There is something inherently isolating about the first time you become a mother. In the cosmic sense, we’re all one, motherhood blossoms a beautiful connection to your baby, you are part of the bigger maternal narrative… yadda, yadda. I mean, not like, dismissive yadda yadda because that’s actually all pretty cool, but not the point I’m trying to make here.
Isolation, let us all be clear, is not loneliness. I do not feel alone. I have a strong community around me that includes a supportive family, husband, motherhood tribe, and friends. However, even with all of that support, the isolation of motherhood is present and constant and I’ve found it takes a great deal of effort to connect with other moms. Trying to acknowledge this experience can often times feel very singular and separated.
Little Bear squawks in my ear and I explain how my entire life has become about our baby’s sleep schedule and how the four-month regression can just STOP IT RIGHT NOW before I go out for milk and never come back. Kidding, kidding… It clearly would be beer. I’d go out for beer.
The thing about a baby and his sleep schedule when it goes ass-over-tea-kettle is that it completely consumes your life. Motherhood itself completely changes your life in every conceivable way, but there’s something about the sleep… I literally spend my day looking at the clock and planning out the time I’m going to begin the process of putting Little Bear down for his next nap. Currently? My kid has six naps a day because he naps like a jerk and doesn’t sleep longer than thirty minutes so a nap every hour and a half to two hours is the only way I can seem to get enough sleep in him. My day has become a series of repetitions that involve trying to get him to fall asleep inside my house, because god forbid I go outside, where I can’t control the environment and a motorcycle wakes him up or a particularly high curb jostles him and one planned nap is out the window.
It got to a breaking point this past week where I felt absolutely helpless and incredibly depressed about my inability to coax him to sleep and my fear of messing up this tentative nap schedule I’d created. Big Radish had to explain that staying cooped up in the house all day, every day, so I could make sure Little Bear had six naps, wasn’t worth it. He also mentioned that it clearly wasn’t really doing anything since six naps seemed to have no influence on how much he was sleeping at night, which, just so you guys know, was and is, bupkis.
Sleep schedules and personal sleep deprivation aren’t the only thing that can create isolation, just general day-to-day activities can contribute to the experience. Before I had a baby, running errands would take twenty minutes if they were quick and close by. Now, if I get up the gumption to actually attempt them, it takes an hour just to get out the door between feeding, changing, packing the diaper bag, grabbing the car seat, and making sure I’m actually wearing pants.
I’m not the only one who feels this overwhelmed and isolated. Hell, just within my circle of mom friends (those who are new and those who are going through it for the second or third time) it’s a common topic of conversation. It’s nearly impossible not to be isolated when the majority of your time is spent keeping a tiny person alive and trying to make sure they get enough sleep. The only people I talk to on a regular basis (besides my hubby) are other moms through text messages, and most of the time it’s while holding my breath hoping my fingers tapping the phone wont wake my sleeping baby. I mean, texting is silent, but… things become irrational around the waking of your kid.
For example, the mailman is now my mortal enemy. Not because I have anything against him, but my dog does not like him, and if my dog barks, the nap is over. Ipso facto, the mailman and I have beef.
Even with all the support, there are some days I wish I could hear “you’re doing a good job” over and over again because saying it to myself just isn’t enough. A lot of times when I’m at home with my baby and I’m obsessed with naps and the feeding schedule it can just feel like no one really cares how hard it is. Going from a job in the public sphere to a job in the private sphere is extremely abrupt. When you work in the service industry you have a constant stream of feedback letting you know your work is appreciated. The dedication I had to my profession was reflected in monetary and audible compliments. People could see the hard work, the polish, the experience. When you move from a high-profile position to one that is even more important in some ways, the job of being a mom, the people who see your dedication dwindles down to your immediate family, and regularly the only people who watch me day in and day out are my baby and my dog, and they’re hardly tipping me based on performance.
I feel guilty that I want recognition for this job. My husband works long, long hours. He is basically the sole provider of income for our family which puts a lot of pressure on him. He currently just opened a restaurant and is still the head chef and partial owner of another. Yet, he is the picture of stoicism. The man doesn’t complain; he takes on all the hard work and gets it done. I… want to be like that. I sometimes feel like I hold onto hard, trying days, so I can tell Big Radish about them because if I don’t explain or, let’s be honest, whine, about how hard my days are then it’s like they never happened. No one else sees me, no one else will ever know how hard my days can be because no one is around to bare witness. I feel like if I’m stoic then it’s like saying this is an easy job, and, it’s not!
Little Bear is perfect. He’s adorable, he loves to smile, his laugh melts me, the way he lights up when he hears my voice… I mean, there’s nothing better. So, when I’m exhausted from no sleep and I feel like some days are just so hard, too hard, it makes me feel like something is wrong with me. I know I’m a good mom and I try so hard, but sometimes it just never feels like enough, and all the triumphs and tragedies of motherhood happen behind closed doors where no one seems to notice or particularly care that you’re covered in spit up and it has taken an hour to get him down for yet another nap, which, will only be thirty minutes.
I’ll leave you with this:
Feeling like you want acknowledgement is not only a real emotion, it’s a normal one. When your whole life goes topsy-turvy because suddenly your job is no longer primarily outside the house (and even if it is), it’s ok to feel like this is really hard. Sometimes you just need to say THIS IS REALLY HARD, or type it in a desperate text message to another mom friend (my friend Katie tends to get these texts like three times a day), because you’re exhausted. Guess what, you’re probably getting some stuff wrong, I know I am, but at least we’re all trying and we love our babies. Those two things, more than anything else, will get us through this.