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To the Mom Who Feels Like She's Failing

Photograph by Twenty20

Maybe you've just had your first baby or maybe you've welcomed another new baby into the family and you're in that hazy time of somewhere in between here and there, when nothing fits, time exists in two-hour increments and you measure your worth by the heaviness of your breasts, relentless in their determination to fill up, over and over again.

Maybe you're covered in baby spit-up and your stitches hurt and part of you hates your husband right now, with his useless nipples and peaceful, undisturbed sleep, or maybe you're feeling like a failure in too many ways to count.

Maybe you're wondering who the heck these other mothers are—the ones who are out of the house after birth, wearing flowy dresses (um, where's the giant diaper you're wearing?) and smiling faces with curled hair.

Maybe you're beating yourself up for not being able to do it all, for kind-of sort-of questioning why on earth you thought this whole parenthood thing would be a good idea in the first place. Maybe you honest-to-goodness are questioning if you've made a terrible mistake in having children. Maybe you're looking longingly at your car keys on the counter and thinking, maybe, just maybe, you could make a break for it and no one would ever know.

If you're a mom who feels like she's failing right now, can I just let you in on a little secret?

I promise you that you're doing better than you think.

I promise you that you'll look back, someday, and want to give your mushy, squishy, leaky postpartum self a big ol' hug. Because what you're doing right now is nothing short of incredible.

Right now, you're pushing yourself to the very limits of yourself: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Right now, you've become an entirely new person, literally overnight, and you can't possibly know it right now, but it's going to take some time to get acquainted with the new you.

Right now, you're struggling because the images you see of motherhood out in the world don't always match up with the images of your reality, right here and now. Sure, you heard all kinds of stuff about how hard it was and there were some jokes about sleep deprivation and then there was some stuff about guzzling coffee and wine, but this?

This is an entirely new level.

So please, mama, whatever you're doing right now, stop beating yourself up about not doing enough, being enough, losing enough or capturing enough.

Right now, you're navigating a life that's downright impossible on so many levels. Many moms today just don't have the level of support we need to even heal after having a baby, let alone feed a whole human with our boobs, hit the gym when our uterus is still reeling and jump right back into our careers, breast pump tubing flying behind us. It's absurd how much society expects of us and how much we expect of ourselves.

So, please, mama, whatever you're doing right now, stop beating yourself up about not doing enough, being enough, losing enough or capturing enough.

Because I promise you that you're doing so much better than you think.

You're there, with your baby—at home, or at work, or at the store, or at the bank.

You're there, you're showing up.

You're there, even when you want to run away and you're there even when you're so tired you can't think straight.

You're doing so much at one time and someday you'll look back and realize that you deserved more credit than you ever gave yourself.

I've only been out of the parenting trenches myself about a year, but I can already tell you that stepping out of them has given me an entirely new perspective. For the first time in my life, I have a taste of what it feels like to be somewhat "normal" again—to go through a day without wiping someone's butt, to not deal with tantrums and tears over every single small thing, to not dread taking a shower because it's costing me precious sleep minutes, to actually consider planning a fun family outing without bracing myself for the exhaustion it will cause, to (gasp!) consider doing something crazy like read a book at night with the confidence that I won't be awakened in two hours.

And now that I'm here, I'm looking back wishing that, holy crap, I should've realized how much of those early years is true survival. Why didn't I let myself nap more? What the heck was I thinking? Would more pizza have killed me?

The honest truth is, when you're in those moments when you feel like you're failing, you're also in those moments when you need to be as kind as possible to yourself. Because you're doing amazing things.

You just can't see it quite yet.

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