only thing they see day in and day out though.
Hi Beth, so great to read your posts again!
I would add two things…
one is about the many different forms and faces that motherhood takes and inherently related challenges… as a single mom I can attest to this and wonder if it is similar for other “non-traditional” (whatever that means) moms… I don’t always connect with other moms or child-less women, and this is frustrating. Some women look at me as though I might try and steal their husband, others are envious that I have half of each week to myself while my kid is with his dad, single and childless friends don’t get all parts of me, and all of this leaves me without a sense of unity in my experience as a mother. I embrace it in ways I know how… I see myself as a trailblazer, a pioneer, a woman striving to live intuitively and authentically. Other times I find a sense of loneliness and long for connection across differences.
The other area I wanted to mention that I’ve heard some women mention, too, is sexuality. Motherhood, tiredness, fiestiness… how do all things work together (or not) to create our different inclinations toward (or against) sex? This seems like a ripe area for discovery and potential connection.
Thanks for inviting us to share!
All my best to you.
Your second comment hit my situation head on. Sex. I have zero sex drive. For the longest time I was afraid it was self preservation. I have my two children and am overwhelmed already, I feel like I’d break with any more.
Then I discovered I have a prolapsed bladder, which makes sex extremely uncomfortable. My hubby tries to be understanding but this has been going on for 4+ years, he’s frustrated. I swing between wanting to satisfy him and why the hell should I pretend to want something I don’t want.
Another thing to add to the list, for me, is constantly working (fighting, even) against my body’s natural rhythms and needs. One example being unable to eat at the right time for me because of time constraints caused by preschool/school/work and the prep for them. Another is not being able to rest when tired but having to push through. Never feeling comfortable in my body and the resulting effect on my mood and patience. I often worry that we get our eyes opened by motherhood but are so consumed by it that there seems no chance to do anything about the systems creating these conditions.
Well written. A sentiment no doubt shared by most women. I think a large part of the frustration is partners that really don’t understand what it means to be a partner. Yes, in some instances, they want to “help” but partnership requires both parties to be fully in tune with the needs of the household and understand it’s a shared responsibility, not something they “help” with.
The notion of it takes a village and supporting a woman post-partum is the reason I will be staying with my mother after giving birth soon. In her words “husbands are not equipped to take care of their wives after they give birth”, something that was made pretty clear the first time around.
Get read and perspective shared.
Absolutely true about that “husbands are not equipped”! That is why women who have broad network of support will have less PPD or no PPD at all. In our modern lives, the village is missing that provides interdependence and the feeling of belonging, security, and connectedness. Many of us are individualistic career-driven women and we often run on “survival mode” and do not feel satisfied or productive when we are stretched in all directions. And if we feel accomplished it comes with a high price of a loss in a relationship, child’s development, or a family member health decline because as caregivers we failed to provide care at the right moment that we are naturally so good at because were committed to our professional standards.
Thank you, Beth.
For me and others, this is also in the mix of our mothering minds and hearts (especially, unfathomably, for mothers in Hawaii last weekend):
Honor your truth. Embrace your truth. Motherhood is messy and it’s no joke. I am in a constant struggle of feeling overwhelmed, ill-prepared and completely inadequate to raise my two young boys. Even as I type that last sentence, I contemplate writing “our boys” as my husband has a place in this, too, yet the burden of parenting (and I do mean burden) usually falls on my shoulders. Where is the joy? Is it a new kind of joy? A new normal? A normal that’s a moving target that we’ll never fully realize? It’s a battle. Motherhood is a battle. No wonder we are all walking around in survival mode.
(Mother of boys ages 4 and nearly 3)
Too many manuals. You know the old wisdom that babies don’t come with manuals? It’s wrong. There are tons of manuals. A plethora of manuals. So many books on how to raise children. But they are all different. They often contradict each other. Each child is different too. No one manual matches any one actual child. So we read through tons of material explaining why we are doing it wrong. How if we just did it differently, our problems would be solved. So we try the techniques, sometimes they help, sometimes not. We feel bad that we are doing it wrong when they don’t. So we read another book and try a new technique and suddenly consistency is gone. So we feel worse.
I totally hear where you’re coming from and how we can use the myriad parenting books (videos, blogs, etc..) as a source of comparison and to beat ourselves up – and yes, the contradictions can be so confusing and instil anxiety. However, as an alternate perspective, I am very grateful for all the resources and wisdom about child development, neuroscience, cultural influences, attachment, etc… that exist that didn’t in recent generations. As much as the sheer volume of perspectives may feel overwhelming, I find that the books that fit for me provide meaningful companionship, inspiration, and guidance on this path. I encourage us to trust ourselves and our ability to attune to our own particular child/ren as we discern which resources (if any) serve us as supports.
Thank you! I’ve been talking about this frustration and the context in which I’m mothering since i crawled out of the depths of postpartum depression. I’ve been through so much, parenting a child with physical and developmental difficulties who is both gifted and gender-nonconforming, and with almost no family or community support. So again, thank you. I really appreciate your wisdom and your voice!
