What to Do when You’re Unhappy with Parenthood
“Does it get better?”
Am I happy with parenthood?
After all, your coworker won’t stop swooning over her new baby, sleep-deprived and everything. Other friends seem to have “easy” babies who don’t give as much trouble as yours does. And you’re beyond exhausted.
This is the story of your fellow mom who wrote in with her predicament. She has two-month-old twins on top of her three-year-old. Twins she hadn’t “planned” since she was only hoping for two kids (sound familiar?). And this change of plans—along with the challenges of the newborn stage—is making her feel unhappy.
Before I go on, let me preface by saying that while I’m not an expert on post-partum depression, I know it’s real. Just as women develop hemorrhages and diastasis recti after delivering a baby, so too can we suffer from post-partum depression. It’s a big deal that you should talk to your doctor, but not a huge deal that you should be ashamed (any more than you would be ashamed of other post-partum complications).
So in addition to taking your own precautions, it doesn’t hurt to talk to your doctor about your feelings, even if it’s to vent about the hardships of parenthood. Complaining doesn’t mean she’ll slap you with a label and send you off with meds, but she’ll be better able to make a decision.
That said, I have plenty to say about surviving the newborn stage and managing your emotions. Like your fellow mom above, I too had wanted only two kids—I was overwhelmed with the logistics of caring for two, much less providing for them financially.
And like any sleep-deprived mom, I couldn’t function on less than eight hours of sleep—I was short with my family, I complained more than I coddled, and sometimes I was miserable.
So what do you do when you’re pining for your old life instead of feeling overjoyed and blessed? When you find yourself unhappy with parenthood?
Grieve your expectations.
You were hoping so much for a girl. Or maybe you only wanted two kids, not three. Perhaps you weren’t even planning on having kids at all—at least not yet.
We don’t give enough weight to the expectations we carry prior to what eventually befalls us. A pregnant mom might have wanted a girl and must now bury her resentment or disappointment of having a boy. Or the news of a pregnancy might throw you for a loop when you weren’t even trying to have a kid.
It’s no surprise I was a bit shook up when I found out I was having twins. I cried for a week. This wasn’t in my “plans,” and I worried about the arrangements, from finances to logistics to child care.
All this from a time when I was supposed to be on cloud nine and in love with my predicament.
If you harbored expectations and they weren’t met, give yourself the time to grieve for what isn’t or couldn’t be. You’re not a horrible mom for hoping for something else. These thoughts need to be addressed and accepted, not brushed under the rug.
Understand that things do get better.
As a first-time mom, I was ready to slap anyone’s face who told me it’ll get better. Really? When? Because when you come to dread the evenings and wonder whether you’re even fit for this parenting business, “it’ll get better” doesn’t seem to come fast enough.
Yet it did, and it will for you. When? Maybe:
- When they sleep through the night (or at least longer chunks of it).
- When they can put themselves to sleep.
- When they can communicate better.
- When you have a routine.
- When they become more self-sufficient and independent.
- When you’re no longer pumping, nursing or bottle-feeding.
- When they don’t have colic or gas.
- When they smile.
- When they take consistent naps.
- When your hormones are more balanced.
And perhaps most importantly, when you’ve adjusted to your new role. Motherhood is hard. There’s no preparing you for this role, regardless of how many books or classes or babysitting you’ve done. Not even if you were a nanny, a nurse or a teacher.
So imagine being thrown into this predicament that has been called one of the most difficult jobs. It’s hard to see how things can get any better when every week, every night, seems to stretch forever.
However, those days and weeks turn into months and you’ll see one day, your baby slept longer than usual. And you now know how to open and fold the darn stroller, dump it in the car and take your baby for an outing—all on your own. And when you become more confident in your abilities, things will become second nature. You’ll find more time to enjoy parenthood and spend time with your baby.
Change your scenery.
Read through this blog and you’ll know how much I encourage recharging yourself during those first crucial weeks and months of welcoming a baby.
What can you do to help freshen your environment?
- Have someone watch the baby. Use this time to do whatever you want or need to do: rest, nap, take a shower, eat at a restaurant, go shopping, exercise. Asking for help does not mean you’re failing.
- Take the baby for a stroll. Getting fresh air and sun will help change your mood.
- Stay in. Feeling pressured and not confident to take the baby out? Stay indoors. Sometimes bundling the baby and the bag and the stroller is more hassle than staying home.
- Talk to other moms. Whether online or in person, talk about the joys and challenges of motherhood with your fellow moms.
- Get your partner on board. Make sure both of you are putting in equal work and effort. Dad is a co-parent, not a babysitter. Find ways to get him involved in the household, freeing you up emotionally and physically.
Don’t feel guilty about your sadness.
You’ll compare yourself to other moms. Moms who have endless patience for their kids. Moms who have the right balance between parenthood and their other hobbies. Moms who seem so, so happy.
It’s an unfair comparison. We all go through tough times in parenthood, even the ones who never seem like they do. In fact, you’re being more honest about your feelings when you say you’re not always happy.
Life with a new baby is tough, and it’s a drastic change from your norm. Even if this isn’t your first, you likely adjusted to a new norm that was interrupted by the change.
Try not to feel too bad about feeling sad. It’s an additional burden on your already heavy load.
Choose to make the best with what you have.
We’re most unhappy when we continue to pine for what we can’t have. Choose to accept your situation and find the positives.
And treat hanging out with your kids as something fun. They’re not always chores, even if everything we do for them seems like one. Remind yourself that people love visiting babies for reasons you may not be able to appreciate or see—those gurgling laughs, her cute face, the comforting way he sleeps in your arms.
Because childhood goes by fast. Sure, all the challenges you face will pass as well. Yet so too will all its joys.
So use this time to make the most of your situation. Nothing is set in stone. Change your mindset and you may find yourself enjoying the moments with your baby, both the good ones and bad.
Your turn: How do you get out of your funk when you feel unhappy with parenthood? What changes do families need to make to maintain a generally happy environment for themselves?