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What I Wish I'd Told Myself About Being OK During the Early Days of Motherhood

Photograph by Twenty20

The other day, I sat on the couch with my kids while looking at photo albums from when they were little.

Looking at photo albums is one of my children's favorite pastimes. They delight in seeing their own baby pictures, they beg me for stories about when they were younger and they giggle when they see their little baby rolls in the photos. I love sitting and looking at the photos with them, but just between you and me, there is a part of me that hates looking at those photos, too.

When I am looking at the image of my 2-year-old daughter pushing her baby sister around on the toy train our aunt gave us, it's like I am instantly transported back to that day.

I can remember, vividly, the sound of the rain outside of the window that day. I can remember, acutely, the feeling of desperation and desolation that weighed down on me that morning when I woke up. I can remember—so much that my stomach can still hurt with the memory—of what it felt like to know I was trapped all day at home with no one to talk to and the endless monotony of motherhood looming. I wanted to cry when I realized that neither of my kids wanted to nap that day, despite the fact that I had to work the night shift (again) that night and there was not a soul in the world for me to talk to about what I was going through.

I look at those pictures and I want to cry because I see a mom who was trying so, so hard to enjoy motherhood. But, the honest truth is that I was barely making it through.

All we can do is take it day by day ... and try to keep ourselves OK in the process of taking care of all of those other people too.

I look at those pictures and part of me feels like a complete and total failure because all you hear about as a mom is how these are the most precious moments of your life, you won't ever get this time with your kids back and you need to soak up all of the beautiful moments.

I definitely wasn't soaking up every moment and, now, I have to deal with the fact that I'll never have those moments back.

But here's the thing, if you're a mom who feels like that way, let me infuse some truth into your day, mama: It may be true that you'll never get those days back, but it's also true that becoming a mother doesn't make any of the hard parts about life magically go away. We still have work and hard days and bills to pay and sicknesses and tragedies and night shifts and depression and family dramas and broken friendships and straight-up restlessness in our lives.

We still have the hard parts. All we can do is take it day by day, moment by moment, and try to keep ourselves OK in the process of taking care of all of those other people. I wish so much I could go back to those hard moments as a mom with very young kids. Not to yell at myself to soak up every moment more, but to tell myself that it was OK to focus on my own happiness once in a while too.

Something tells me if I had focused less on catering up their needs and more on being content with myself first, I could have enjoyed those early years a whole lot more. It's not about getting time back—it's about being happy in the time that you do have.

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