The Hardest Part of Motherhood Isn’t What You Think It Is

The Hardest Part of Motherhood Isn’t What You Think It Is


Friends of mine had an adorable baby recently. He’s a month old and pretty darn cute, and yeah, I can admit it: I’m a little jealous.

I’m an adult. I can handle it, dammit.

My youngest and last child is now three and living his best life, but I hold the memory of him — as well as that of his eight-year-old sister — as a baby in my heart to such an extreme that it’s probably permanent. Those baby days whizzed past me faster than my daughter zooms by on her big-kid bike—a beautiful blur of purple and black streamers and laughter.

Motherhood is many things. It’s beautiful and gives me purpose and life, but it’s also draining and has the capacity to crush my soul at any given moment. And while so many of those moments are seemingly mundane, it’s those moments that are hardest to let go of.

Mothers always think they’ll be so happy once their children become more self-sufficient. We think that once we’re finally done with breastfeeding or bottle feeding, bassinets, cribs, diapers, and onesies, we’ll be able to stop for two seconds and finally have that damned cup of tea.

But the truth is quite the opposite. The truth is that when your children need you and your magic snuggles less and less the older they become? That will break your heart in half over and over again.

Because the hardest part about motherhood is not the sleepless nights or the milk stains on everything you own or the constant diaper changes or the tantrums or the demands for the correct cup with supper or the middle of the night wakings.

The hardest part about motherhood is that your children have your entire heart in their balled up little fists, and they take it with them when they walk out the door.

Sleepless love

A mental reframing might be in order if you’re dying to sleep train your baby.

My own issues with sleep training aside, there are so many reasons to embrace those middle-of-the-night snuggles with your baby. The first is that they kinda need it.

The second is that you might need it, too. Your sleep-deprived brain just doesn’t know it yet.

Babies cry for us because they need our closeness. A few nights ago, my toddler cried out for me for the first time in the middle of the night in I have no idea how long, and nothing would have stopped me from flying into his room to scoop him up into my arms. Wolves couldn’t drag me away from my baby.

The reality is that kids only really need their mothers for comfort and the feeling of safety for so long — snatch those moments up and pull them close to you. If your three-year-old needs to be snuggled for a few minutes after a bad dream in the middle of the night, take the opportunity to hold your usually-squirmy, rapidly growing baby with all your might. Love them ferociously.

Soon they’ll comfort themselves, and it will probably happen before you’re ready. Scratch that — you definitely won’t be ready.

Don’t blink

My daughter is eight going on eighteen.

And a half.

She’s independent and so alarmingly sure of herself that I worry kids in her school will think she’s a snob. But that’s a silly worry, because she has a huge circle of true friends who rally around her and love her exactly as she is, and her self confidence is impressive. She excels in school and socially, she’s a butterfly.

I don’t know when she stopped needing me and started fighting against my parenting, but it’s damn near constant these days. I’m not joking when I tell you that I am terrified about her teenage years.


She’ll be headstrong, bold, and beautiful, and I’ll desperately want to protect her from those who will invariably want to tame and control her — from men who will want to possess and domesticate her.

I know it could happen, because it almost happened to me. Thankfully, my own headstrong, bold, and beautiful mother brought me back to reality.

I’m afraid to blink; afraid to breathe. My baby girl is growing up faster than I could ever have imagined and I’ll never get that giggly little girl back. That’s just not how the world works, and it breaks my tender heart.

Yes, she’s growing into a beautiful, unique person, and she makes me belly laugh daily. She’s beautiful. She’s as perfect now as she was when she was knit together inside of me.

But she’s growing up, thank God. And part of that is that she’s ever so slowly and ever so painfully growing away from me — and that’s okay. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

But I’m broken a little bit more every day.

The shelf in the closet

I have a special shelf; all moms have a special shelf.

My shelf, which is currently housed in my son’s closet, contains the baby things that no longer fit into our no-baby world: a Pack n’ Play, a few soft and worn sleep sacks, footie PJs that are too small but still in great condition, bottles, sippy cups, and soothers.

The soothers do me in. I remember rocking my babies at night, watching their sleepy little eyelids flutter closed as they were nestled so comfortably and safely in the arms of their mother, soothers slipping out of their mouths — a cue that they were completely relaxed. Once that soother was falling away, it was time to lower them into their very-safe cribs and enjoy a few hours (hopefully) of sleep.

My shelf holds all the baby days that I’ll never get back. It holds middle-of-the-night snuggles, developmental leaps I wasn’t ready for, bedtime routines, and peekaboo games. It holds all the times that only Mommy would do; the hours that it was just me and my baby.