As an aside, i would like to gently encourage you to take a fresh look at your use of words like tribe and blessingway in the context of colonialism and cultural appropriation. As you already know, context is so important. These words have origins that deserve respect and healthy boundaries.
Oh God this resonates so deeply. Thank you thank you. My heart breaks with the sorrow of it and bursts with the joy of knowing I am not alone in this. Thank you for this beautiful post Beth.
You have described beautifully the larger landscape of frustration shared by mothers. It is a perfect place to start a conversation about the tools we already have at our disposal to resist some of the influences that grind mothers down. For instance, we can resist the self-help industrial complex and grow more confident and feisty together by practicing intuitional self-confidence. I would love to hear how other mothers have grown better at internal listening and trusting their own wisdom when making decisions, rather than looking for “expert” opinions. Thank you for this article.
Great list! I totally agree that so many of us are missing the women in our lives that we used to/other cultures have. And it breaks my heart to hear women seeing children as a ‘burden’ – but it very much can be, if we don’t have support. But if you are in a heterosexual partnership, there’s another adult there. And there is zero reason why he should not be shouldering half the load. (Or she, of course.)
I saw a statement above that “Because men and women are wired differently…” – no. Men and women are socialized differently. We are taught to think and feel differently about childcare, housework, etc including the crucial part: whose responsibility it all is. And what we have learned, we can unlearn. Research shows that men who have to take on primary caregiving work adapt and adopt what we think are “mother’s” traits or skills of nurture and care. (See the work of Andrea Doucet for starters: http://www.andreadoucet.com/gender-work-care/).
One of the most stressful things for moms is the second shift (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Second_Shift) – coming home from work, they start their second job: housework and childcare. There are two adults in the home, two adults should be splitting that work. (And there’s a built in unfairness for stay-at-home mothers, that their work becomes 24 hours a day. Even if you are home full-time – there’s no reason his work day ends but yours does not. Answer? You put in your 8 hours, he puts in his, and you split the work after that.)
We can ask for partnership – not just ‘help’ but two adults equally responsible for everything in our homes. Most men aren’t against this – they just often don’t even see all the work, all the things that need doing.
Most men I know are cheerfully happy to do a task if they are asked. But often, they continually need to be asked. She is managing the tasks, sorting out the supplies, making sure he does it right. Many women finally say “it’s just easier if I do it.” A grown man can learn to do the laundry every week on his own. It’s not about aptitude, it’s about willingness. What needs to change is that they attune themselves to seeing the tasks, and doing them. Exactly how we have been taught since we were young girls to see and do household tasks.
But how to get there? I highly suggest a domestic contract – yes, literally writing up all the work and childcare tasks, then allotting them fairly between the two of us. Because we write up the work, we can both see what the work all actually is. And because we’ve put ourselves down for tasks, we are responsible to do them. It’s not a one-shot perfect answer – my partner and I fought about housework just the other day. But our contract also has “what happens if someone doesn’t do their tasks” and what we do for conflict resolution. Articulating it makes all the difference, as does the buy-in from both of us that the house and kid are both our responsibility. (And now that our child is older, we’re re-writing it to include her chores.)
Here’s the one that got me started: Alix Shulman’s “A Marriage Agreement” – see a truncated version at: http://lilith.org/articles/a-marriage-agreement-%E2%80%891970/
(the full version is a JPG at https://jwa.org/sites/jwa.org/files/mediaobjects/a_marriage_agreement_alix_kates_shulman_0.jpg)
When people hear this they say it feels weird to write up your daily life, or that’s it’s soulless or OCD. Yeah, maybe – but our relationships don’t become equal on their own, They require awareness and negotiation. Otherwise what happens is what we see in too many women’s lives: social scripts about ‘women’s work’ and who should do it. Most of us want to teach our kids to do chores, to take responsibilities in the household as they grow. Why shouldn’t this apply to every family member?
The best thing we can do for our kids is break the lesson that most of the tasks are Mommy’s, or that there are gendered jobs at all. (Any man can cook, any woman can change a light bulb. It’s all about learning to do the job, not biology.)
It can be tough – men have to give up leisure time, do more of the work, and crucially wrestle with what it means for their concepts of masculinity. But so do we – we have to wrestle with letting go, with not claiming housework or childcare as our special domain of expertise or identity. And yes, grit our teeth as they learn to do the things we’ve been taught since childhood to do. (If you’ve never done car maintenance, consider what it would take to make sure the oil is changed and ties rotated – by yourself. Do you even know where to start? Men learn all this – they are not born with diagrams of car engines in their heads.)
As Shulman notes in the end of her “Marriage Agreement”: After three months of doing their agreement, her daughter came to her and said: “I used to love you more Mommy, but now I love you and Daddy both the same.” What father wouldn’t want that?
Brilliantly articulated, thank you! I would love to put this into practice in my own home.
I would also add time restraints. Everything takes longer to do. We have to drive to the grocery store and have to choose between 120 types of pasta, 49 different sauces, etc. We are drained from decision fatigue. And there are so many options now we want to offer it all. Otherwise we feel we’ve done a disservice. I love your article. Thank you for sharing.
