Losing the Joy in Being “Mom”

I always knew I wanted to be a mom—not because I harbored a need to prove myself to be better than my birth mom or because I needed a tiny human who would always love me. I wanted to be a mom because there was something inside me that yearned to be one. I have always had a love for children, and I wanted to be able to bring a little one into the world to love, care for, and guide—someone who would also teach me and help me grow to become a better person. I have always felt like my life began at two, and that I was never given the opportunity for a true beginning of my life—one that seems to bring so much joy and excitement to so many parents, and one that so many look back on as adults through pictures, baby books, and family memories. I felt in my heart that I would be a good mom—I truly did.

When my sons were younger, being a mom felt so easy and so natural. I delighted in all of the joys and amazement that new life brings and felt so much love and pride for my sweet little guys. I continue to be so in love with my sons and so incredibly proud of them and who they are. However, as the years have passed, I have gradually found myself losing the joy that I once felt for being a mom.

I first noticed the change when my oldest was diagnosed with special needs and learning difficulties. As I took him to appointments and attended teacher meetings and IEP meetings, I started to feel as though I had failed him—I felt like his special needs and learning difficulties were my fault. I didn’t know what I had passed onto him genetically and I started to question my abilities as a parent. Did I read to him enough? Did I really do enough when he was younger to help support his development? Was I really a good mom, or was I just in denial? I seemingly had found myself with a son who I felt like I didn’t know how to parent anymore. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t understand what he was going through and, because I didn’t have the struggles in school that he was having, I felt like I no longer knew how to help him or be the parent I had always hoped to be for him. I saw my dreams for him slowly fade away. While I still absolutely have great hopes for him, and truly feel he will achieve amazing things in life—it saddens me to know that the journey will be one with great struggles—those of which I have no doubt he will overcome.

A number of years ago, I wrote about my struggles with my youngest. I wrote about his rages and the hours I would endure of his kicking, punching, screaming, spitting, and throwing things at me—among other things. I wrote about attempting to get help for him and having him test in the clinical range for aggression and other behavioral issues, and then being told by the so-called “experts” that there was nothing they could do for him and that he would grow out of it. I still think back on that day with great disgust and anger. At that time, I was truly afraid of him and had, on numerous occasions, contemplated calling the police on him during his rages. I remember wondering if these “experts” had ever truly experienced what it felt like to fear their children or the sheer terror of watching your normally very sweet child go from the most loving little guy to someone completely unrecognizable and being pushed to the point where you are literally fearing for your life.

His rages are now very few and far between, but I often wonder if I will ever gain a handle on his behaviors. I often cringe at the thought of having to leave the house, because the simple process of getting ready for anything can have him escalating from zero to two hundred in minutes. I feel like I have tried everything, but it seemingly never changes. There are certainly some days when I, thankfully, don’t feel like I have run a half marathon after getting him ready, but those seem to be few and far between.

I am tired.

I am exhausted.

I feel like I am slowly losing the joy that I once felt for being a mom. I am sick of fighting. I am sick of yelling. I am sick of saying things I shouldn’t say and don’t mean because I no longer have the fight in me to even attempt to filter my comments anymore. I am sick of having horrible mornings and sitting at work absolutely consumed with guilt over what a horrible mom I have been. I am sick of lashing out at the people in my life who love me and try to support me because I don’t feel like I deserve to be loved or supported.

I am sure by now a number of you are thinking I am a horrible person and don’t deserve to be a mom. It’s so easy to judge when you haven’t been through it, and it’s so easy to believe that you would do things differently if you were in the same situation. I know I make mistakes, and there are certainly things that I could have done differently. This certainly was not the life as a mom that I had dreamed and hoped for. I love my kids more than life itself and I would do anything for them. Truly. But, it’s hard to find joy in being a mom when you are constantly being beaten down, told that you suck, that you’re hated, that you are the worst person in the world, that he wishes you were never even born, and then having glimpses of hope that are later dashed. How do you find joy in being a parent when you literally are brought to a place where you look at your child and think, “I love you so much, but I really don’t like you right now.” I know you are supposed to love being a parent and everything that comes with it, but I don’t love being made to feel like a piece of crap every day by someone you do everything for and would give your life for. How do you find joy in that?

