I remember when I was the perfect mom, you know, before I had kids. It is so easy to say what kind of mom you will be before you have kids, but the truth is you have no idea and, honestly, it really hurts our experience as mothers when we have unrealistic expectations. Having unrealistic expectations brews resentment, disappointment, and self hate, while we could just live in the truth of motherhood, the dirty, difficult, but absolutely beautiful in it’s own right, motherhood. I wrote this to share my experience as well as hopefully prepare future mamas for the reality that is motherhood so they don’t experience the unfortunate shift in reality a lot of us go through.
I think the most important point that we often do not consider before becoming mothers is that we cannot control who are child is. You can do everything “perfect”, but each child has their own personality, tendencies, ways of doing things, and own struggles. We forget that babies and toddlers are just little humans with their own personalities and ways of seeing the world. Regardless of what you do and how you parent, you may have a very “difficult” baby or you may have a very “easy” go with the flow baby. This is their personality (or temperament) and we don’t really have a say in it.
Along with their own different personalities comes different ways of dealing with things. While it helps to be knowledgeable about child development and behavior management, some kids are going to have tantrums. Some children have sensory processing disorders and get overwhelmed. Most toddlers will develop separation anxiety and stranger anxiety and, to a certain extent, this is completely normal. You can’t parent to prevent this. You can however parent to be supportive and consistent, but that’s another conversation.
The other thing is the expectation that we will be super moms before we ever even become a parent. This false ideal of being a super mom creates terrible disappointment and mom burnout. Parenting is EXHAUSTING. It is the most mentally exhausting thing I have ever done (and I taught a room full of toddler for five years. Parenting is different. It is constant). There really is no break, even if someone gives you a break, you think of your child pretty much constantly. Becoming a mom changes everything. Do not expect to be the same productive person who does it all when you become a parent. Actually, don’t expect to be the same person at all. Your child will be your biggest teacher in life and you absolutely will change and that is okay, embrace it. While you eventually will get into your own groove as a parent, there is a huge adjustment. I thought I was going to be able to build my business, keep the house spotless, take care of my young crazy dogs, maintain a thriving marriage and be an amazing, ever-present mama. Oh boy, was I wrong. It took me about eighteen months to really settle into myself as a mother and figure out the balance of being myself and a mother as well as a part of society and that is also okay. We don’t have to figure anything out right away and I just wish someone would have told me that.
Mothers Supporting Mothers
We all know the saying if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all, but what about if you have something nice to say? I feel we live in a compliment and support deficient society. Some may have the opposite view and think we compliment too much and complimenting is a new thing we’re doing that is “ruining our children,” but I disagree. While, I don’t think it is very healthy to fill your children with false praise (hello confused little narcissists), I do think women, especially mothers, have to start complementing each other more. One time someone told me I was a cool mom (how basic right?!), but it truly made me feel validated in motherhood. I thought “oh my god, I’m not coming off as a complete disaster?” It truly made me feel like a better mother, which in turn REALLY MAKES ME A BETTER MOTHER.
What would we look like as mothers if we had more shared and supported pride in our roles as mothers?! What compliment would change your view on this messy life of motherhood? Who would’ve known I just needed to hear that I seemed like a cool mom. If you have something kind to say that you truly mean, just say it. You really may be validating a new mom and giving her that extra little boost of confidence she needs to really own her new role of motherhood. Look, I know all the arguments, and sure we should be secure in ourselves and find our own path of self validation, but, please, let’s be real. Motherhood is rough territory to really feel sure of yourself, especially in the age of perfect insta moms and the never ending stream of parenting dos and don’ts. If you have something nice to say, please, just say it.
In the current design of western society, mothering is something that often happens in a home secluded from society with just the mother and children. I truly believe this is not what mothering is suppose to be or should be. We need connection with other humans, especially other women. We need to feel connected and valuable within society and no matter how much we love our children, they alone cannot provide that. However, if we begin to shift motherhood to something we experience with other women with the support of other women, mommy burnout, feelings of worthlessness, and a the loss of sanity will mostly float away. So let’s be the change and forget the norm and really just start connecting with each other. Spread the love, we all could use it.
Have you heard the term “Crunchy Mom?” It seems to be a growing label and group among modern mamas. I myself would consider myself a crunchy mama (as you may have guessed by looking at my website). I want to provide a base definition of a crunchy mom as well as look at the discussion around the label in order to help mamas find their tribe, find their own niche as a mama, and also gain more understanding of mamas you may not totally get or agree with.
A “crunchy mom” is a woman on a quest for more information. A mom who is environmentally, health, and socially conscious.CrunchyMoms.com
CrunchyMoms.com defined a crunchy mom as a conscious parent and I found this very fitting. I think those who would consider themselves crunchy mamas aim to be just that, a more conscious parent; in all or most areas of parenting.