We are collectively taking our health into our own hands as well. Much has come to light in recent years about our food sources and some aspects of our healthcare system that have us questioning if our family’s best interests, or the collective health of our nation, are really prioritized. The extra research and hard stand we must do in this area alone is exhausting.
I just got off FaceTime with my three year old, sobbing that she missed me while I’m on the opposite side of the planet for work. Thankfully the smiling one year old doesnt mind my absence yet. My husdband is back home solo-parenting in a town hours from family. Luckily my mother in law travels to our place to stay while I’m overseas for my job. It’s a job I love. A dream job. I work for and with amazing women. My boss went through what I’m going through with her two boys. There’s constant acknowledgement that what I’m doing is hard, peppered in with occasional questioning by my well-intentioned mother about whether what I’m doing is best for my kids.
Honestly, she’s only voicing the constant anxiety in my head. I feel guilty for having my dream job. I feel like a bad mom. I feel like I owe my husband for the sacrifices he makes for me to travel for work.
It feels like something has to give. It can’t be my kids or marriage. I’ve worked too hard for it to be my job. My connections with girlfriends is minimal. I’m a recovering alcoholic and I sure as hell won’t give up my sobriety. So what gives? I keep avoiding making that decision.
Sorry to dump. I guess your post hit a raw nerve (to say the least).
I don’t have a solution. But I do feel that I’ve hit a point where I will (I must?) commit to finding one.
CS, I wish I could give you a hug. You should not feel guilty, you are clearly NOT a bad mom, and you don’t “owe” your husband. You have an awesome job, which is to be celebrated! If you can, enjoy the job you love while you’re doing it. I have 3 young kids (including twin 3 year olds) and I love my job. For generations, fathers have worked and traveled and been gone from home. Did they receive guilt trips about whether it was “best for the kids” that they travel for work? Did they beat themselves up about it? These men are now beloved dads and grandpas and great grandpas. If you truly love your job, please don’t allow anyone to make you feel guilty about it. A mom who loves her job and is good at it is a great role model for any kid.
“A mom who loves her job and is good at it is a great role model for any kid.” This is so right on!
And we’re now seeing some really great research that shows it’s not how much time you spend with kids – but instead the quality of that time you do spend. A recent one shows that working outside the home had no difference in outcomes (children’s academic achievement, behavior and emotional well-being) for kids than kids with full-time moms at home. “The sheer amount of time parents spend with their kids between the ages of 3 and 11 has virtually no relationship to how children turn out, and a minimal effect on adolescents.” And that effect on adolescents is whether you are spending quality time with them or not. Which can be achieved by moms working full time outside the home as well as those staying home.
And here’s something to consider: “In fact, the study found one key instance when parent time can be particularly harmful to children. That’s when parents, mothers in particular, are stressed, sleep-deprived, guilty and anxious.” Easing our guilt and beings rounded people is the BEST thing we can do for our kids.
Here’s a quick article on these findings: Brigid Schulte, “Making time for kids? Study says quality trumps quantity.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/making-time-for-kids-study-says-quality-trumps-quantity/2015/03/28/10813192-d378-11e4-8fce-3941fc548f1c_story.html?utm_term=.fe1cddd4a26a
Thank you for this list. It’s incredibly insightful and really should be a book. Each point would be a chapter. I very honestly hope you’ll consider making it into One, I’ll keep watching for it so I can buy it when it’s available.
Agreed, an excellent list. In 1965, when few women worked outside the home, mothers spent 4 *fewer* hours per week on childcare than mothers do today. WOW. I got this stat from Jennifer Senior (author of “All Joy and No Fun” on this topic; you can find her TED talk online or this interview here: https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/479/great-expectations-1)
I would add that the “mental load” is huge. Parenting can only become fair and equitable when dads begin to do their share of the mental work (planning, researching, noticing, remembering, and yes worrying).
And last comment: we mothers (including me) often judge each other and fear each other’s judgement. In my experience, this affliction seems much less common among dads. Even though I’m a feminist, I fear my house must be clean lest guests (other moms) look down on me. My husband feels no such anxiety (none!) So we mom’s need to give each other a break, and enjoy some of that delicious obliviousness that so many dads seem to enjoy.
Oh me too! You’ve nailed it: “delicious oblivousness” – my stress would drop by half if I could take some sort of “Forgettaboutit” potion! And I am also a feminist who actually teaches this sort of thing for a living – and I still need the house clean. Programs in our heads are the hardest to change – but the most worth it. I’ve been most helped in this by my neighbour, we’ve been both trying to let go “being guest clean” as our kids and families are in and out of each others houses almost daily sometimes. We both have messes so we can both not care… funny how that works.
Brilliant article. I’ve thought about these issues for years as I’ve raised my three kids. I agree completely.
Beth, thanks for posting again -i just discovered your blog and was afraid you had stopped writing :).
