How To Be a Mom When You Don't Want To

There are certain things we don’t say out loud. Sure, we’ll walk right up to the line, but we quickly walk back any statement that comes across too harsh.

Put moms together and we tell our struggles, but not completely. And when we do say something negative about parenting, we come back with “Of course, I love my child and wouldn’t trade her for anything.”

Of course, you love your child. Of course, I love my child. Of course, we all love our children.

We always feel the need to say that to make sure that anything else we said isn’t misconstrued.

But this space is different. This space is designed to let us give words to what we’re feeling in our souls.

These feelings may or may not last for awhile. Sometimes we experience them on a particular weekend when it all feels like too much. Sometimes we’re overwhelmed with all the mothering momentarily.

Then there are those times we have extended periods of disillusionment with it all. These times are tougher to get through. So here are some suggestions to help you when you have thoughts in your head you know that if you said them out loud, you would definitely add “Of course, I love my child.”

how to be a mom when you don't want to

Realize these thoughts are normal

We all know the happy mom who never complains about her children or parenting. I used to have a friend like that. To make myself feel less inadequate compared to her, I told myself she was actually really miserable and someday would acknowledge it.

I don’t believe that anymore. I think she was one of those women who loved being a mom.

But, I think she’s the exception, not the rule.

It’s easier now than it would have been for our mothers or grandmothers to express our frustrations and irritations with motherhood. Most of us have peers who at least let out the superficial statements of dissatisfaction with their mothering life.

But remember that even if others don’t express the depths of their struggles, you’re not alone.

how to be a mom when you don't want to

Simplify your mothering routines

If you’re trying to do too much to be the perfect mom, let that go. Your kids will be fine with macaroni and cheese from a box tonight. And they’ll be fine this weekend if you let them fall asleep on the couch and not worry about the perfect bedtime routine.

You may need to take a set period of time off from some of these things, letting your kids know life when life will be back to normal. And some of these expectations you put on yourself? You need to give them an extended vacation.

Your mothering abilities are not defined by what you do in these area, but how you are as you interact with your children. If you can be more patient and loving even though the laundry isn’t perfectly organized, know that your kids will talk about who you were with them when they recall their memories.

Sneak in small mothering breaks

Sure, a girls’ weekend (or week!) away would be fantastic. But what if that’s not possible?

Pick something that gives you a moment to yourself, even if it’s just that, a moment. Set up some routines of things that are special to you and indulge.

When my oldest daughter was a baby, I remember thinking that if I could just take a bath, my day was under control. That bath, whether it’s when your baby is napping, your preschooler is coloring or after everyone has gone to bed, can be your break.

Do your best to go to the grocery store by yourself. For goodness sake, even a dentist’s appointment where you take time to stop for coffee on your way home can get you away from the draining routine of dealing with your kids.

Talk to yourself

When you’re alone, give yourself permission to say some of the things you’re feeling out loud. Maybe it’s just speaking to the empty passenger’s seat while you’re driving or maybe you record your thoughts and play them back to hear your own words.

Whatever works for you, let some of those thoughts out.

Talk to a professional

There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that you need more than just a little bit of help here and there. Sometimes we get stuck in our thought patterns and another person’s insights can help us change our way of processing our lives.

And be willing to do this sooner rather than later. Don’t suffer inside your own head when you can get some guidance to move you through this place more quickly.

If you don’t have a relationship with a mental health professional, talk to your primary care doctor about a recommendation. Most women who experience these feelings are dealing with the normal ups and downs of being a mom. However, if you’re struggling long term and consistently, don’t keep waiting to just snap out of it. Ask for the help you need.

Write down your Mommy wins

Whether it’s a gratitude journal or if you would like to use the PDF I’ve created for reminding yourself that you’re a good mom, (find that here), writing something down makes it more real.

Yes, it’s one more thing to do, but it’s also an important something that will make a difference. There’s never been a time I’ve tried making a list like this that it hasn’t improved my outlook.

No, it didn’t make everything perfect, but it did make things better.

Confession Time

Honestly, I’m writing this advice to myself.

My unexpected, late-in-life surprise daughter is eight. And lately, I’m ready for her to be 18 and going to college. I’m 51, my older kids are gone and my friends are all empty nesters. I want to have an empty nest.

But I don’t. And I won’t for a long time.

There, I said it outloud. Well, at least to you, silently, but preserved digitally for all time.

But that’s why I started this blog, to give voice to parenting moments that need a space to speak. This is your place, too. Please comment with any thoughts you’d like to share, your struggles or successes.

And most of all, remember you’re a better mom than you realize. Even when you don’t want to be one.

If you’d like to find a community of older moms online, sign up to receive the Older Moms Survive and Thrive Newsletter with ideas and inspiration on Managing Motherhood in Midlife.