I don’t know exactly what I was expecting when I became a mother and a wife. While I always hoped I’d be married and have children, I wasn’t one of those girls that had it all planned out when I was little. I guess I assumed I’d get married and have children because, back then, I thought that’s just what women do.
I never put too much thought into what it would look and feel like on a day to day basis.
I have written a few different times about how quickly my life changed in the span of one year as I became a mother and a wife within two months of each other. I was also one of the only people in my group of friends to be married and pregnant, so I didn’t have a lot of examples to go off of. Much of what I saw around marriage and motherhood was from my own mother and what I saw on social media.
My mom is a fantastic mom, and I still, to this day, have no idea how she handled all that she did when we were young. Now that I am a mother, I understand fully why she would take long, hot baths in the evenings that she’d call her “mini-vacations” where we were not allowed to disturb her. Or why she made sure we came along for grocery shopping trips because she needed the extra helping hands. I didn’t get it back then, but it all makes so much sense now.
What I didn’t see with my mom, though, was any of the struggles. Sure, she’d get frustrated with us kids when we were testing her last nerve or were getting into trouble, but I never felt like being a mother was hard for her. I know now that it must have been.
To this day, I don’t often see the struggle side of motherhood—especially on social media. While some moms are opening up and choosing to be a bit more vulnerable with things like postpartum recovery, postpartum depression, infertility, and more, the ratio of honest photos like those versus the gleaming white kitchens, smiling children, and happy mothers is nowhere close to even.
Now, I’m not an idiot, and I know that everything in life has a struggling side to it, but the last 15 months have truly been some of the hardest months I’ve ever experienced. I think that one of the tough parts about having this realization is that, while I knew everything wouldn’t be perfect, as few things rarely are, I never expected things to be this difficult for this long.
While I do understand that this is not everyone’s reality, it is my truth which is all that really matters when it really comes down to it.
Here are a few ways that my vision of motherhood and marriage have differed from my reality:
1. I am still always tired, even though my son mostly sleeps through the night
I knew that the first few months of being a new mom was going to be exhausting. But I thought that as my son started to sleep through the night more that I, too, would begin to feel more rested. This hasn’t turned out to be quite true for me. Yes, I am not waking up every two hours to do a feeding and for that, I am utterly grateful.
What’s happening now, though, is that he either goes through a sleep regression, is cutting new teeth, or leaks through diapers now that he’s sleeping longer. So, while I’m not waking up as often, I’m still not sleeping soundly every single night which leaves me still feeling pretty tired. Everyone talks about the sleepless postpartum period, but no one really mentions all the ways you don’t really sleep after that.
2. Learning to love my post-baby body is ongoing
My body never “bounced back,” and I didn’t really expect it to. While I didn’t gain much additional weight during my pregnancy, my body just doesn’t look and feel the same. My clothes fit differently, my boobs are saggier due to breastfeeding for a full year, my feet are a bit wider, and my belly is softer. I have never been a skinny girl, but the ways my body has changed requires a physical and mental adjustment, even 15 months later.
After having my son, I haven’t been able to go back to any of the clothes I wore before getting pregnant. I am having to completely re-learn what looks and feels good on this new body. Even underwear and bras fit differently now, which is totally new too.
Truthfully, learning to love my body these days has been hard, and I don’t hear a lot of moms talking about that part. This adjustment has also affected my desire to be intimate, which again, isn’t a conversation many women are outwardly having.
3. Sex is still the last priority for me
Why doesn’t anyone talk about how you might not be interested in jumping back into your old sex life routines even months after having a baby? From the stories I heard, after the six-week postpartum checkup, you were cleared to have sex, and off you went.
But just because you are cleared physically for sex at six weeks (which is a whole other conversation for a different article) doesn’t mean you’re mentally or emotionally ready at that point.
How do we come to terms with that within ourselves if a lower sex drive is a new thing for us post-baby?
What if your spouse or partner is ready to resume having sex but you’re not?
How do you grapple with any physical or mental issues you might have with your post-baby body and how that affects your desire to be intimate?
These were all questions I was asking and still ask myself, as sex continues to not be a high priority for me right now. This can often feel isolating and embarrassing compared to what is often portrayed online, and that’s hard to deal with.
4. Learning to let your spouse step in takes patience and guidance
As moms, we often have a natural instinct to care for our children. This instinct sometimes leads us to try to do everything all the time, which can flow into burnout and feeling overwhelmed. I had to learn this the hard way, but I know that I cannot and should not do everything myself. My son has two parents, and he should be taken care of by my husband just as much as he is by me.
This transition from me taking on everything myself to handing half of the duties over to my husband took time, patience, and even a little bit of guidance. Often you see or hear about how the moms do most, if not all of the work when it comes to raising children—that shaped some of my vision around motherhood. I quickly learned that just wasn’t going to work in my family and that I needed an equal partner on this parenthood journey. I’m a better mom for it now too.
5. Finding my non-mom identity takes work
Have you ever asked yourself, “Who am I outside of being a mom?” Me too. Over the last few months, I have been making a concerted effort to try and create hobbies and interests outside of motherhood. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy being a mother to my son—quite the opposite! But before I am a wife or a mother, I am a woman first. I can’t allow that part of myself to get swallowed up by tending to other people, even if those other people are my husband and my son.
I used to see or hear about the moms who go to yoga, go out for happy hours, or go on vacations with their girlfriends, and that just hasn’t been my reality this last year and a half. I am still building up my support system of mom friends, but in the meantime, I am learning to carve out more time for myself each week. Sometimes this looks like waking up before my family to enjoy a cup of hot coffee and journal before the chaos ensues. Or maybe, it’s handing over bedtime duties to my husband so I can take a relaxing bath and watch Netflix.
It may not be a full vacation or even a few hours away from the house (believe me, these things will one day happen). But even little things to help me put my mom hat down for a few moments and just be a woman who enjoys other things can really help fill up the cup we so often pour out to those around us.
Marriage and motherhood, if you choose these routes, are some of the biggest journeys you’ll go on in life. Your path may not look anything like the paths of your parents, friends, co-workers, or favorite influencers—that’s OK! There may be times you feel shocked that your reality is different than what you expected; try to see it as an opportunity to ask yourself what you’d like this circumstance to look like rather than being disappointed that it didn’t match your initial vision.
Remember, life isn’t happening TO you, it’s happening THROUGH you, which means that you have a choice in how most things play out.
Read More: We Asked 4 Women at Different Life Stages What Makes a Strong Marriage—Here’s What They Said