I m curious about the car-culture frustration! I feel this one very hard, but it seems like i m the only one.. other mom friends seem to find a car with kids more ‘handy’ then a source of frustration, and i ve never red somewhere someone writing about the issue.
That’s interesting, I have often thought it is extremely frustrating, and wish I could just live somewhere where driving wasn’t such a necessity!
My son who’s 3 has always had a limited tolerance for the being in the car, after about an hour generally, he starts getting upset, and if we don’t take a decent break, he just cries and cries. But I don’t blame him, to be strapped into a chair for a period of time, not being able to move, must be so frustrating to a young child. I also wonder about all the increased screen time this then causes.
what a great article. I was a stay at home mom. The question that I detested the most, was WHAT DO YOU DO? This was mostly asked in reference to a paying job. My partner is a high energy, self-driven person, sometimes this question was asked in reference to what I was contributing to his current project. I never came up with a good answer for that question. In my mind raising little people to become adults that are a good part of society IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING that we can do. Minutiae is a big part of that equation, and explaining minutiae to anybody is a difficult thing to do
I would love to Learn more, in the með of no. 32. You wrote Click here to learn more. The link is a dead end. Can you show me the way☺️????
Wow. This was hard to read. It made me cringe and cry to the point that I had to walk away and come back to finish. It’s all so true. I cannot tell you how many times a day – A DAY – my internal dialogue includes the words, “What’s wrong with me?” I feel inadequate, depleted, overwhelmed, frustrated, lonely… it’s enough to make me truly feel I’m not enough and not worthy. I don’t feel like I’m a good enough mother, wife, friend, or self. There isn’t a single day that I get into bed feeling like I couldn’t have done more and promise myself I’ll try to do better tomorrow. You hit EVERY nerve.
I am an 87 year old great grandmother having raised our three children during the late fifties through the seventies. I spent quite a bit of time tonight reading this whole article and all the subsequent replies from these young mothers and their self doubts and frustrations. I wish I would know how to help them. I can only think of a book given me years ago “Grandma has all the answers…but nobody ever listens” by Mary Margaret McBride. So there really is nothing here for me to say to them. My generation had a different lifestyle and outlook on marriage and family. Maybe we did it better and maybe we did it wrong. We just did it. We didn’t self analyze every thing. We lived by the one day at a time rule. There were the good, the bad and at times the ugly…but in the end, we loved every minute of it …even when we hated it We read books like Men are from Venus and Women are from Mars….or was it the other way around?.. Our children and then their’s all felt they had to have careers to be complete…They really want it all…and sometimes. we just can’t have it all. It takes a lot of work This is too simplistic I realize. But the average American woman of the fifties did not aspire to the big house with the two car garage and the swimming pool. We were happy to find the “man of our dreams” even if he turned out to be just another nice guy. We made it work. We loved even the bad times along with the good. I pray that many of you can find true joy and happiness and above all peace in your lives as wives and mothers.. I think there was a song by that name years ago and it was the lifestyle I was born for. It goes by faster than you think..You will see. Love, GG Glo by the way, LOVE is the answer to Grandma knows Best!
I truly enjoyed reading your comment, thank you for sharing your historical perspective! I am a stay at home mother and I agree completely, that pursuing a career while raising kids makes life extraordinarily difficult. The trouble is, in our current society most women do not even have a choice when it comes to pursuing a career. It requires two incomes for a family to survive, even without aspiring to a large house and swimming pool. I am fortunate enough to have a husband with a higher paying career, but I really feel for the women who are stuck in unfulfilling jobs and trying to parent at the same time. I’ve read elsewhere that, when people are on their death bed, they do not think wistfully of all their hard work in their careers, but rather they focus on their loved ones, and long to have their children near.
The problem is why would any woman choose to have strangers raise her kids? Why even be a mother then? I don’t get the mothers that are like “I can’t wait to go to work and get away from them!” Also, it is actually MORE expensive for the mother to work unless she has a really good paying job. My first two are twins, and we would not have been able to afford childcare. My cousin just went back to work and has missed so many of her daughter’s milestones just to be another cog in the corporate wheel. I’m grateful I don’t have to do that, but I just wish everyone else felt the same way. The isolation is the problem, and especially with most moms working, full time mothers have little support. Yeah it must be nice to pee by yourself at work during the day but I’ll have the rest of my life to do so when my kids are grown. I just wish there was still a village.
My wife sent this to me as a way of communicating how she felt. I was taken back by the article as the list seem to center on motherhood as a singular action, rather than on motherhood as one half of a parenting unit. I couldnt understand if your perspective was as frustrated femenist or compromised traditionaliat, but either way it seems the relationship between motherhood and fatherhood, and the confusioun spurred by femenism (which im in full aupport of) should have a starring role in the “frustration”, not reduced to line 20. Im not arguing with a single point you made, only with the intrinsic fallacy being between mother and father, not between woman and society. Our dynamic parenting roles have created the need for dynamic, honest, and leadershipesque dialogue. I like to believe that my wife and I can parent in a way that is fulfilling for both of us, if only we form a a strong team. My hope is that in doing so we can overcome social pressure, subsidize each others failings and I can help her be a modern day strong and peace bearing mother, while she helps me be a modern, nurturing and home making father.
