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Real Women, Real Stories: The Silent Struggle of Motherhood

Intro by Liz Kent: I had the privilege of being assigned to a Masterminds group last year for mom-business owners with some incredible women. It is hard to explain how inspiring it is to spend time with other women who are so motivated to excel in their entrepreneurial enterprises, but also to excel as moms. Sara is one of those women. Sara is a wife, mom to two boys, and runs an online nutrition and wellness business. Here is her story:

mom outside with her two young sons
Discover the raw truth behind the silent struggle of motherhood. A powerful story of strength, vulnerability, and the courage to ask for help.

When I first was pregnant, now 7 years ago, my attitude toward motherhood was much like my attitude on most of the things I’m not super confident about. I didn’t take it too seriously because if I did I would be scared out of my mind and it’s easier to make jokes at yourself than to realize you’re falling apart. That attitude of ‘winging it’ worked for my first son. Our family motto was ‘people much less prepared than us, do it all the time.’ My now 6-year-old was born headstrong. I figured with the arrival of my second son, 3 and a half years ago, it would be a cakewalk. I handled #1 well, I could take anything #2 had to throw at me. Boy, did we get a big surprise.

I set myself up with specific expectations of how this new person would show up in the world. With my first I had no expectations; I just went with the flow. But then as a seasoned mother of almost 3 years, I knew what I was getting into - NOT!! Now, don’t get the wrong impression. I am blessed that both of my children were born healthy, without any complications. My deliveries, while they make for an interesting dinner conversation, weren’t particularly unique, and I recovered well. I had no reason to complain. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself.

At my second son’s 4-week follow-up, we were struggling with sleeping and eating, but just the ‘normal’ struggle, as far as I was concerned. He was growing, and I was producing milk, so what more could I ask for? I had no reason to complain, so many other women would trade their own struggle for mine. My pediatrician, a mom of 3 herself, kept asking probing questions: ‘How are you doing?’, ‘Do you have any questions?’, etc… And I answered with short one-word responses.

I had no questions. This just sucked.

I searched every mom Facebook group for magic answers to my own questions: How do I get this kid to sleep? Why isn’t he eating better? How can I make life with a baby easier?

At our 6 week appointment, our doctor did the same routine with the questions. I finally broke down, and while I’m emotional at home, I was raised under a strict ‘show no fear in public’ mentality. But I cried--a lot--when she asked if I had other mom friends who could support me during this time.

I did, but I didn’t. I really had never felt more alone in my life. I totally lied to the doctor by the way, ‘Oh yeah, I have a girls' night planned this weekend’ LIE ‘I’m just really tired, sorry.’ True, but not the reason I was bawling in her office.

I just kept thinking: I have no reason to complain I have a nice home and a good Family Medical Leave from work. I have no reason to complain.

I kept invalidating my own feelings. That’s when I really started to change my perspective on the whole motherhood thing, or even just being a woman, really. I had started motherhood with 4 misconceived notions.

  1. I shouldn’t have to try too hard. If I try and fail it’s my fault. But I was seriously trying super hard--and feeling like a failure anyway.

  2. If I’m doing “it” right, all will be perfect. I set myself up with such high expectations of how things are supposed to be, then found myself, more often than not, being let down or beating myself up about it.

  3. My feelings don’t matter as much as others. I convinced myself that I didn’t deserve to feel a certain way. And if I did, I was wrong. Cue more berating myself and feeling like a failure.

  4. I shouldn’t need help. I let myself become an island. I didn’t ask for help. And when people offered it, I pushed them away, not wanting to admit I needed them desperately.

My parenting now, 3 years since that day, has changed. And my life has changed. The way that I parent, run my small business, function as a Registered Dietitian, and practice LIFE overall, is so much different.

I start each day trying to make that day the best it can be. Let’s be honest, some days are bound to be less awesome than others when you have small kids. I now only put expectations on myself, and I limit those to what I can control.

I expect myself to be open-minded, to listen to my body and intuition, to have a positive mindset, and to look for the good in every situation. My feelings are mine. No one, not even me, can judge them. If I’m having emotions or inner conflict, I know something needs to be dealt with, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else may or may not be going through. I’m still working on building community, opening up and letting people in, asking for help, and aligning myself with others who are of a similar mindset. But I know now that that’s okay. I’m a work in progress. We all are.

The silent struggle of motherhood can feel like drowning in an ocean of despair. Admitting we need help can seem like an insurmountable task as if it's just one more thing to put on the to-do list. The weight of shame, fear, and guilt can weigh heavy on our shoulders, making it incredibly difficult to reach out for support. Please know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it is an act of courage. It requires us to confront our innermost fears and vulnerabilities. When we acknowledge that we cannot do it alone, we allow ourselves to be seen in our most raw and authentic state, and we invite connection and compassion into our lives. We create space for healing and growth, and we pave the way for genuine connection and understanding. So, if you find yourself struggling, know that it's okay to ask for help. You are not alone in your journey, and there are people who care deeply about your well-being. Whether it's a trusted friend, family member, or professional, reaching out for support is the first step towards healing.

(Conclusion added by Meghan Seipp, 2024)


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