I know that many people will think that I am wrong in sharing this struggle so publicly, but I know I am not alone in this. Some parents will never admit to losing their joy, and others talk about it openly and are told they are awful parents as a result. I try really hard to be a good mom to my sons and I work hard to make sure they don’t want for anything. I love my sons. I cuddle with them. I laugh with them. I cry with them. I teach and never stop learning from them. We have grown so much together.

Though some days certainly have driven me to the point of wondering what could have been, I won’t ever regret bringing them into this world. I will continue to fight the fight and I will continue to weather the storms with them. I will fight to hold onto the glimpses of joy, but I will also allow myself to say that parenting really sucks sometimes. I won’t ever be a perfect parent and I will continue to make mistakes and say things I shouldn’t say (though, I will try very hard not to). But, I will never stop loving my sons. I will never stop telling them and showing them that they are loved and that I am so incredibly proud of them. And, even though horrible mornings happen, I won’t ever stop taking the time to cuddle with my sons or talk things through with them at the end of the day or tuck them in every night with a hug and an “I love you.”

Though the joy sometimes slips away, I refuse to lose hope.

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9 thoughts on “Losing the Joy in Being “Mom”

  1. I have followed your blog for a long time, and reading this post I was moved to tears. You are not alone. You are a GOOD MOM!!! You are growing strong men who will be stronger, better people from all the storms you weathered with them. You are not the only one who struggles, and I am grateful for your honesty in sharing just how hard it is for most of us on a day to day basis. I wish you respite and peace. I wish you healing and a break from the constant waves crashing over you. I wish you refreshment and joy. I wish you a strong support system who takes care of you as you are taking care of them. I wish you the peace that passes understanding and joy that comes in the morning.

  2. Trudie says:

    Christina, this is fantastic! It’s time to be real in sharing because it is the only way we can reach and support folk at a point of need. We always talk about the nice, the fun and the happy – this is real life and we are all living it. I applaud your strength in wanting to help other parents by sharing on a deeper level . . .

  3. your honesty is so pure. I appreciate it and know others will. things have been super hard in your parenting journey. we hear all about the mush of mommyhood but not enough of the ‘ WTF’ side. your newest fan— beth o’malley

  4. Camilla Krone says:

    I have these moments, too. I know that my twins’ problems stem from pre-natal exposure to alcohol and lots of early childhood trauma (separation from twin, one in a poor orphanage with serious health problems that were resolved surgically when she was one year old; the other living an unstable life with a teen birth mom from whose custody she was removed just before the girls’ fourth birthday). My girls were joyfully reunited at the orphanage. I gulped and expanded my adoption process from single child to siblings (as a single first-time mom in her 50s!). And a year later I brought my beautiful daughters home. 18 months after we became a family, testing for ADHD (which was evident) revealed that my girls had FASD and were developmentally disabled. I hadn’t expected this and still didn’t know just what it would mean. FASD is a complex and ever-challenging set of symptoms. Extreme ADHD, dysmaturity, anxiety, impulisivity, along with some physical challenges (vision for both, large and small muscle coordination for the other) and learning “delays,” But they aren’t delays. What they learn, they don’t retain. And they are easily frustrated. They don’t know why they should get up and get ready for school right now because they don’t understand the consequence that we’ll leave the house late and they’ll be tardy for class if they don’t get ready NOW.

    Sometimes I can afford and find help for a few mornings a week. Other times not. Some days (like today), I litterally wash them in the tub, brush their teeth for them and rub lotion on the prematurely pubescent 9-year-old bodies. The more affected twin sometimes won’t dress herself independantly, although she is capaple of doing so when she decides to. Then her sister needs to get equal treatment while I still need to get myself dressed for work and all of us out the door by 7:10 in the morning.

    I have also “remembered when.” When I was free to travel, to go out to restaurants, concerts, museums. When I had friends to do those things with. I used to take groups of students to various foreign countries for semesters abroad. I was good at my job. I had a nice home where everything wasn’t everywhere and either spilled or broken. But I’m lucky. My kids aren’t dangerous (so far). I have many friends whose kids are. And they are loving a lot of the time, so we snuggle, read stories, and talk about things. And I love them so very, very much!