It’s pretty clear that you don’t get the extent to which you don’t get what your wife is going through. “I was taken back (sic) by the article as the list seem (sic) to center on motherhood as a singular action, rather than on motherhood as one half of a parenting unit.” Setting aside that the grammar makes this hard to fully understand, the whole point is that motherhood ain’t even close to “half of a parenting unit.” Even with a highly involved father, most couples still have the mother doing most of the mental work that goes into running the family. It’s exhausting being the only one who really knows what’s going on, what has to happen next, what to do when things get impossible. It’s exhausting always being first in line for the sacrifices and the impossible conundrums. Many men, even wonderful men, don’t step up until their wife has already been at bat for many innings. They like to hang back and see if she can resolve (all) the problem(s) on her own. They consider it a win if they can avoid doing “extra” work, even though it isn’t really extra but is mandatory for SOMEONE to do. That someone just tends to always be Mom. I have an absolutely phenomenal husband/father-to-my-children, and I still catch him hanging back to let me do the annoying jobs that come up unexpectedly. I feel like we go through times where the first question out of his mouth when asked to do something is, “Which corner can I cut?” NONE OF THEM. YOU DON’T CUT CORNERS LIKE THIS AT WORK, DON’T DO IT WITH YOUR KIDS. What is that underlying mentality that makes it seem fine to cut corners at home in a way that would never happen at work? Because stuff at home isn’t that important, and if it were really important, Mom would do it herself.
I also don’t understand why the “confusion spurred by feminism” should have a starring role in the frustration. The frustration isn’t the result of feminism, but of women having ever-expanding roles and societal expectations with ever-contracting support. How does believing in equality between the sexes explain why women have such a bum deal? Or do you think that feminism led to awareness of the bum deal and that’s led to the frustration?
The article actually does a good job pointing out that things have gotten harder for mothers since the time when women had more limited options/roles, not easier. They can have more choices in career/lifestyle, but they seem to have fewer choices in terms of how they parent (if they care about being socially accepted). They’re supposed to give more on all fronts while receiving less support from extended family, neighbors, and friends.
Wow. I really appreciate the insights here. As a mother and full-time educator, I have, until recently been beating myself up. Then I turned 50, and something amazing happened. I started, ever so gradually not giving a crap what judgy other people said to or about me. God be praised for this wisdom. Love your comment about “creating a tribe” which is something I am undertaking
I read your post with great interest after someone posted it on my excellent fb mothers’ group. Like a lot of other readers I identify with a lot of what you’ve articulated re: self-criticism and the structural issues that create these anxieties.
In particular, i was interested in no.29 and your comment on sacred rituals and ceremonies. It struck a chord, so much so that I googled “blessingways” as something I hadn’t heard of (growing up predominantly in Australia). However I very quickly learnt that the Navajo (Dine) from whom this tradition derives prefer the term “Mother Blessing” to be used by non-Navajo to avoid disrespect and cultural appropriation. I’m of the belief that feminism in this day and age can only serve us all when it’s intersectional, and I was wondering if you would consider editing your post to refer to this type of ceremony as a Mother Blessing instead?
Thanks again for such a detailed post and for sparking discussions about this near and far.
Here’s an article I found educational around this topic – it’s New Zealand-centric but she delves deep into the topic:
My very best wishes,
Hi Beth, and all commenters,
This speaks to a critical problem in our society I think. I’ve just written an article for a book that dives into similar themes: http://demeterpress.org/books/everyday-world-making-toward-an-understanding-of-affect-and-mothering/
I’m a Psychotherapist in private practice and since I had a child I want to transform the world of mothering. I’ve run a few groups for moms using a tuning-in technique called Focusing (www.focusing.org) and art. My family and I host a monthly-ish pancake jam for local parents (we make pancakes, friends bring toppings, then we try to play music). I’m starting to plan new groups for moms (as a therapist), and new broader schemes that foster connections between parents and make steps to shifting society towards one that really nurtures parents. I’m open to dialogue, ideas of what changes we can make at a community level to create what we actually want. Feel free to connect with me via http://www.counsellinginhamilton.com.
[…] Why Modern-Day Motherhood Feels So Frustrating. I found this article by Revolution From Home very powerful, and I am sure it will resonate with many of you as mothers. […]
I would also add that many of us are becoming moms later in life, when you have more of some types of resources (financial, self-knowledge, perhaps) but fewer of others (often physical constraints like needing more sleep or knee/back problems).
I read all the 33 or so points. Being with the situation reduces stress. All the moms with kids of a particular age group got to connect so that they feel good and not lonely. They all have same concerns and with the guidance of seniors will feel assurance. Every situation is supported by a set of conditions. Gender collaboration is the most important factor. What is natural in the developmental stages of human beings needs to be respected. Demanding situations will be demanding only by yielding to the demands. Enjoying the milestones of the kids adds great pleasure of bonding which is not to be missed. The career sacrifices and being with the kids for the sake of kids are to be appreciated and the situation is only temporary. These are the stages humans need to open up another dimension of the thought process or perceptions about life.
