Whenever we see other moms’ posts on social media looking like they’ve got their life under control — makeup on, dazzling smile, behaved kids — we start to wonder whether what they’re showing is real or if there’s something wrong with our parenting style. The doubt strikes new moms pretty hard —their days are chaotic and their nights sleepless, so how the heck can they reach a semblance of normal life?
Most of the time, navigating this parenting life is all about taking it one step at a time. We go through the motions, sometimes not knowing a thing about what we’re doing. One mom describes it best: it’s survival mode.
A writer by profession, Liz Petrone bares her heart out in a Facebook post describing the struggles of motherhood. “No one told me how much life was just survival mode,” she says on her page.
She goes on to say that other people described to her what parenting would be like — amazing but hard — but she never really knew exactly how it would be until she experienced it herself.
“No one told me how a lot of the time you just have to hold on, a white-knuckled death grip the only thing standing between here and drifting off like an untethered balloon towards madness or the heavens.”
We’re sure that new parents or parents of young kids can relate. A recent study found that while parenting is an endless source of love and joy, it also drains you. When you let the stress take over, you may be affected by “parental burnout,” which is characterized by exhaustion, emotional detachment, and inefficacy.
The emotional toll may also lead to postpartum depression for moms taking care of newborns. Parenting is overwhelming and sometimes you’re hit with the thought that you don’t want to do it anymore. That maybe you’re not cut out to be a mother.
But then you see your little one smile and it lights up your whole world. You start feeling confused and you start doubting yourself — why do you have so much love to give and yet you still feel beat?
Liz is all too familiar with the feeling, which is why she wants to share the advice that her mom gave her for this trying time.
“My mother used to say sometimes one day at a time is too much and then it’s one hour at a time or even one minute,” she writes. “I’ve amended it to one breath at a time and used that to move through whole piles of days on end where it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t elegant but it was one foot in front of the other. Breathe in, breathe out, keep going.”
It’s motivational, but it’s also why Liz calls parenting survival mode. “Sometimes we’re all jacked up for no good reason at all and that counts too,” she says. “because it’s still a thing that needs to be slogged through, one breath in, one breath out.”
When Liz wrote the post back in January, it was because people around her were making so many New Year’s resolutions that she felt it was putting pressure to other parents who were just barely keeping it together. “There are so many things that I would love to do,” she tells Babble in an interview. “But so often between working full-time and raising four kids I feel like I am just barely hanging on by the skin of my teeth, and I hear that a lot from my friends too.”
Liz ends the post with a powerful line: “If all you did in 2017 was survive, that’s enough.”
And if you’re still in survival mode this 2018, then that’s okay, too. There’s no need to succumb to the pressures of trying to be the best parent — take a page from Liz’s book and breathe in, then out. And remember to take care of yourself, too. It’s the first step to becoming a better parent.