When It Feels Like Motherhood Doesn’t Fit

by Erica Layne on May 17, 2012

After believing all my life that I was inherently suited to be a mother, the shock hit me like a tidal wave when we entered the toddler years and I found myself wondering almost every other day whether I was cut out for this. I suppose it hits everyone at different times. Like when you can’t remember the last time you slept more than two hours straight or drove a car with only the sound of the radio to keep you company. For me, it hit when a certain someone’s will suddenly seemed stronger than my own. :)

I believe that motherhood is a calling, and I am honored to have been trusted with the beautiful spirits I am raising. But day-in and day-out, motherhood is also a job. Everyone has bad days at work, and hardly anyone likes their job all of the time. It’s funny, because if I had a traditional job that I grew weary of, I wouldn’t feel guilty. But when I grow weary of some parts of motherhood, Guilt is quick to descend.

But by a tender mercy of the Lord, the words “maybe it’s okay” recently began running through my mind on repeat . . .

Maybe it’s okay if you don’t desperately want to make sound effects for toy trucks all day or convince a stubborn child to shampoo his hair. Maybe it’s okay if you don’t want to bend over that bathtub for an hour or dig deep into the couch in search of goldfish crumbles and who-knows-what. Maybe it’s okay to pursue a hobby or passion outside of your children. Maybe it’s okay to watch the clock and wonder if bedtime will ever come. Whatever it is—maybe it’s okay.

And maybe, just maybe, God doesn’t expect you to like every moment of this job.

I’ve been trying so hard to savor this time in my life that when Guilt whispers that I should enjoy thinking up yet another wildly imaginative bedtime story, I just want to give up altogether.

But slowly, I’ve arrived at a new, more attainable goal: When my children have gone on to bigger and better things and left me to refigure life without them, I hope that the beauty of these years will stand out more than the mundane.

The smell of a newborn’s breath, the feel of a baby’s squeezable legs, the sight of outstretched toddler arms. Those are the things I want to remember forever. And with a little luck, the number of times I wiped down the kitchen table (and didn’t enjoy it!) or insisted that a child clear his own plate (and didn’t relish it!) will start to fade.  I may not enjoy every minute, but I trust that He’ll help me remember the ones I did.

And maybe that’s okay. 

Happily linked up with Grace at HomeThings I Can’t Say, and At the Picket Fence.

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Alana @ Domestic Bliss Diaries May 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Oh, boy, I can definitely relate to this one! I feel guilty when I can’t come up with, yet another, super-creative craft project or I don’t cut my kid’s sandwich into something “cool” like monster truck or dinosaur. {I do have a boy, after all}. And I feel guilty for not WANTING to do those things. But, you’re right: maybe it IS okay!

Great, and much needed, encouragement today!!
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Erica {let why lead} May 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Thanks, Alana! Crafts are my downfall! haha

Layla May 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Love that quote. You are a great mother and I think it is totally fine and healthy when you have days that you are just not in to it. My biggest fear of being a mother is that I will be the worst mother that ever existed. I talked this over with my therapist and she was more than honest with me. She told me that there will be days that are going to suck and days that will be amazing. She explained that since I am not a mother yet, I can only imagine how those days will be, and when they do happen it will be a million times more intensified that what I can imagine.

You are great.
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Nat May 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Erica,

A friend of mine posted this blog post of yours to facebook so while I don’t know you, here I am writing you this message. You are a great writer. This message left me with a feeling… not everything you read leaves you with a feeling. The phrase “maybe that’s okay,” is an excellent source of comfort. I have watched many of my girlfriends raise their children and take to heart that very message on different levels. Some of them feel that nothing is okay to let slide and feel enormous guilt for the smallest of things. Some, are more carefree and seem to feel that joy is found when you do what’s right, but you don’t require perfection in yourself or raising your children. I am not a Mother, but I hope to one day be. This blog post, as well as my years of observances of Mothers have been drops in my training bucket that I hope to always remember after I have entered into that phase of life. I am a tidy person and somewhat of a perfectionist at heart and allowing children to reign on my very well-controlled environment frightens me just a bit, but somehow I still feel like I have the courage to try.

Like you, I know that God doesn’t expect me to like every minute of my job. Right now, my job is at a desk 40 hours/week and it’s not always my favorite thing. My husband is often gone for long periods of time and I’m left at home by myself after work. Maybe it’s okay if I just have cake and ice cream for dinner. Maybe it’s okay if I take a candle lit hour long bath. Maybe it’s okay if I don’t have the energy to do the dishes after work. Maybe it’s okay to do some hobbies that only benefit myself instead of serving others.