Absolutely brilliant articulation of the interior landscape of modern motherhood, and, indeed womanhood. I am especially happy to see you encourage women to read “Women Who Run with the Wolves”… I read it in 1993, when I was pregnant with my daughter, and it changed the way I approached mothering, though I was very much alone and felt as if I’d been brought by aliens a lot of the time. I was fortunate enough to find a very small, very beautiful “tribe”, with whom I am still friends, and whose daughters are my daughter’s closest friends, thought they are now living all over the world. For this, I feel very blessed, though I wish it were commonplace for all women. I have been lucky too, to have a husband who doesn’t view fatherhood as “babysitting” or “helping”. While we thought we were trailblazers in many ways, it saddens me to think we were an anomaly in raising our children the way we did, and that a new vision of parenthood has yet to emerge in any real and practical sense. Our workplaces are still unsupportive, our healthcare system is brutal, our parents aging or deceased or living on the other side of the country, our communities silently competitive and self satisfied. It’s a downright hostile environment for holistic childrearing and mothering, and I pray we can change this in the next decade or so. Thank you for a wonderfully insightful and useful post.
Many points on your list resonate but I wonder why husbands/partners don’t feature more on the care front? Why is it that is that the care of children is called “mothering” and not “parenting”? I also agree with the sentiments in other comments about the crucial nature of high quality, state-subsidized child care AND employment contracts that give both caregivers the “right” – protected by law – to have paid parental leave for more than one year. Many caregivers (mothers and fathers) in Australia (my country of birth) are in an abysmal situation, wanting to care for their child but either having to rush back to work to keep some employer satisfied, or face being unemployed – this is most often mothers. I have met extremely few fathers who have shouldered or currently shoulder half or more of the parenting load by reducing their working hours, but women do this without even thinking about it. “Part-time work” is something that both men and women can engage in during child rearing years, but until there are major changes in perceptions of gender roles in Australia, and better pay and employment security for women, childcare will continue to be unevenly divided between men and women and the worn-out-ness of women described in your blog is likely to continue; despite the nice words and undoubtedly good intentions. May mothers, it is most often mothers, devote years of their lives to part-time work or no paid work to care for children, and when they try to return to work, they are out of the market, have lost skills, are less attractive to employers as they have children who will have days when they are sick and need to be taken care of (the employer assumes of course it will be the women who takes care of the sick child – why?). Next point – paid leave to take care of unwell children should be introduced. It is a legal right in Sweden (my adopted country and current place of residence), and a concept every employer and employee here knows about, expects, and accommodates. The abbreviation for taking “care of ill child leave” is VAB and here it is so much part of the system that it is used as a noun (the leave itself) and a verb, e.g. “Where is Jonas? He is VABb-ing today”. Fathers and mothers “VAB”, there is no stigma and minimal wage loss. Childcare is shared care. Mothers do not have a sole right or desire to raise and nurture their children, but many systems are build around the notion that this is the truth. Work is often my refuge when the demands of home are too overwhelming, and in a weird but great kind of yin-yang effect, after an intense day or week at work, all I want to do is hang out in the sofa with the kids and partner on a Friday night. No guilt. I love my work I love my kids. No conflict. I refuse to feel guilty because my partner works from home and does he cooking and the runs to activities. Why on earth should I? He loves driving in the city (I don’t), he is at home (I am not) and he is the children’s father. Why should I do all that? Because of some strange “mother wiring”? No. Don’t push women into that box, please. We have been there long enough. I count myself so fortunate to live in a system that gives me these rights, so so fortunate. It all comes back to politics. Without a system that supports you, parenting must be even harder than it already is. But sisters, do not take your education, your career, your interests and your friends for granted or put them on the back shelf. Enjoy your life AND your kids and let whoever you are parenting with do that too.
Women are so inundated with information, we can’t even hear our own wisdom
Regarding the lack of children in neighborhoods in the summertime, my experience has been that all the children are away at day camps and summer camps! So our kids are home (SAHM here), but their neighbors, friends and classmates are all at summer camp. Not only is that tremendously expensive, but kids no longer have the chance to just hang out and have unstructured time, and I’m left to find ways to entertain them alone.
I’d read an article a while ago about mothers who “regret” having children and I just couldn’t find it in me to reconcile that word. Then I came across this–this is it. I don’t think it’s regret, it’s the overwhelmed, the frustration, the push and pull in too many directions, lack of village, etc. My motherhood experience resonates with many of these points, to which are added the family I grew up in, the choices I’ve made or haven’t made along the way, personal and spiritual growth that has been slow and painful but healing. It is my belief that motherhood was never meant to be like this at all, such a struggle for fulfillment. Thank you for writing.
They’re weak and entitled. They’re reading garbage like this instead of bettering their situation. They’ve lived a life of being the Princess and the pea, therefore can’t stop complaining and making excuses. They have never learned what hard work is. They find solidarity with other weak women online or in articles and justify feeling sorry for themselves.
