“I was never the type of person that wanted a lot of kids. In fact, for a long time I didn’t want any at all. The thought of changing my entire lifestyle to suit the needs of someone else just wasn’t something that appealed to me. But as I got older, I found myself surrounded by friends with kids. Despite feeling constantly overwhelmed, they, to my surprise, seemed incredibly happy. Over time, I began to rethink my opinions and decided to speak on and off with my husband about the possibility of having children. We decided that in terms of kids, two was the magic number.
Nevertheless, my first child wasn’t planned. At 22 years old, newly engaged, and even more newly enrolled in college, I discovered I was pregnant. The journey of trying to decide whether or not I wanted to keep him was the most stressful time in my entire life. Whenever I confronted the question of when I wanted kids, I had always said, ‘Once I have my degree and settle down.’ The thought of raising a child that young terrified me. At the same time, the thought of going through an abortion scared the crap out of me.
I never knew what I’d be like as a mother. Like many moms-to-be, I had my fair share of I will never’s. I knew I didn’t want to be like my mother. She did the best she could, but I just wanted to do better. In pursuit of that, I lost myself. I had this confined idea of what a mother was. This perfect mother that society had painted in my head. The mother who had all her ducks in a row. Her children were always well put together and well behaved. The mother whose children drank organic kale smoothies every morning and began reading at 3 years old. It’s hilarious now that I think about it, but for a while that was my life. It entirely consumed me. Sadly, it took me four kids and almost 8 years to realize that picture-perfect motherhood didn’t exist.
I’ve had some form of postpartum depression with all three of my older children. There were entire years where I didn’t recognize myself. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. I had months where killing myself seemed like the best solution for everyone around me. Days that I went on pretending to be someone and something I wasn’t because I had convinced myself it was who and what I was supposed to be. And when I couldn’t live up to these standards, then I felt I was obviously not good enough and my children deserved better. They deserved a mother who could.
After some of my darkest days, lost and not really sure where to be found, I turned to Instagram. I hoped to find someone, anyone, who could put to words what I had been feeling. After all, it was a vast sea of people, pictures, inspirational captions, and glimpses of life. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, my Instagram searches only took me deeper into my depression. I was bombarded with mothers spewing and reinforcing the image of motherhood I was so desperately trying to achieve. Failing every time made me feel like even worse of a mother. I said to myself, ‘How could all of these moms get it right, but I can’t?’ What was I doing wrong?
After months of battling my depression by myself, I decided it was time to speak on it. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone. I needed to know I wasn’t alone. So, I started my own blog. And it was this that started me on my path to creating my own image.
Having children, no matter the number, is overwhelming. You are literally forced to change your entire life around for someone who, in a lot of instances, shows you no gratitude. Your life is constantly turned upside down overnight. You’re not sleeping, barely eating, and your entire being is shaped by this tiny little human that is totally depending on you for survival. If that isn’t daunting, then I don’t know what is.
I want other moms to know these feelings are normal. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be overwhelmed or frustrated. Motherhood can be alienating. It can be hard, and then rewarding, and then hard again. To add to this, there is way too much mom shaming going on. It’s almost as if you’re obviously a bad mother if your life doesn’t look like the fake pictures on Instagram.
I’ve gotten countless disapproving head nods and strange stares when I’m out in public with my kids. The reasons are endless. One day my kids are acting out too much. The next they are too loud. Maybe it’s because I let my 7-year-old run in the store for ten seconds or my three-year-old is wailing for some candy. Sometimes even the mere number of my kids can spark the disapproving head shakes.
In America, having more than two children is frowned upon. Being black with several kids is not only frowned upon but causes many to think I’m a single mother using the system to raise my children because my so-called baby daddies aren’t around to help. Yes, apparently, I must have multiple of them.
When I gave birth to my youngest, Koehn, the nurse at the hospital asked my husband, ‘Are you the father or just the one she’s pregnant with?’ Who does that and why? And how was that question, which seemed more like a desperate attempt to covertly acquire hospital gossip, supposed to help assess my medical needs? How would it help to better take care of me or my child? It couldn’t. But, yet again, here was another stranger who felt the need to assert their own insecurities onto me.
In the beginning, comments like this hurt. It was disheartening to the point where I stopped going out in public with the kids by myself. I hated all the staring and the assumptions everyone made. Either my husband went to get groceries or we all went as a family. But as time passes, I’ve learned to ignore it more and more. Everyone has their own issues, and who am I to judge? It’s honestly only driven me to be nicer to other mothers. It’s driven me to appreciate and fall in love with the mother that I am.
I’ve been the mom who felt alone and judged in the store. I’ve been the mom who felt inadequate as a mother just because of a complete stranger’s disapproving look. I don’t want to make another mom feel that way. So, when I go out in public and see another mom, I always try to give some words of encouragement. I’ll often make a joke or offer to help them if their kid is acting out. Just whatever I can to let them know I see them. Like, really see them.
I know it’s not much, but I hope it leads them to do the same. You can change the world by changing those around you. Why stop at my kids?”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jazmyne Futrell of Mixed Mom Brown Babies. You can follow her journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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