Why Am I Struggling to Enjoy Motherhood? And Ways to Bring the Joy Back Into Parenthood

Why Am I Struggling to Enjoy Motherhood?

A few days ago, after struggling to get our kids to bed, my husband and I decided to go for a quick walk. (Don’t worry, they were fully supervised.) The past few weeks had been insanely difficult, and I was really struggling. As we were walking, I said to my husband, “You know? I just really don’t enjoy being a mom right now.” Over the next few days, I thought a lot about this. Why have I been struggling so much to enjoy being a mom? Is this normal for me to feel this way? A million thoughts went through my head--especially feelings of inadequacy and failure. But the more I thought, the more I started to recognize additional stressors that were making motherhood extra hard, as well as some things that I should be doing if I really want to bring the joy back into parenthood.

Why don’t I enjoy motherhood?

All of us struggle with moments when we may feel like being a parent is just too much to handle. We all know going into it that it’s going to come with challenges. Each phase brings its own frustrations and difficulties. And right when we think we have it figured out, something else comes along to remind us we don’t have all the answers. But when we frequently feel like we don’t enjoy being a parent, it may be time to take a step back. See if you can pinpoint the additional barriers that may be preventing you from noticing the joyful moments of motherhood.

  • Impossible Standards: Sometimes I think we are bombarded with messages of all the things we should be doing for our kids. “Make your kids a homemade meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Never give them anything processed and avoid all sugar! Teach them all their letters and numbers and colors and shapes AND a second language by age 3! Lead them in planned crafts each day, and avoid any screen time like it’s the plague. Oh, and make sure your house is spotless 24/7!” For me, feeling like I have to do x, y, and z every day leaves me feeling overwhelmed and incapable. I hold myself to impossible standards that are impossible to meet.

  • Comparison: As women, we have a tendency to compare our worst with other people’s best. But I think when we become parents, we do this to our own children without even realizing. We compare their worst moments to the small, perfect snippets we see from other children. This is not fair to our kids, and it’s not fair to ourselves. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” In any aspect of our life, if we are comparing, we are preventing feelings of contentment. In parenting specifically, comparison will keep you from seeing all the wonderful things your children are doing on a daily basis.

  • Limited support: The whole time my husband and I have been married, we’ve lived away from our extended family. When my husband started his PA program a few years ago, we found ourselves moving even further from the support of our parents and siblings. On top of our distance from familial support, grad school has required a LOT of my husband’s time and attention. As a result, I often struggle to handle all the responsibilities of parenthood. Don’t get me wrong, he does so much to help and prioritizes our family above all else, but I would be lying if I said the demands of school haven’t made things harder for us both, and we both feel like we don’t have the support we need at times. Everyone at some point in their parenting journey will experience circumstances that leave you feeling alone, whether you're a single parent, a military family, or you're living through temporary stressors like school. But when we don't have the support we need, we can quickly begin to resent our role as parents. 

  • Constant change: Change is hard for people. And parenthood is filled with change. Our kids are always learning, growing, and adapting. While I am so impressed with children and their resilience, I find myself frustrated when I thought I finally had my child “figured out," and then realize I don't. For example, you tried for weeks to get your baby to sleep through the night. And right as you figure things out, here comes another sleep regression or some shiny new teeth. As parents, we are required to adapt with our kids and to try plan Z when A-Y fail. But this can get exhausting. Especially when we truly feel like we’ve tried everything.

  • Mental and/or physical health challenges: Since high school, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety as well as some other physical health challenges. I’ve noticed that when I allow my anxiety to get out of control, I don’t enjoy any of the moments with my children. The same goes for my physical health. I lose my temper and struggle to find joy throughout the day when I’m struggling with my own physical pains. I would also add the obvious lack of sleep we all experience as parents, which can worsen depression and even prevent our bodies from healing from other ailments. With how dependent our children are on us, it can be exhausting to cope when we don’t even feel like we can take care of ourselves. 

Mental and Physical Health Challenges

    Is it normal to feel this way?

    I follow some great moms who share incredible parenting tips on Instagram. They just seem so happy, and are always so gentle, kind, and calm in their interactions with their kiddos. I begin to compare my parenting to theirs. Why am I not as zen and chipper as they are? I definitely look up to these moms because I’d love to find that level of joy in being a parent. But I have to remind myself that those parents get frustrated and overwhelmed too--we just don’t see it. In fact, it’s very very normal to have moments when we think being a parent isn’t bringing us happiness. I’ve even had friends tell me their first thought when coming home from the hospital was, “Oh no! What have I gotten myself into?” 

    I recently read an article on NBC News called the Mental Load of Motherhood. The article consisted of quotes from various moms throughout the US and the struggles they face in motherhood. One of my favorites came from a mother in Cleveland that said this:

    Motherhood is intense. I’ve never experienced so much joy and so much heartache as I have felt rearing my son. He is the love of my life, but there have been times where I didn’t like him at all — throwing a tantrum in the grocery store, sneaking out through his window when he had been sent to his room. Any time a mom feels like they are a sham, just remember that your kids don’t know the difference. You are their source of truth and right. It’s OK to show kids the good and the bad, to succeed and fail. It’s showing them how you move forward — that is what they learn from you and love you for. 

    Reading this helped me realize that we all struggle with these feelings and that it’s absolutely normal! And knowing that it’s normal gives me a lot of peace. Not that I want others to struggle in their parenting journeys, but knowing that others understand you and feel what you’re feeling can bring a sense of community and normalcy. 

    How can I enjoy motherhood again?

    Thankfully, there are things we can do to bring joy back into motherhood, whether it's changing out attitudes or just learning to cope with our situations better! Here are some of the things I've done that have had the biggest impact on my joy in parenting!

