Most people have an idea of what they think parenthood will look like. And it was probably a lot less frustrating, messy and tiring. In reality, every mum will go through hard times, every mum will struggle and many will wonder why they don’t enjoy parenthood the way they expected to. Whether you’re a seasoned mum or you’re having your first child, parenting is an adventure and it’s not always easy. Nothing really prepares you for the relentlessness of it, the sacrifices you have to make or how chaotic it can feel. No matter how much research you do or how many questions you ask, there will always be an obstacle you didn’t foresee or a problem you don’t immediately have the answer for.
In a recent survey in our online community, only 8% of parents found being a parent to be just as, or easier, than they expected. The majority found it harder, more challenging, and more stressful. And if you’ve become stuck in some unhelpful patterns since having kids, then it’s understandable that you don’t feel able to enjoy everything that being a parent brings.
3 common reasons you don’t enjoy being a mum the way you expected to
1) Parenting is hard
In this modern world, you’re likely constantly juggling between raising your kids, working, managing the house, sorting playdates, fitting in the shopping, taxi-ing to clubs and potentially fighting burn out. And then there is always someone on the internet / facebook that is making motherhood look impossibly easy which just makes you feel worse. There is also the constant worry that what you are doing is all wrong and you’re letting your kids down.
Parenting can be especially hard if you’ve chosen to do things differently and are trying to be a more gentle and responsive parent. The extra time and effort it takes all means less time for you (if you’re still lying with your kids to get them to sleep, you’ll know what I mean!). And this can be particularly tricky as often the rewards aren’t obvious until many years down the line. It’s easy to forget all this and remember to cut yourself some slack when you are running on 2 hours of sleep, your kids leftovers and you haven’t been able to finish a cup of tea in 2 years.
2) When you’re a mum you are doing so much for your kids it can be easy to forget to do things for yourself too.
When there is so much to do it’s easy to slip into auto pilot and go through the motions when you’re cooking, then cleaning, then entertaining your kids, then cooking and cleaning up again. This leaves very little time for you to do the things that makes you feel like YOU. Which over time will obviously affect how you feel, leaving you feeling lost in the motions of motherhood.
3) You’re giving yourself a hard time.
If you constantly ignore what you’re giving your children and only focus on the ways you feel that you’re letting them down. Or constantly tell yourself that you’re not the best parent they could have. Or compare yourself to others. Or tell yourself that your kids would be better off without you. Or beat yourself up. You will inevitably feel guilty and down. And this will inevitably take the joy out of life and parenting. The issue isn’t that you don’t enjoy being a parent, but that the negative thoughts running through your mind get in the way of you being able connect with that.
Feel happier and enjoy being a mum again
If you feel like you resonate with this, the following can help you to feel less overwhelmed and re-connect with the joy you once felt about being becoming a parent.
1) Remind yourself why you’ve made the decisions you have
Either it’s time to change the way you do things so they aren’t as stressful or connect back to your reasons for doing things the way you are. Parenting is hard, especially when your children are young and need so much from you. As they grow up, they will become more independent. This phase is only temporary. And there will come a time when they don’t rely on you so much.
2) If you don’t do enough of the things that give you joy, pleasure or a sense of achievement then it will impact on how you feel
We all need to live in line with our values to feel good. Not just our parenting values. It’s common for mums to believe things like “I should always put the kids first”, “I shouldn’t spend time on myself” or “self-care is selfish” which will make it hard for you to give yourself what you need and feel guilty if you do. But your wellbeing is the foundation of your families wellbeing. So self-care is not a luxury. It’s essential as your whole family will benefit from a happier and calmer you.
Write a list of the things that used to bring you joy and/or fulfilment or that you’d like to try. And schedule some time in to do at least one thing from this list each week (and to build on that with time). If you’re stuck for what to do, take a look at our free self-care for busy mums. It will also help you to work out what it really is that you need at any one time.
3) We all have strengths and limitations
This is an inevitable part of being a human. And this includes strengths and limitations as a parent too. If you only focus on your “failures”, you’re bound to feel down, anxious and parenting will be less enjoyable. What’s the solution? To create a balanced perspective of yourself, that encompasses your strengths and limitations or areas that you want to work on.
Each evening, try writing down 3 things you did well, its easy to beat yourself up over your mistakes but reminding yourself of the good you do will help you keep a clear perspective. Rather than beating yourself up for your weaknesses and mess-ups, put your energy into what will help you to feel better so that you can find parenting enjoyable again and feel good about yourself.
No matter how many books you read, or classes you take, the chances are parenthood
will throw something at you that you weren’t prepared for. If you feel like you are really struggling, make sure to speak to your GP, a close friend or a qualified therapist for support to help get you through.
If you’d like guidance on how you can live in line with your values to feel happier, less stressed and more fulfilled, our self-paced A Life Less Stressed course is still available at the beta-price. Just use code “HALFPRICE” at checkout.
If you’re looking to connect with other conscious, gentle or attachment-based mums, you can also join our community for honesty, advice, support and connection.
If you’re interested in joining the next cohort of the Emotional regulation (for you and your family) programme, send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org