A "happy" mom's confession: I'm not so nice at home

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Home is not always a happy place. Photo by Amanda Warren.

Every so often there's a parenting article that totally shakes me — not because they're always something I relate to, but because they're so honest. This piece by Mindy Berry Walker is one such case. In it Mindy talks about the two sides of herself — the happy, energetic mom in in public, and the worn-down, bitter mom at home.

"You have such a can-do spirit," a school foundation member recently told me at a volunteer fair. "Mindy, can I just bottle up some of your enthusiasm?" a friend joked at the playground. At preschool drop-off, I often get, "I wish I could be peppy like you every morning." About the class parent meetings I organize, I hear, "How do you juggle this stuff like it's fun?"

Easy, I want to tell them. I'm a wreck at home. Moody, resentful, bitter — that's how my husband might describe me on those weeknights when he gets home after the girls are in bed. The house is quiet, but the chaos from the hours just prior — the refusal to eat the red sauce, the wrong PJs — hangs in the air. Sometimes I am too worked up to speak. I literally can't tell him a thing about our day because I'm spent from reading books, playing hide-and-seek, folding the laundry and pretending to be Mr. Potato Head with the purse, who sees a coyote but isn't afraid.

On good days, my girls go to bed and proclaim that this was the best day ever. I am able to conceal from them that the whole evening routine suffocates me. Being at home often makes me feel trapped, like the whole world is productively moving forward while I brush three sets of teeth. Once that feeling comes on, I'm steps away from guilt and anger.

What do you guys think? I completely admire Mindy's bravery — and I do consider it brave to be honest to this degree — in admitting the range of emotions she feels as a parent. Head over to Babble and read the rest and see what ya think!

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  1. I think that ALL moms can relate to this. We all put on a front in public and for our kids. It's refreshing that someone is telling it like it is. Kudos to Mindy…she's definitely not alone.!

    10 agree
  2. I doubt I need to even read the rest as what is published here sums it up for me very well. Emotionally and mentally taxing by the end of the day. Part of me just wants to walk away for a day break and not plan or prep or prepare for anything. But there is that other part of me that knows I couldn't do that because it's just not fair.

    2 agree
  3. I absolutely agree! Being able to really say how being a mommy-super hero can be draining though yes, it can be satisfying. Other times it's just tiring, repetitive and aggravating.

  4. i can totally relate to this. staying at home with your kids takes a LOT out of you…it's very hard to keep your own identity and not be lost to mommyhood. my future brother-in-law recently told me that he could never have kids because they suck your soul out. they really can, if you're not careful or if you don't have a strong constitution. don't get me wrong, i love my son to pieces, but it's grueling. i keep saying i need a break or i need a vacation. wouldn't it be nice. but of course that side doesn't come out in public. it's not anyone's business, really.

    3 agree
  5. As a mother with mental illnesses and a physical disability, I could have written this myself. Especially the presenting a front to hide my true mood and then once I'm 'off work', letting it all hang out in one big ugly mess.

    2 agree
  6. I think any time a mother expresses publicly that she might be just a little tired/frustrated/sad/angry/lonely, anything other than completely happy as a Mommy, it is brave statement that chips away at this essential motherhood bullshit that makes it so difficult to see women as whole complex persons. We have one kid and one puppy and they can bring me to my knees on a daily basis and I need support to get back up and do it again the next day.

    Maybe through this kind of honesty, motherhood will be treated like the brave exhausting choice it is instead of something women are born to do with a smile.

    53 agree
    • COMPLETELY AGREE!! I am thankful ro my mom because she didnt sugar coat that motherhood can be tiring. More ppl need to show it.

      1 agrees
    • I wanted to write something, and then you summed up what I was thinking so beautifully, so I didn't have to.


      2 agree
    • I think I'm going to have to quote that last line the next time I hear someone judging or belittling mothers.

      1 agrees
      • That's what I'm thinking too! This applies to so many aspects of the "normal woman's" experience. I am blown away.

        1 agrees
    • Yes, there are a number of stereotypes about mothers and motherhood – it will complete you, it will be the most satisfying and natural thing ever, your identity and needs automatically take a back seat and you won't mind etc.
      These mythical mothers often create doubt, guilt, and shame when regular moms don't experience this transformation or when they feel angry and frustrated. As Courtney commented perhaps realistic expectations and honesty would help dispel the myth and allow women to accept themselves as they are as mothers

      2 agree
  7. This reminds me of my mom. She's so giving and happy at work. She does everything for everyone and is willing to go that EXTRA mile for someone if they ask her. Everyone loves my mom. NO ONE knows that at home my mom is crazy.I love her , but she needs to cool it haha

  8. I can soooo relate to the author of this post. Sometimes I've wondered why I feel so upset and resentful and on-edge when I'm at home with the baby, but I am so happy and 'normal' out of the house. I think it is, for me, because when we are out and about, there is no time to feel resentful- we are moving and interacting and doing something! At home, doing mundane everyday tasks just feels like a chore, and I haven't talked to an adult all day, and it's so frustrating!
    I'm so glad I read this article, because it honestly made me feel a little more stable just knowing that other moms feel this way too.