That’s bitter! You poor soul.
You are amazing, Beth! You wrote the article that has been writing itself in my brain for the past ten years that I have been a mother. Thank you thank you thank you for putting into words the modern mothering experience that so many of us encounter once we have children. Sending love, appreciation and positive energy to you- and to all the mothers (and fathers) out there changing the world for the better with our love!!!
A gentle suggestion that I hope you will take with an open mind and heart: please include some intersectional feminism in your writing. In this article there is so much beauty that resonates with me as a mother, but there are some things that I know my friends of color would see missing. For example, the 1950s being used an an example of an “easier” time. It was not easier for people of color who were fighting for civil rights. So, we modern mothers must deal with so much today including social media, technology, etc – it’s true. But mothers of black boys and girls have never been in an “easier” position. They’ve had to worry about their children being racially profiled while shopping in a store. They’ve had to worry about the school to prison pipeline, and subpar education in our cities. Now they must worry about their black sons being killed by law enforcement. For the last 70 years, families of color have had an uphill battle due to redlining, segregation, systemic discrimination, and the prison industrial complex. I would recommend reading The New Jim Crow to get an idea of this part of our history. I would be thrilled to see a nod to some of this in your future writing.
Thank you Christina.
So all your points resonated with me, ALL! I work full time with two small kids. At work I am the mom (that obviously cannot perform as well as the guys because I cannot work late every night…actually I do but from home and they are doing office presence), my male colleagues get a very different level of appreciation and I am fighting for acceptance every day. At home the husband helps but actually believes he knows everything and anything better when it comes to the kids. I had post partum depressions but had to go back to work quickly and my husband helped with taking care of the kids. I was so lost. Now I have recovered but everything I do is wrong and gets commented on (milk too hot, I don’t dress the baby carefully enough etc). Sometimes I wish he would not help but leave alone with my kids because I can do it. Yes he helps, but now he thinks he is the better mother. Fighting at work for my place and at home is just so extremely exhausting!
I think you’re my soul sister
Wow! This is the best article I read all week. Many points resonate with me, especially the fact that we do not have enough support from our own families. Also, the point about asking for help is seen as a form of weakness, I wonder what we can do collectively to change that view? In my own experience, I think I don’t ask for help because I don’t want to be seen as an incompetent mother who cannot get her shit together. (I mean, everyone else seems to be coping so why can’t I?) Motherhood can be such a lonely experience.
I just wanted to say that I came across your blog unexpectedly and read all your posts because I enjoyed the writing so much. I agree with so much of what you say – not everything- but that’s a good thing – it gifts the potential for conversation. I really respect the way that you don’t dumb down your thoughts or your vocabulary – I am grateful to find a blog which resonates with my soul. I wish I could write like you. I think I may have the potential but I’m not sure what I would write about… I am playing around with the idea of buying land and building a co-housing complex. I could write a blog about the trials, tribulations and celebrations of that. Anyway, the point is that you are an inspiration and you should know that people feel that way – you can take that strength glow like the candle, the light at the end of the tunnel, that you are.
I came here, because I have started to feel less and less like a WOMAN since becoming a mother. Everything you listed is what I am going through and frankly I am just tired. I am giving too much of energy that I now longer store. Modern motherhood sucks!
This post said everything I feel. My life is a constand blur of guilt and fatigue. My stomach is always in knots. I yell. I believe in a tribe but avoid my parents who are willing to help but gave me cronic anxiety as a child with their fighting. I think of moving to a village and buying a farm. all my kids want is animals and mud. And giving them those is such a rediculous struggle. These days we pay for our kids to be in a place where they can play with sand or walk along a ledge. My needs? My desire to create art and sit and be still or do things iI’ve always wanted to do? Meaningless. Mum mum mum mum mum mum MUM!!!!!!!!
The article was an undeniable truth.
I googled “working mom feeling so frustrated” and this article came up! Thank you for sharing! A big one for me is failed expectations from family members. For example, Hoping that a Grandparent might be more supportive and helpful, but doesn’t meet that expectation. As a result, being a new parent and feeling all alone when my spouse is working long irregular shifts. Or back to work Mom now and expecting your spouse to “fill in your role” at home while you are away… Not necessarily happens either. Being a modern day Mom is intense y’all!
Hello Beth thank you for sharing a wonderfully-written and thoughtful piece. Through your writing and insights I see, and feel hope. May you continually be blessed in your pursuit, and may more women (and men) feel empowered from the light and wisdom you bring.
[…] now that they didn’t previously, leading to their frustration and stress. In her blog post, “Why Modern Day Motherhood Feels so Frustrating”, she points out […]
My children are now 31 and 29. I have spent the last ten years recovering from the years I spent raising my kids. I loved being a mom. I love my kids. But there was no time, no energy, no opportunity for me to exist in my role as mother/entertainment director/breadwinner/chef/chauffeur/etc. When my younger child left for college I realized there was a closet inside my head where I had put 25 years worth of pain, emptiness, sorrow, need, ambition, emotion, self-compassion. That door burst open and out it all came. It buried me in a profound depression that lifted only after I had processed everything that had been left unprocessed. This just can’t be what women are meant for. I hope those who come after me find a better way.