Crunchy moms are modern mothers who are more natural minded and explore alternative paths and approaches to parenting.
As I see it, Crunchy mom is a modern term to refer to more natural minded mamas who tend to do their own research and explore alternative paths and approaches of parenting. I’ve heard quite a variation of definitions of a crunchy mom, including some I would consider insulting, but I would never consider the title of crunchy mom as an insult because even if one does not agree with the approach, we must respect mamas who are just trying to do their best and care for their babies the way they think works best for them.
As the definition of crunchy mamas varies, I know my definition may be much broader than some, but I think it is important to be as inclusive as possible and to include any mamas who are even interested in learning about the crunchy mama ways, as I think that is what the crunchy mama tribe is all about; sharing education, approaches, and support so we can all be our own best version of a mother.
Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest. -Debra Ginsberg
A mother’s body remembers her babies-the folds of soft flesh, the softly furred scalp against her nose. Each child has it’s own entreaties to body and soul. -Barbara Kingsolver
When you’re pregnant, you can think of nothing but having your own body to yourself again, yet after having given birth you realize that the biggest part of you is now somehow external, subject to all sorts of dangers and disappearance, so you spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how to keep it close enough for comfort. That’s the strange thing about being a mother: until you have a baby, you don’t even realize how much you were missing one. -Jodi Picoult
Thus far the mighty mystery of motherhood is this: How is it that doing it all feels like nothing is ever getting done. -Rebecca Woolf
Her eyes were open, taking in my tired face… Her face twitched into what looked like a squinty smile, and in her wordless expression I saw gratitude, and relief, and trust. I wanted, desperately, not to disappoint her. -Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Having kids — the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings — is the biggest job anyone can embark on. –Maria Shriver
When you hold a child to your breast to nurse, the curve of the little head echoes exactly the curve of the breast it suckles, as though this new person truly mirrors the flesh from which it sprang. -Diana Gabaldon
Being a mother is like being a gardener of souls. You tend your children, make sure the light always touches them; you nourish them. You sow your seeds, and reap what you sow. -Karen White
The danger of motherhood. you relive your early self, through the eyes of your mother. -Joyce Carol Oates
I think it’s worth trying to be a mother who delights in who her children are, in their knock-knock jokes and earnest questions. A mother who spends less time obsessing about what will happen, or what has happened, and more time reveling in what is. -Ayelet Waldman
Why You Are Wrong About My Parenting
I am SO tired of everyone’s comments on my parenting, and apparently, I’m not the only one. Being a part of a few crunchy/natural style parenting groups on Facebook, I see it everyday. The mom crying for help because she is tired of arguing with everyone about her parenting style. I’m not sure why everyone is extra keen on commenting on the mom who is trying to attachment or gentle parent, but it needs to stop. And here is why.
First off, I am mom and know my child best. I spend basically all my time with this human and know all about her. I think you, who has never met my kid or seen her a few times, has no reason to think you somehow know what is better for her than me.
2. No, I’m not spoiling my kid
If you’ve read any current research on parenting or child development, you would know how important attachment is. I am focusing on my child’s attachment and well being, and no, I am not spoiling her. Love does not spoil a child, got it?
3. No, My child will not be stuck to me forever
You know what doesn’t make needy kids? Kids with their needs met. Meeting my kid’s needs (physically and emotionally) will enable her to feel more able and independent in the world. She doesn’t need to learn to be without me, she needs to learn that she is safe and cared for in the world so she can pursue her own life and not worry about her needs being met.
4. I Need Support
Parenting is hard enough. Even if I was doing something wrong, criticizing me is not the way to help. Present me with your reasoning and maybe we can talk, but in the end, what I really need to be a better mom is support, not your advice.
5. It Feels Wrong
Even if I decided to suddenly follow your parenting advice, I wouldn’t be okay. I parent from the gut and do what I feel is best and natural, so if I follow your advice now I know I wouldn’t feel myself.
6. I Didn’t Ask.
Need I say more?
“Motherhood: All the love begins and ends there.” ― Nitya Prakash
5 Books Moms Should Read
(That Aren’t Parenting Books)
This book is great to gain a perspective of how Parenting forms our children’s world and how they view the world according to how we describe it to them. I think it’s also an important story to understand all our children really want from us is love and approval and beyond that they are willing to forgive our imperfections.
Girl Wash Your Face is a great motivational book about motherhood, life, accomplishing goals, and balancing it all. It is a relatable, light and funny read that has a lot of suggestions and guidance on improving yourself as a person and mother. Great for a working mom.
As one of my favorite writers, I think this is a must read. Not as light or easy as the other suggestions, but definitely a great book for a deeper reflection on the mother and daughter relationship.
As a busy mom, I love that I can just pick up this book, open a page, and find a relatable quote or poem. It really helps with the “am I losing my mind?” of motherhood. It will make you laugh, cry, and say “oh my God, I know.”