Whatever our life circumstances are, it’s bound to not be easy all the time. But I’m almost certain it’s okay to be happy about each day for what we did right and for the blessings it provided us.

Thanks for this thought today Erica.

Erica {let why lead} May 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Nat – I am touched by your comments and I can’t thank you enough for sharing your thoughts. I agree wholeheartedly that whatever stage we’re in, we have to accept that we can’t be everything to everyone all the time. There is no one path to becoming the people we want to be.

As a wife and mother , I REALLY struggle with being able to let go of perfect control over my environment. It is man vs. wild over here! But I’m slowly learning to relax, and I’m trying to gently teach my children the value of a tidy home. And I’m pretty sure God is teaching me how to loosen my grip on control and enjoy life a little more in the process. As thoughtful and deliberate as you seem to be from this comment, I can tell you will make a wonderful mom!

Leah aka FFPMaMMa May 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Visiting from Imparting Grace’s link-up. I will be honest. I love what you have to say, but am struggling with being “called” to be a mom. Are some moms just moms and not called by God to be a mom? I don’t feel “called” to be a mom, but am doing my best to embrace and obey what God has currently placed before me.
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Erica {let why lead} May 18, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Leah, thank you so much for your comment. I thought about it all day yesterday. All I can offer is my two cents. :) I feel in my heart that every woman that God sends children to is called to motherhood, from the women who bravely choose to give their children to other mothers via adoption to the women who welcome those babies into their homes. The big catch is that a lot of times it doesn’t FEEL like a calling. It feels like a job! Sometimes without a light at the end of the tunnel. haha. But parenting with the end in mind and having faith that God will help us see the vision of it does bring me comfort. The “vision” might not come now—or even soon—but I think it comes in small doses to all of us who are looking for it. I’m hardly one to talk, though, because I am definitely still trying to catch it! :) Thanks again for commenting, and I’m excited to get to know you better through your blog!

Erica {let why lead} May 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Hey again, Leah! My thoughtful cousin added some more thoughts at the bottom of this post. Her name is Alaina. Check them out if you get a sec!

Jolynn May 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Great thoughts. This is something I definitely struggle with too.

Ashley May 17, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Wow, Erica. This is probably my favorite post yet.
I can think of many of my own, “maybe it’s okay” moments. And I especially love your quote at the top. May I print it?
Love you!

Erica {let why lead} May 17, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Of course! Do whatever you want with it! haha

Thanks so much, Ashley!

Alison May 17, 2012 at 9:01 pm

What a wonderful post. Being a mom can be hard, especially in the storm of the toddler years. I don’t even want to think about teenagers! You know you are going to really miss the high points, but in the dregs of the lows, it’s easy to wonder if it’s worth it. It’s hard work, and thank you for pointing out that we don’t always have to like it! I know when I had an official job, there were certainly times I enjoyed it and it was rewarding, but there were other times when I hated it and resented it. Now that I am at home, sometimes I miss it. I guess what I am saying is I can relate in a lot of different ways.

Also, I got a hydrangea for mother’s day and it made me think of you. I am thinking of trying to pot it so I can have it year after year, but I don’t know if it will survive in this hot and dry weather. What would you recommend?

Erica {let why lead} May 18, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Thanks, Alison! About the hydrangea, I wonder about potting it and then keeping it inside by a window when it is especially hot. I’m no expert, though! I also know they like some shade, and what has worked for mine is just a whole lot of water. :) I should mention that I’ve read before that gift-type hydrangeas don’t last as long because they’re made to produce a lot of blooms in a short time. I potted a gift one before that I enjoyed for several months, but then it withered up. But the few months were still worth it! Good luck!

susan@avintagefarmwife May 18, 2012 at 12:52 am

Ahhh, honey! Don’t feel guilty. Of course, you don’t love all the chores of motherhood. You do love your babies though , and that is what is important!
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Erica {let why lead} May 18, 2012 at 1:20 am

Thank you, Susan. Honestly, it means a lot to hear that from a more experienced mom. I really love your comments; they’re always so upbeat. Thank you!
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Brenda @Triple Braided May 18, 2012 at 1:21 am

Erica, I love this post! Is is strange that I already feel this way sometimes? All I want is a big, big, big cup of coffee! Then I feel guilty for not just enjoying pregnancy and for complaining! I know I have so much to learn!