Thank you for your amazing Mothering, you have helped hold our world together over and above holding your own. Sending you so much love. I hope you are finding purposeful meaning and joy in your world now. And you are so right, it is the work of our generation (with the help of yours) to rewrite or recreate the “mother” story and rebuild the world for women, particularly Mothers. Sending love xxxx
My whole hearted compliment on bringing up such an ignored, taken for granted topic “mother”.
Everywhere you see, it’s parenting – something overated that I begin to beleive parents do not behave as what their true self is. They wear a mask of understanding,emphathy ..just to list a few.
At the very same time modern mother – hats of to you to put the right emotions, right problems into limelight.
Thankyou from all modern day mothers.
[…] all out many differences, frustation united modern-day mothers. There is an inherent amount of frustation that seems quite natural when it comes to managing chaos, […]
[…] There is no real definition to being a good mother, but I did find a link that covers the area of what being a mother is in modern times. https://revolutionfromhome.com/2018/01/modern-day-motherhood-feels-frustrating/ […]
This is an amazing post! I needed to hear this to make sense of how I’m feeling with it all and you have made me feel less alone and realised it’s not my fault I feel this way even though I’m trying my absolute hardest to be everything to my little ones, a good wife/ friend/ employee.
It feels like im never enough and often I feel incredibly lonely which is quite sad.
Thank you for shedding light on Modern Mother’s situations xx
[…] In this post, she has created a master list of the reasons behind the frustration in the modern motherhood and every single reason is a core one and goes deep in the structure of today’s modern motherhood, our lifestyle and the very human nature of us! […]
OMG Yessssssssssss. Resonate with this so deeply. I have written components of this article in my own journal 🙂
Feels very synchronistic to find you and read this article today as I have begun to build the foundations to house the sorely needed solutions, support, connections and collaborations with and for Mothers who as you also say, are barely surviving in the trenches of our “modern day” world. Including myself 🙁
Foundations that will require the arms and hands of so many to help rebuild.
Mothers hold whole worlds together.
Just like Mother Nature and Mother Earth
It is time for this to be honoured
This, I believe, is the foundational work of our generation as aware, conscious, and frustrated, purpose-led Mothers.
May we come together and BUILD BUILD BUILD.
Thank you so much for writing this, would love to connect more
The Emotional LOAD of motherhood cannot be stressed enough as part of this equation. This might vary from mother to mother, but it is always there. What if you, as a Mother are sorting through unresolved issues with your own Mother (your child’s Grandmother) WHILE you are attempting to diligently care for your Babies? What if your kids are having back to back Tantrums all day long? These Emotional Toll Takers (just to name 2 out of the MANY that exist) are constant and relentless. THIS is frustrating and exhausting. I am so glad you have created a place where Mothers and their struggles are SEEN and ACKNOWLEDGED. Thank you!
I find it ironic that after all the beautiful truths made in this article about what it’s like to be a Mother in this world today, the author tells people responding, how to respond, right after she invites them to speak freely. ‘Share your comments! EXCEPT if it’s complaining or victimhood.. this is the only acceptable way to comment about my article’. That ending just oppressed women again, but defining HOW they should respond. We are free to share our feelings however we like. There is no ‘right or wrong’. The plea to ‘Stay positive’ is undermining women & devaluing their individual life experiences. Something this article championed society NOT to do to women.
I find myself looking to the roof and sighing possibly every single day since I had my second child Dec 2019, My first was born July 2019. I appreciate the details relating to the disconnect from ways of tribal people globally, and the rituals that correspond. I am happy that I read this article, as you highlighted what I believe needed to be mentioned. Thank You!
Correction: my first child was born July 2018
[…] to this article, today’s motherhood is a little more stressful than the older days. As a SAHM of modern days, […]
[…] You can read more of Beth Berry’s honest words here. This is a favorite post of mine: https://revolutionfromhome.com/2018/01/modern-day-motherhood-feels-frustrating/ […]
[…] Resources: The Mental Workload of a Mother Modern Day Motherhood Feels Frustrating […]
[…] Beth Berry, Why Modern-Day Motherhood Feels So Frustrating, 2018, […]
I like your job on this post was wonderful. You have given a lot of knowledge about Modern-Day Parenting. This blog will help us in the future for improving our child’s abilities. Keep posting such blogs. Thanks
The truth that no one on here wants to say is that Mother’s overall are human, and some humans are just shitty. Most mothers today aren’t real mothers that’s why they feel inadequate, because they are. They’re the laziest excuses for humans that exist anymore. In the old days they had to be 10 people. Today they are lucky to even be a complete person. They are entitled lazy excuse seekers. They believe everything should be handed to them and they don’t believe that they should have to put effort into raising their children. All of you “mothers” are pathetic.