    • Temper your expectations: Not one of us is perfect. We all have our struggles and challenges. Although it may seem like those around us are perfect, it’s important to remember that we don’t see the deep pain or trials they’re experiencing as well--both within parenthood and without. Reminding ourselves of this often is important to keep us from comparison and from holding ourselves to impossible standards. Don’t expect your kids to be perfect, because they never will be. And we will never be “perfect parents” either. In fact, there is no way to perfectly parent. Give yourself the same love and grace you’d offer to another struggling mother.

    • Don’t let small moments ruin your day: If I had a dime for every time my daughter said, “this is the worst day ever” in response to a minor situation she experiences, I'd be rich. I often remind her that she doesn’t need to let one thing destroy her day. I always have her reevaluate her statement by asking her about the good things she did throughout the day that made her happy. She often lists off half a dozen fun or exciting things she experienced, and her attitude often changes. I’ve recently applied this to myself when I find myself saying, “Parenting is just too dang hard.” When I look at specific instances when my kids made me smile, I realize that parenthood isn’t hard all the time. My perspective quickly changes.

    • Positive affirmations: Positive affirmations aren’t magic--they can’t change our situation. But they do have a positive and proven effect on our minds. Reading through positive affirmations at the start of your day or in moments when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed can, in time, help us to build a more optimistic mindset and help view ourselves and our children in a more positive light. Here are some great ones for parenting!

    • Simple reminders: In difficult phases, I struggle to remember all the fun and joy I’ve experienced as a mother. I forget about the times I’ve quietly thought to myself, “I wouldn’t trade being a mom for anything.” But when I look at photos of their smiling faces, watch videos of them loving one another, or read through my journals of the funny things they’ve said, I’m reminded of the love I often feel for my babies.

    • Self-care: We all know how important it is to take care of ourselves. Doing so allows us to better love and care for those around us. Finding the time to do so can be hard, but even if it’s just a few minutes during your child’s nap time or after they go to bed, make sure you do it. You deserve to fill your own cup. Whatever it is that does this for you, put aside chores or other tasks on your to-do list and do something for you. (Read a book, take a bath, bake your favorite treat, go out for a date with your spouse, visit your friends, do some yoga, SLEEP, etc.)

    • Seek and ask for help: We all need help sometimes. But knowing how to ask or even who to ask can be hard, especially if you are a single parent or don’t have any family close by. I’ve found that getting to know my neighbors and being involved in neighborhood Facebook groups can be helpful. If you’re struggling with depression and anxiety that’s making motherhood feel impossible, reach out for professional help. Finding a therapist that understands you can make the biggest difference for your mental health. Their knowledge and support is irreplaceable. If you’re struggling with physical health struggles, keep working with your doctor or find another practitioner until you can receive answers. It may take years, but keep advocating for yourself. (For more tips on how to ask for help, be sure to check out our blog post How To Help and Support New Moms (and How to Ask for Help).

    • Remove unnecessary stressors: A few months ago, I found myself struggling to balance all aspects of my life. I realized I was taking on too many things at once. As soon as I eliminated a few things from my life, I found I had more time to focus on my kiddos and I didn’t get so frustrated with them. 

    • Record and recognize your feelings: Pay attention to how you feel and what’s causing your stress. I find that recording my feelings in a journal or even just being aware and acknowledging how I feel and why I feel that way has been extremely beneficial. Constantly pushing aside your feelings and not acknowledging them can be damaging long term. So allow yourself to feel all the feels! 

    • Focus on what you can control: As I mentioned earlier, it can be difficult when everything is constantly changing. Learn to accept that change is the biggest part of parenthood. We can’t control or change our kids. Nor should we. So focus on the things you can control, like your own attitude or response to the situations you're placed in.

    • Celebrate your child's individuality and uniqueness: Kids are infinitely unique. Their individuality adds color to your life and the world. Don’t try to take that away from them. It’s okay to have a little girl full of sass or a little boy that’s fearless in everything he does. Their specific traits and characteristics will enable them to change the world. Obviously we teach them about manners, kindness, and love, but don’t focus so much on trying to shape them into a “perfect” child or like “everybody else” that you lose sight of who they really are. 

    Celebrating Child's Uniqueness

      Being a parent is hard, and it always will be. Each phase brings its own challenges. Our job to love, support, and uplift our children never ends. But finding ways to cope and find joy in EVERY season will enable and empower us- even in the less than ideal moments.

      For more parenting tips, be sure to follow along on our blog at babycubby.com!

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      Hi Mary,
      We’re mothers ourselves and understand how hard motherhood can be! It’s easy to compare yourself to others, but remember that everyone’s experience is different and that’s okay. We’re glad reading this article helped you feel supported!

      The Baby Cubby

      I needed this article so much. Thank you. I have a 6 month old son, who is extremely difficult. He has been since birth. His body doesn’t do what his brain wants to. My husband worked out of town all week for the first 4 months after birth, our families were no where to be found and then we moved cross country. I see all my friends laughing and going out and thriving. While 6 months in I’m still recovering and surviving day to day. I’ve felt beyond frustrated and regularly ask myself what I’m doing wrong. Why do I hate this, why is everyone else loving every second and I’m just trying to get by. Every physician I’ve seen and article I’ve read says the post partum phase is 6-8 weeks and I should be back to normal now. And I’m not. It’s been tough, so it was a relief to read your article and know that maybe there isn’t anything wrong with me. Maybe I’m not doing something incorrectly. Maybe things WILL be ok. I appreciate you putting your thoughts out there. You helped a stranger today with your insight!


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