    But I’ve also said things a mother should never say when I’ve been desperate, exhausted, ashamed of my work, my parenting, my inability to get things together at home – my overall fatigue and perhaps somethign akin to PTSD. So thank you for sharing your experiences and your feelings. I feel understood and somehow validated even as, like you, I strive to find ways to scoop up the good moments in order to build up my strength for weathering the very difficult ones. Peace!

  5. Ina says:

    As my Dad told me once: “You know, finally, when your children are grown-up enough that you can have a serious, real conversation with them, once they are no longer in their anti-everything-years, once they are really cool people you want to hang out with – that’s when they move out.” You will push through. As will your kids. Being a family is the most trying and rewarding experience there is, so your hope is justified.

  6. Hi Christina,

    I work with families wanting to adopt children and am also a mom. Your words are invaluable to those who are parenting and to those who are considering it. I am grateful for your honesty in expressing your deepest angst and hopes as others gain support from you.

    You sound like a very loving mother who continues to greatly nourish your children’s needs. Trust me, it will pay off!

  7. Hi Christina – There is hope for kids with explosive behavior! Have you read “The Explosive Child”? It’s a parenting book with tips on how to handle a child with an explosive temperament. We saw a child psychologist who recommended this and it was a life saver (we had been kicked, bit, pinched, etc. by one of our kiddos). Also, Xanax can be used with kids. We used it only when we knew we were headed into melt down zone. And once the kiddo learned how to be calm in trying times, we didn’t need to use it so much. And we made sure to run the kiddo ragged. Exercise reduces aggression and anxiety and increases endorphins that lead to happiness (read: fewer rages). Good luck in using some of these techniques.

  8. Social Worker Guy says:

    Hi Christina, I am a social worker and family therapist and work with many families in child protection but also around adoption of children from those families.

    Thank you for being so honest about your life experiences. I have been reading your blog for a while now. I use it to sometimes help me gain perspective on what people on the other side of the fence MAYBE feeling and thinking.

    I am saddened to hear that your experience with your children has been so challenging! The fact that when you went to those “experts” and they palmed you off is frustrating to hear. Sometimes when an “expert” palms you off it is because they really have no clue what to do and lack the skills necessary to help you. It can feel easier to do this than admit you don’t really know what is going on or how to help. Which sucks for people going to them for help.

    You come across as a genuine mum who loves who children dearly. Your post has made it clear that you are certainly having issues. I am not sure if this is appropriate or not but perhaps you may want to hear a few suggestions. But before that I want to make a distinction between ability and worth. Ability is a person’s capacity to complete a task successfully and their knowledge of what is required to do said task well. Worth is given just by the fact of being human and is not connected to ability. People often struggle with that, when they perform poorly they feel bad about who they are, when in reality they are separate. Often this difficult shows itself in feeling judged when someone offers suggestions around ability or skills. This is suggestions to help you improve on your ability and I do not challenge you as a genuine mum who loves who children.

    The experiences with your youngest is concerning to say the least. You have described a great many struggles which have left you feeling “I feel tired, I feel exhausted”. Good parenting is an ability which is a skill set that people mostly learn from their parents. Most “raging” from children comes from difficulties in being able to self-regulate which is a skill children get from a parents parenting ability but also their ability to self-regulate. I don’t know you, your situation or your children so what I say is only a suggestion. Perhaps it would be useful to seek out some assistance from people who actually know what they are talking about in regards to children but also families. Particularly in the areas of parenting but also maybe looking into your own strategies to manage your emotions. Getting this kind of help is useful and I have work with many families who just didn’t have a good amount of parenting skills for what ever reasons. To me it doesn’t matter if skills are lacking. Genuine mums and dads do need some assistance from time to time. It sounds like you could use some professional support to help work our your family dynamics so they can be more healthy. I would suggest either a psychologist (trained in family therapy) or family therapist. If that is not possible, resources on healthy family dynamics and parenting maybe helpful but are not as useful without professional support.

    I hope you do reach out for help as you are certainly worth it and so are is your family.

    Finally your desire to hold on and keep fighting for your family is very inspiring! The world certainly needs more parents willing to fight for their families. Just sometimes “certainly including me” we all need some guidance about where to deliver those punches and kicks. Otherwise we end up just hurting ourselves.

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