Also, I wanted to tell you that I can’t remember if I replied to your message last week I think. Things have been a little busy around here, and I haven’t been online and writing as much this week. BUT, if I didn’t respond thank you! I can’t believe that it is still cold where you live, and yes, I feel the same way – if we lived in real life together I think we’d have such a fun friendship! But we can be online friends and maybe one day we can meet for real! :-)

Thank you for this post that makes me feel o.k. – and normal!
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Melanie May 18, 2012 at 5:11 am

This is so great! Of course I don’t always love being a mother. Does anyone love it every moment? And I think you’re absolutely right that it’s okay. I hope I’ll remember more of the joy when I look back on my life as a mom of 5 little ones.
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Amber May 18, 2012 at 5:56 am

Oh Erica how I love you so :) This was one of the most beautiful things I have ever read, and for me personally it came at a moment I needed it most. I have always admired your mothering skills and your love and patience towards your children…. and it is reassuring to me to know how hard it is for you too, and the guilt, oh the guilt! I’ve had a lot of tears lately because I don’t feel I have been living up to the expectations I’ve set for myself as a Mother. Thanks for sharing such wonderful thoughts and giving me a nudge in a better direction. Keep sharing your talents! Love you!

Amber May 18, 2012 at 6:08 am

This is my last comment, I promise :) …..I just read this to Peter (and bawled my eyes out this time) and he suggested you submit it to the Ensign. I agree :) It’s just a suggestion, but honestly Erica, this really is an inspired piece of art you just wrote. It was certainly an answer to my prayers, and I’m sure it could help so many others.

Shell May 18, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Such honesty here.

I love my boys, I love being a mom… but I don’t always love all the small details that go along with it… and I think that’s okay.
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Jackie May 19, 2012 at 12:48 am

Oh Erica, what a beautiful post. I can so relate to what you shared here, and those own feelings of guilt for feeling frustrated, angry, bored, and such have led me to have a few of my own mini meltdowns. You have hit the nail on the head though, it is all right to have bad days. It is all right not to want to play Candyland for the 100th time or listen to Laurie Berkner Band for the 4oth time.
Thank you!

Kendall May 19, 2012 at 2:30 am

So sweet, Ek. I love how you’ve put it! And don’t forget how much you love the pinch of baby belly. ;) There will be two little babies for you to come visit in June!

Leslie A May 19, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Erica, I am just on the cusp of re-figuring my life. My whole world was being a mom for so long, and while I miss having little kids (yes, I’m serious!), I am also excited about new possibilities and opportunities. My kids are now ages 13-21 and you are so right…we need to appreciate the treasured times and not hold ourselves to some unrealistic and unattainable standard of perfection when it comes to being a mother. I used to feel so guilty because of certain things I just didn’t do with my kids because it wasn’t my style. But the mothers who did those things didn’t do some of the things I did do with my kids (that is almost a tongue twister!) We need to stop comparing and judging and look towards pleasing the Lord as a mother and be worried about what is His standard most of all :)
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Missy | Literal Mom May 19, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Very nicely written! I don’t think it’s just a “maybe” to have those feelings. It’s totally normal AND ok. God knows how much you love them. Parenting is HARD, no question about it.
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Erica {let why lead} May 21, 2012 at 1:54 am

Thanks so much for your comment, Missy! I think what surprised me about parenthood is just how often those feelings come! :) Have a great night!

Danijela May 21, 2012 at 1:11 am

Amen! There are many nights that i go to bed, wondering how tomorrow I could be a better and more patient mom. I wake up the next morning and it starts all over again. Then I wonder, how will I get through this day… My children are the sweetest, most generous, compassionate little girls in my life. So when its gard for me, I remember that because of ME, my girls are the way they are.

Becky K May 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm

I love this. I can relate so well. And I’m going to adopt your words, “Maybe it’s okay.” Great thoughts all around, Erica. Motherhood is filled with beautiful moments and “you’ve got to be kidding me” moments, often wrapped within the same hour – or minute. I want the beautiful to override the mundane in the end, too. Thank you.
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Ashley Ditto May 21, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Beautiful, Erica. Just what I needed today!
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Alaina May 23, 2012 at 8:19 am

It’s totally okay. And I love to read all the comments as much as your beautiful post!