Michelle Obama talks about a lot of issues mothers face from infertility, balancing a career, and fitting in healthy eating as a family. I love how even though she’s a powerful and accomplished mother, the book and her motherhood experiences feel so relatable. The book will empower you to pursue your own happiness and fulfillment while also deciphering what’s best for your family.
Motherhood by Sheila Heti
Hunger by Roxanne Gay
“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are”. – Max DePree
We all know the struggle of dealing with society’s pressure on us as parents. All the dos, don’ts, and mismatched suggestions we hear daily, but what about our expectations? What can we do when we aren’t living up to our OWN expectations of who we want to be as a parent. We all have this magical, not-so-realistic vision of what we will look like as parents. Some of us more realistic than others, but for the most part we had this dream of being a well put together parent who never loses their cool and always knows what they are doing. Now that we are parents, it’s hard to even catch a moment to reflect on how we are being affected by our expectations not matching the reality of parenthood. Maybe we wanted to be screen free but now grab the screen for a second of sanity or wanted to be the chill mama who always keeps her cool but now catch yourself snapping more often than not. Regardless of what it is, it is important to make sure your expectations are realistic, but also that you are meeting your own expectations. Here are a few suggestions on how to make those expectations a reality and get a little closer to being the parent you actually want to be.
P.S. Go easy on yourself mama. Just loving your kids is the most important thing you can do.
Physically write down and visualize the parent you want to be.
Do you want to be calm, give clear expectations, limit screen time, have dinner as a family? Write it all down and be as specific as you can be.
Don’t fear being inconsistent while transitioning to being a better parent. Give yourself time to adjust, accomplishing one or two shifts at a time.
They don’t even have to be parenting related. Sometimes the best way to be a better parent is to give your mind a little break from being a parent. I noticed I was getting really impatient and frazzled around bedtime and nap because my little one takes forever to fall asleep, but it was a parenting goal for me to rock her to sleep. I started listening to podcasts while doing this and immediately improved on my patience and attentiveness because I was no longer focusing on her falling asleep. I think she also noticed I was less focused on it and she started falling asleep easier as well! Not to mention, it’s been so good for my soul to listen to something I’m interested in outside of parenting.
You can also listen to parenting podcasts. They are helpful for not feeling alone, getting advice, and sometimes a good laugh.
There is no shame in seeking professional help. Sometimes all you need is someone outside of the situation to talk to in order to get some clarity and make improvements.
A mom tribe is essential in maintaining sanity. Seeing that NO mom is perfect helps you feel less stressed and relieves some of the anxiety around being a “good” mom, which actually makes you a better mom. Just remember you don’t need to try and force a connection with someone who you don’t relate to. Try to find someone who is in a similar life situation and parents similar to you.
Planning how you react to a common issue in your household will help to prevent a bad reaction that may not fit into your “ideal parent” mold. For example, my little one was exploring random screaming. This obviously frazzled me a bit and I found myself reacting in a way that did not align with how I wanted to be as parent. I thought about it and made a plan of action for when she does this. I decided to identify what emotion she may be trying to express and give her an alternative: “it sounds like you are wanting to express how you feel, if you are excited you can clap your hands and say yay.” She quickly got over the screaming phase after addressing it calmly a few times.
When I feel myself approaching my limits I ask my husband to step in. Enlist anyone you have, even if they might not do things exactly how you want. As soon as you find your calm you can step back in and address anything that may not have been how you wanted it.
If no one is available it is okay to tell your little one “mommy is feeling overwhelmed and needs a moment to calm down.” Even if they aren’t happy about it in the moment doing this is amazing role modeling in teaching children how to calmly deal with their emotions.
As a family, decide what you want your home to be like. Clearly write out and post these expectations, even if they are just for you to read. It will be a nice reminder of how you want things and help you to be consistent with everyone. It will also help any co-parent to get on the same page with their approach.
If your expectation is stressing you and has not been realistic, change it. It is okay not to meet all your expectations, we really have to choose our battles as parents.
Keep positive ideas about your child in your head as often as possible. Viewing your child in a positive light will help you feel better about their actions, allowing you to react in a more positive way as well as set your children up to succeed. Science has confirmed the self-fulfilling prophecy is true. If you tell a child they are a certain way, they will act that way a majority of the time.
You got this mama.
I am so excited to pursue this passion of writing and motherhood with a community of amazing parents.
I am so grateful for the support that has lead me to have the opportunity to share such a beautiful and mess journey.
My hope for this blog is to connect with other mothers, show they are not alone in this journey even in the most ugly difficult and dirty parts, and encourage the not so beaten path of crunchy motherhood and alternative parenting.
My crunchy parenting has arrised out of years of caring for others children, a background in psychology and mental health work and most importantly a Master’s degree in Child Development focused on Infant and toddler mental health, so pretty much everything I encourage in the parenting journey is backed by current research around how our babies grow.