The shelf is a looming threat; a promise that my days of baby snuggles are over and my toddler days are numbered. My daughter, who once held my pinky in her entire hand as she drifted off to sleep, now requires a single hug at bedtime. My active toddler likewise prefers running hugs and flyby kisses to the quiet snuggle-sessions we used to enjoy.

The treasured moments on the shelf in my son’s closet are waiting to be packed up and given to someone new; they’ll be replaced with big kid things, probably. Soccer balls, hockey skates, board games, and books will take the place of soft sleep sacks and tiny socks.

It’s natural for the baby things to give way to the big kid things, but the truth that no one tells you is that you’ll be both crushed and delighted by your children’s journey to adulthood. It’s a wonder.

Childhood expiration

I have yet to experience the heartbreak of my child choosing their partner in life, obviously — my oldest is only eight.

I can imagine it, though. I pray they won’t choose the wrong people for themselves, but it’s always a possibility, and if divorce rates are any indication, it’s more of a plausibility.

But even if they pick the perfect people and skip off into the sunset with their chosen loves, they’re going to leave my family and build a new one. Sure, I’ll be part of that family, and hopefully I’ll be a big part of that family. I want to be the grandmother that makes the best cookies and gives cryptic, wise advice to my grandkids that they’ll carry with them forever.

Who wouldn’t want to be such a talented sage? A gal can dream.

It’s harder to imagine life without my babies being little, though. It’s hard to think about growing old and dying and my kids having gray hair by my bedside, laugh lines and crow’s feet defining their faces as we endure my final moments together.

When my mother-in-law died, it was rough. I hadn’t yet met her as my husband and I had only just started dating, and she died young — but it wasn’t sudden. That made it worse.

Cancer. I don’t need to explain more than that — it’s a bitch. In the end my husband couldn’t be by her side and I think it tore him up a bit, not that you’d ever really know (he’s stoic to a fault, sometimes.) But I know what she was thinking of as she left this earth. I know the images in her mind and how warm she felt as she held them.

I know that she pictured her three boys as bubbly, giggly, soft babies. I know she pictured them running around and causing trouble as toddlers. I know she remembered how it felt to hold them close, to feel their rapid hearts before they zoomed off again.

I know this because I’m a mother.

When she left us, she was with her babies in all the best ways, even if they weren’t all with her — even if they aren’t babies anymore. She probably cried about the days she would miss, the grandchildren she would never meet, and the days of motherhood she’d left behind. Even as I write this, my eyes are brimming with the same tears, because I understand her.

I understand the soul-crushing realities of motherhood. It breathes new, incredible life into you while simultaneously chewing you up and spitting you out.

And I’d have it no other way.

A heart in the hand

Motherhood is the single most confusing life experience I’ve ever had.

From what I’ve observed, experiences are generally chalked up as either “good” or “bad,” to varying degrees. First kiss? Good (if you’re lucky.) First paycheque? Excellent. Last day of summer vacation? Bad. Picking the best apples at the store only to drop them immediately upon entering your foyer? Weak sauce.

But motherhood? It’s awesome. Sometimes I look at my kids and cannot believe they’re mine. They’re too perfect and smart and funny to be mine, but somehow, they are and I’m in awe of them daily.

Motherhood is also awesome in an entirely different way. “Awesome” is defined as “wonderful, impressive; excellent.” It’s also described as “causing awe or terror; inspiring wonder or excitement.”

I can’t think of a better definition of being a mother.

Motherhood is tough for lots of reasons. You get exactly zero sleep for the rest of your life. You are constantly battling attitude issues and boundary testing. There’s so much uncertainty and worry because you know so much of your children’s success is rooted in how you parent, and you want more than anything in the world for your kids to grow up happy, successful, and knowing they are loved.

You love them with every little part of you, and it’s exhausting.

The hardest part of being a mother isn’t the lack of sleep or your child’s unwillingness to eat anything that isn’t the color of a Goldfish cracker. It isn’t your teenager’s sassy backtalk or your baby’s collic. It isn’t your stubborn toddler’s fight against the potty or your breastfeeding trauma.

It’s that they have your entire heart in their tiny, careless hands, and that tenderly beating heart of yours will never belong to another living soul. It’s the small, seemingly insignificant moments that you’ll never get back. It’s your quiet desperation to hold them close to you, knowing you’ll never again have the kind of closeness you had when they grew safely inside of you. It’s the insanity of the mama bear that lurks just beneath the surface, ready to maul anyone who hurts a solitary hair on that perfect head.

It’s just motherhood. It’s beautiful, and it sucks.

This post was previously published on


All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.

Compliments Men Want to Hear More Often Relationships Aren’t Easy, But They’re Worth It The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex ..A Man’s Kiss Tells You Everything


Photo credit: Annie Spratt on Unsplash


The post The Hardest Part of Motherhood Isn’t What You Think It Is appeared first on The Good Men Project.

Back to blog