    2 agree
    • Wow, this really gave me something to think about. I've always noted that my daughter is so calm and happy and easy-going when we're out and about, but can get so cranky at home. I feel just like you do, and I bet she's just feeding off my own feelings of being cooped up and bored. Thanks for sharing!

      1 agrees
      • Yup, this is why we spend hours going for walks each day. Just getting out of the damn house improves everyone's mood.

        1 agrees
    • In the full article, my favorite part is when she says "The happiness I feel outside of my house, though, is as genuine as the anger is at home. When I am at the park chasing my kids down the slide or zipping down the aisles with them at Stop and Shop, I'm good. In fact, I look back at the at-home me who was scrubbing the splat mat under the table with hot tears in her eyes just that very morning, and I can't articulate what I was so upset about except that it felt real."

  9. I can relate to the feeling of suffocation. I felt that way near the end of my maternity leave. I was home alone for 8 hours every day or more with just me and my baby. Barely able to feed and clothe myself, much less take a shower because she demanded every second of my attention. There's a sense claustrophobia and isolation from the rest of the world, not to mention exhaustion. Of course now I'm back at work and missing her like crazy. But I think every mom (and dad) feels this way at some point, which is why having support is so essential to parenting. I don't find Walker's essay shocking at all. More like 'Yep, that's about how it is.'

    2 agree
  10. Wow its like the universe opened up and dropped this little article into my lap…today on the way home from the gym I had an aurgument with my husband about naptime and going to the gym. He feels that we should just tote her around and make her conform to our routine and I want her to stick to hers (the one I have worked so hard at so that she sleeps at night). Well she ended up crying at the playgroup she goes to so that we can have alone gym time and I then proceeded to blame my husband for disrupting her schedule and not listening to me and then I shut down and had dark thoughts about how my daughter ruins everything and I am tired of it all.

    I know that these are temporary feelings but I can't help but be wracked with guilt over them because my daughter is wonderful and I know she can't help when she needs to sleep. I am a stay at home mom as well and everyday that I am home alone for 16 hours with a fussy, needy and demanding 15 month old is def an internal struggle to retain my sanity.

    Right now our battles are eating anything other than toast and sleeping thru the night…I know that in the whole scheme of things these are very miniscule problems but when you are waist deep in them it feels pretty crushing. Thank you for this, it so helps being able to share heartache.

    3 agree
    • I definitely think stuff like this is so crucial for Offbeat Mama to have — if anything, for comments like yours. I think this article is a great example of showing how it's possible to discuss the hard parts of being a parent without going too far into the deep end or wallowing in negativity, and I'm so glad that this is speaking to people! Awesome. :)

      1 agrees
  11. I so needed to read this today. I've been trying to find me after 17 months of being a parent and I only get a small sense of the old me when I'm out, even if its just grocery shopping. I hate being at home with my son even though I love him beyond anything in this world. It probably doesn't help that he's more like a two year old who won't listen and thinks its funny to dump food and drinks on the carpet, then a 17 month old.
    I love the fact that someone is feeling the exact same way I do and the fact that her husband is gone the whole day like my boyfriend, makes me feel like I'm not alone and that we can get through this. He gets mad at me for crying all the time but its way better then protraying my anger.
    Thank you for sharing stories about all sides of parenthood, not just the things that make us smile.

    1 agrees
    • Thank you for admitting you don't enjoy being home with your son. I feel the same way and I always wonder if somehow something is wrong with me. Somehow this burden is easier when it's shared, even if only by strangers on the internet.

      3 agree
      • Honestly, I really cannot suppress the sneaking suspiscion that there is something very essential to the addage that 'it takes a village.' I know we all want time with our immediate family but we've mostly lived in close communities (historically speaking) in which interaction is just an incidental reality that likely has served to more evenly spread the workload and give us moral and physical support. Being trapped in a house and only seeing your partner and kids seems like a recipe for disaster. I'd imagine this is why a walk or a visit from a friend can feel soooo refreshing.

        4 agree
  12. Thank you for posting this! Now I don't feel quite so guilty about being a crabby jerk last night… I felt like I could have thrown my husband, son, and dog all through a wall. It's good to know that I'm not the only moody mommy

  13. While I completely understand what this mom is saying, I can't say I agree with her method. I have my days where I don't want to be touched. So I put a little distance between me and kiddo. (I'm not saying I wont let him reach out for me, or that I wont hold him or care for him) I just let him have a little more playtime and I sit and read a book or do some meditation. I work on me. I think that only showing kids your cheerful side is detrimental, because it makes them wonder how anybody could be that cheerful all the time! I think showing kids that yes, we get tired and cranky and need space just as much as they do teaches them that all of us need to be respectful of each other's feelings.

