Dear 100 Hour Board,
If I’m honest with myself, children don’t bring me joy but according to scripture they are a heritage of the Lord and happy is the person who has many of them. I have two children with one on the way. I don’t hate them, but I feel like instead of bringing me joy and making me realize who I truly am, I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself, I knew who I was before I had kids (first born when I was 27), and my body is less strong and will never function the way it used to. I do not have depression. How do I become one of those moms who just loves children. My husband works 70 hours a week in Fall, 50-60 in the Spring, and has lots of time off in the Summer. Raising children has brought mostly stress. And as the years go on there will be worry about their well-being on many levels. Are there scriptures I can read about finding the joy of parenting? I feel like I’m either not made correctly or not being righteous enough. I am a stay at home mom who sometimes has musical outlets. I do not want to get a job. Hopefully there’s someone else out there who feels like me.
-My Name Here
You, dear reader, are a mother. That is an incredible feat. It means you are strong, you are a lover, and you are the hardest working kind of person on the planet. Mothers are really the backbone of society. Your question tells me that you do love your children deeply.
But love and joy are not always synonymous.
Children are stressful. They are messy and loud and often disrespectful. They demand constant attention, require unmatched responsibility... and often, it may seem there is no reward. They may not say "please" or "thank you" or "I love you". They might take forever to learn to potty train. They may fight and complain and make your life difficult. Your task list on a day to day basis is nearly incomprehensible, and chances are you won't get everything done. Your body isn't the same as it used to be... but you have created 3 new human beings and brought them into the world... and that's amazing. You may not feel like you know who you are anymore... but you are still yourself. It's just been a while since you've had time to think about that.
You are also not alone. Even mothers who have always dreamed of having a family feel stress all the time. And that is why I say that love and joy are not the same thing. You love your children, but they will not always make you happy. It may be a long time before you really get to experience the kind of joy that is mentioned in the scriptures. Especially while they are young, kids will more often make you sad, frustrated, exhausted, angry, and anxious than anything else. But those feelings do not mean there is not also love beneath it all.
Someday, your kids will be teenagers and you'll feel angrier and more upset and more disappointed. But those feelings do not mean you don't love them. Those feelings do not mean that you are not a good mom, or that you aren't righteous enough, or that you are doing something wrong.
I imagine that like nearly all parents, you want the best for your children. I imagine there have been moments when you have watched them learn to walk or speak some of their first words, learn to read, start school, etc. that made you smile and feel happy. My best advice, though I currently do not have any children of my own, is to document those moments that you find that do bring you joy. They may be rare, but they do exist. You may do this by making scrapbooks and taking pictures, or by writing things down in your journal, or by making slideshows with music of your kids. It may even be as simple as trying to think of one thing that day that your kids did that made you smile. Maybe they played nicely together for a while or tried to help with dinner. Perhaps they did something silly. Does they way they wobble when they walk make you laugh just a little? Did they tell you they loved you today?
The stress of being a mother is overwhelming. From the sentiment expressed in this question, it seems that when you look back and think about your experiences, that is the dominant feeling... which makes sense, it's probably what you feel most of the time. So do most moms. But I think trying to remember the times that your kids have done something (even small, that lasted only a few seconds) that has made you smile will perhaps help you see that your kids do bring you joy, just in small packages. Some days this will be easier than others, but I do think it's possible.
Someday, they'll go off to college, they'll move out, and you will have time to really focus on yourself again. Until then, I asked a couple of moms I know about how they maintain their identity while being a mother, to help them feel happier and less lost:
- Set goals, but don't beat yourself up if things get in the way
- Listen to music you liked before you had kids. Dance with them and see them enjoy your music. This helps connect your identity with your kids
- Find other moms to talk to. You can vent and feel like you understand yourself better
- Go on dates with your husband
- Listen to podcasts & read books to keep learning
- Accept motherhood as a new part of who you are, but not as a replacement of who you once were.
- Do things that used to make you happy, but also find new ones
I think it's also a good idea to keep things in perspective. When they fly the coop, you'll miss them, and more likely than not, you will probably (mostly) only remember the good things. It seems that many of the women who feel like you do ultimately do feel joy... it's just a long time coming. You will have learned things you could not have learned anywhere else and felt emotions unlike any other. I believe when the scriptures tell us about the joy of parenthood, they certainly don't mean all the time. Most of the things we do or choose not to do, do not bring immediate joy or gratification. Rather, that comes much later, but we will realize that it was worth everything it took to get there.
Best of luck, friend. I hope some part of this helped you feel a bit more at peace. I don't have kids, but my mom has 10... and if you email me, I could ask her some more specific questions. Over the years I've found her insight particularly helpful.
That sounds really stressful, to be honest. I think it would be hard to be on your own for over 50-70 hours per week for the majority of the year, even if you love your kids to death. I don't think I know anyone so righteous that they wouldn't experience diminished capacity for enjoying their kids in your situation.
You are not alone. I'm aware of many parents who feel like you. As a parent, I understand what you are feeling because I've felt that and I know my wife has felt that.
You need some time to yourself. You knew who you were before you were a parent. How? You spent time getting to know yourself. It sounds like you aren't spending enough time to get to know yourself. I know that sounds like adding one more thing to the list of chores you have to do as a parent but try to find a baby sitter once a week or once every two weeks and do something for yourself. If you like playing board games, find another person or couple to play games with, maybe your kids can play together. If you like music, try something with that like joining a community choir. I recommend Utah Voices for fun, broadway-type songs (directed by one of my favorite people on Earth), Sterling Singers for spiritual and uplifting songs, or Lux Singers if you really want to work with some very talented singers. I'm not as knowledgeable with orchestras but most of these choirs need orchestral help at some point.
Basically, you need some time away from your kids every once in a while to discover yourself again. It will help you enjoy yourself and your kids more. I know that's easier said than done but if you make it a goal or a priority you are more likely to do it. If you have family nearby who will babysit for free, do that. If you need to hire a babysitter, try budgeting for it so you have money set aside specifically for this time alone. Talk it over with your husband too and maybe do something together (not every time but sometimes). Don't feel bad about needing time to yourself. Getting to know yourself as you are now will help you endure the harder times a little better.