If there is anything I strive for here, it’s honesty. Without sensationalising anything, without trying to turn it into a competition. Without being pitying, patronising or trying to speak for others. I don’t always achieve it, I’m sure, but that’s my aim.

I have found motherhood hard, in ways I least expected. I’ve found some days, weeks a real struggle. I am quite certain it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It might not be *the* hardest job in the world, but the world is subjective, not objective.

I have always found a frustrating thing about being a woman is the defining one’s decisions not by what they mean to that woman but how they are better than the next woman’s. It started probably at school. Everything is a competition; it’s value not in itself but in what it is not. Everything is defined in extremes.

It started with horrendous periods for me, I think. Each other girl either had no pains, therefore firmly believing that no one could use period pains as a reason for not doing something, or, your period pains are nothing compared to mine. Mine are dehabilitating. You might have been vomiting at the doctors out of pain Rachel but I pass out every month. You must be mistaken, thinking you have it bad. Mine is bad. Mine is the only definition. Ergo yours must not exist.

Fast forward through pregnancy. Continue through birth. Here we are at motherhood.

I find motherhood hard. Ah, but Rachel, you are not a brain surgeon. Maybe if you were, you’d think motherhood was easy. Or, like the lady at the park told me, we are only sent the children we have the ability to deal with. Your Pip seems fairly good tempered. Mine is far worse.

Worse still is the judgment from others without children. Everyone pregnant thinks everyone saying motherhood is hard must somehow be deluded. That they will be different. Those without children think that of course it can’t be that hard. Hell, I was one of them. I know differently now. Everything is easier with a clear mind and a reasonable amount of sleep. And the definition of hard is subjective. (and don’t underestimate the toll that never switching off duty or peeing with the door open takes on your ability to think straight).

The thing with motherhood, I found, was the dichotomy between reality and expectation. Overnight, I was expected to be brilliant at a job i had never done before, on no more than 3 hour sleep at a time, often less, immediately following an overnight marathon. The boss will shout in a tongue I cant comprehend, seemingly randomly, handing out indiscriminate praise. Seven months later I am expected to have worked it all out, despite bouts of feeling like utter worthlessness as a mother. These days will be tempered by days when I feel on top of things and those days will drag me through the sh.it ones. The boss meanwhile still gives incomprehensible instructions & gives me hell when I don’t work it out fast enough. I wasn’t expecting this. I thought I’d cope better. My hormones had other ideas. My expectations didn’t take into account the reality of the way tiredness, concentration on seemingly mind numbing tasks and constant alertness affects the mind.

In a way, it’s like seeing something in a picture or on tv before you go there. You can picture it, you can recognise it both beforehand and in retrospect from the images you saw. And yet, in the experience, it’s totally different.



  1. I think those of us who haven’t been there, and can therefore never really quite understand how it feels, no matter how much we may think we can at times, are really grateful for honesty like yours. Being presented with a falsely sugar-coated version of reality doesn’t help, you know? It only deepens resentments across the divides, I think. Because ultimately, everyone is just trying to do their best, muddling along as best they can, and struggling from time to time to just manage to keep their heads above the water. (Although, not everyone can bear to admit that to others, or even to themselves.) I suppose I cannot understand what motherhood feels like, but your description of that feeling of feeling utterly worthless and useless at something you believe others think you ought to be able to do effortlessly, is one that might have universal resonance. It certainly resonates with me.

    Motherhood is immensely difficult, my dear. Of that I have no doubt. But I certainly hope it starts to feel easier very soon.

    1. As I am sure you know, I wasn’t trying to make the point that non mothers don’t understand, just that as an experience, it isn’t quite how it seemed it would be, for reasons which are specific to the experience.

      I think you’re right, in whatever our circumstances, we are all just trying to get through whilst enjoying it as much as possible and attempting to keep afloat.

      I think I’m going round in circles!


  2. Thank you for this post, motherhood is hard. My son is almost three and I am constantly challenged by the ever changing role, each stage requires a different approach. I have driven myself insane reading about how to help him get through tantrums, being bilingual, first day at crèche etc and often end up feeling worthless, useless and incapable. I am also guilty of comparing myself to others and thinking they are getting on so well, it is not at all what I expected but motherhood has to be the thing I have worked the hardest at and the rewards are great, most of the time! We need more people to be honest about it, merci for that!

  3. Yes yes yes. All of it. So hard still, I am afraid to tell you at 15 months. Easier and harder all the time.

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