I’ve been thinking about motherhood as a “calling” today and here’s what I’ve come up with sofar: almost any woman can birth a child, making her a mom in technical terms. But to care for, nurture and train a little soul while trying to be better as a person yourself (come on, lots of “moms” don’t check their anger or sacrifice their own comfort) is fulfilling a role – a calling – so much grander in the Lord’s plan for families. I guess this doesn’t answer whether God specifically “calls” you to this role, but knowing they are His children makes me at least want to magnify and fulfill this calling better than I might do if I let straight up biology rule my actions toward my children (which would mean lots of yelling and physical punishment around here, haha).

Erica {let why lead} May 23, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I know, right? I was so touched by all the sincere and thoughtful comments on this post. That one about the calling has had my head spinning for days, in a good way! Your response is perfect. Nurturing a little soul and improving yourself at the same time is the best way I know of to accept and fulfill the calling. No matter who you are, I think the “calling” of motherhood changes you, somehow. And how you respond to it shapes you.

As a caveat, I know there is no one answer, because there are SO many different kinds of mothers. Thanks for your thoughts, Lainy!

Shelley @ Calypso in the Country May 24, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Well put, Erica. The guilt can really get to me at times too. My kids are the most important part of my life yet sometimes I think I will just lose it. Mine are at the age where they are fighting with eachother all the time but I just keep reminding myself how fast the time is going. Then of course I feel guilty for being mad…such a cycle!
-Shelley
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Amy May 29, 2012 at 2:52 am

I wish I could be a mom, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening for me anytime in the near future. Maybe that’s okay.
Thanks, Erica! XOXO
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Erica {let why lead} May 29, 2012 at 3:24 am

It is so hard to accept “maybe it’s okay” in that situation. I have no answers, but my heart is with you, Amy! Thank you so much for commenting! (And call me ANYtime, girl!)

Debra July 27, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Wonderful post… I appreciated reading your thoughts this morning! I needed to hear that!

Allison May 8, 2013 at 1:35 am

I saw this linked on fb, and when I clicked on the link I was pleasantly surprised to find a terrific article written by someone I know! The post really resonated with me, as I’m sure it does many others. Being a mother is not always glamorous and often monotonous…yet it’s easy to feel guilty when I have those thoughts. I read something recently that has helped my try to find more joy and purpose in the monotony: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/motherhood-is-a-calling-and-where-your-children-rank
But like you, when I’m sweeping the kitchen floor for the 4th time that day and trying to keep my kids from killing one another, maybe it’s okay that I’m not loving every moment.

Erica {let why lead} May 11, 2013 at 4:13 am

Hi Allison! It’s wonderful to hear from you!! And thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I’ve read that post too and absolutely love it. Through this blog I often hear from old seminary friends, and I love how now that we’re all out of high school and have grown up and become moms, we have even more in common than we did then. Motherhood is such a bonding, unifying experience, because we are all doing so many of the same things and trying so hard to be our best. My best to you and your cute family!! Thanks again!

Nina September 25, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Umm, just stumbled across your blog and had to leave a comment: THANKS.
That’s pretty much it. The post is beautiful and spot-on, the comments are just as encouraging and wonderful. I used to think not loving every moment of motherhood meant I didn’t love my child as much as I should (guilt!). So grateful for other moms who share their experiences!

P.S. Also, I try to remember the time Christ went out in a boat to take a nap so that the crowds wouldn’t bother Him. That verse stands out to me now that I’m a mom…

Erica {let why lead} September 25, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Hi Nina! Thank you so much for your sincere comment! You are among some amazing women here in the comments section, and I agree – It is incredibly comforting to know that so much of what I experience as a mom is shared by so many others.

And hello, that scripture is perfectly suited for moms! I will feel less guilty about my powernaps now! Sometimes we just need to take a little time to refocus and fill ourselves back up. Even Christ did. Thanks for sharing that!

sandra dixon September 26, 2013 at 3:38 am

as an older mother who’s children have left the nest I can testify that all the drudgery of motherhood never comes to mind any more and I am left with the wonderful memories, the good days, the important days , I loved being a mother I love my children and now my Grandchildren

Erica {let why lead} September 26, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Sandra, thank you so much! I love hearing the perspective of women who, down the road, remember and cherish the wonder of motherhood. Best to you!

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