    5 agree
    • I think this is a valid point. I feel like my sister (and myself to a lesser extent) grew up completely unaware of the fact that my mother also had feelings that could be hurt.

    • I think this and other issues that come along with this is really important. I didn't actually get to see my mom's real personality until I was about 13 or so. We're really close because we're very much the same, but sometimes it is difficult to remember that she has issues just like mine, and our friendship is not just a one-way street – I should support her too.

      Now granted this is some just general growing up, but I think that because my mom always had that mask, it was a bit more difficult to relate to her and to treat her the way I should.

    • I agree with this too. Moments like this are inevitable, but I feel like I have to keep gut-checking to see if my life works for ME… and if it doesn't, I have to make a change. Of course, I may feel differently when I have a toddler as opposed to a 6 month old!

  14. The wise woman Hunny recently quoted something to me that I have been using as my go to mantra for 'feel better about myself as a mom.' It was, "One reason we struggle with insecurity is because we're comparing our behind the scenes to others' highlight reel." Most of us put on our great mom face in public, saving for home a lot of struggle between consequences, together-time, me-time, adult-couple-time, tiredness, excitement and all the other facets of parenting. It is so easy to make the comparison between those two things but they are apples and oranges. If we don't think they *should be*, then that is something to think about, too. Personally, I believe in trying to keep discipline of my kids private while keeping my outward enjoyment of them both public and private; I think this is a big factor in how patient and collected I appear to other people.

    5 agree
    • "One reason we struggle with insecurity is because we're comparing our behind the scenes to others' highlight reel."

      ^^ YES!!

      3 agree
  15. Suffocating. The Word I'm looking for to describe everyday for me. I do not have a vehicle so I never leave the house, and when I do go out I'm so happy to see people that I actually associates and talk and be happy!

  16. I'm honestly glad that I'm not alone with this feeling. I feel overwhelmed with taking care of a 5 month old, a teenager who is virtual home schooled, and 3 dogs, that I never find a moment to myself let alone doing housework. So, my husband is always in a bad mood when he gets home from work.

  17. Sigh-this is why I have one child. For years I felt like a failure because I was a fairly unhappy mother. In a lot of ways my behavior has done damage to my daughter. I didn't understand that the way I spoke to her taught her really poor coping skills. I expected way more than a little kid could ever live up to.

    Now that she's older (and I am too), I feel more connected to myself. I have a good understanding of what drives me and my public/private selves are becoming more and more in sync. I feel that I have become more true to myself and I am definitely a better mother for it.

    My daughter turned 11 recently and I am in damage control mode now. I wasn't a great role model for her in some really critical ways, but I recognize that and hope that I can give her tools that I didn't have when I was growing up. She already shows a level of emotional maturity and insight that I didn't reach until after she was born. Our relationship is a good one-and emotionally honest in a way that I never had with my own mother.

    Of course, unhappiness is normal! Parenting is frustrating! All of what the writer describes is likely recognizable in some form or another to all parents. However, I would suggest that if a person's unhappiness is intense and ongoing, that there is something underlying those emotions that can be adjusted. No one should have to accept that they will be unhappy until their children grow up.

  18. I feel so lucky that my husband stays home full time while I work. His personality is just way more suited than mine to the never-ending tasks of taking care of a baby. I try to give him as much of a break as possible in the evening when I get home from work, but even those few hours is sometimes just totally overwhelming for me if I've already had a tough day at work, and I have to hand her back and ask for an hour of me-time. Thankfully we have some friends who are able and willing to babysit regularly, so he gets out to a mid-day yoga class two or three times a week and I think that makes a really big difference for him.

    • My husband stays home as well. I always get up with our son during the night, and take care of him in the evening. If I want any "me" time they have to leave the house or I have to leave. The baby wants to be with me. I often don't ask for any personal time because of this. I have barely exercised for over a year because I feel like I have to "ask" and it becomes this big plan.

      that being said, I AM glad I'm not the one at home all day. I would probably never leave the house or even get dressed. As it is, they usually have at least one outing every day, and I sneak-read this site at work.

  19. This is why we need to mother in teams. Play groups are nice and all but I mean like all day kids and moms together.

  20. I am going to bookmark this article and re-read it every time I get cranky and subsequently start beating myself up for not being able to be cheery and patient at 8:30 pm … I start to think I am the ONLY mother who feels this way, and I am RUINING my child, etc etc … the guilt makes me crankier and the crankiness makes me guiltier … it just spirals out of control.

    *deep breath* I am normal. It's okay. I am NOT the only one. *more deep breaths*

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