Motherhood brought me to my knees, but I thought admitting I needed more help meant I was a bad mother. Then I realized I had no choice.

By Kate Northrup
Yeji Kim

Compared to some, I had a lot of support when we brought our first baby home from the hospital. My husband and I both ran our business from home, so neither of us had the pressure of an employer telling us when we had to leave our baby in child care or determining how much pay we’d get for how long. (Of course, as entrepreneurs we had to make our own financial plan for being able to take time off, because we didn’t have any parental leave of any kind to fall back on.) My husband was there with me every step of the way, and has continued to be the whole time. We’re full-on dual parents, and I don’t think I’ve ever met a more committed, all-in father than Mike.

Plus, I have family close by, Mike’s parents flew in from Indiana, we had tons of friends and family bringing us food, and our midwives were awesome. I also had a bevy of new mom friends I could call, text, or connect with in person on a weekly basis, and I even went to a newborn class with a group of other moms with babies between 0 to 12 weeks, every week from when Penelope was 4 to 8 weeks old. I would even show up at a breastfeeding support group at our local hospital whenever I could get it together because sitting with other mothers and talking about whatever we wanted to talk about with a lactation consultant nearby to answer questions was so helpful.

And yet I cried reading about women raising children with a community because with as much support as I was so blessed to have, it still felt really hard. And if I’m honest, I could have used more. I thought, however, that admitting I needed more help meant I was a bad mother.

Until I became a mother, I’d been able to overcome nearly every adversity I faced by working harder, using my intelligence, using my physical strength, or changing my perspective. But motherhood brought me to my knees with how little of it I was able to control. I’d never felt so out of control before, and, as a result, I was anxious and depressed for a good part of the first year.

We’ve all had moments in life and work that bring us to our knees because it’s all just too much. So what’s the solution?

It’s asking for help. It’s knowing when you even need help, and ideally figuring out how to know when you’ll need help ahead of time more often so that you’re facedown in a tear-soaked pillow wishing you could hit an eject button from your life less often.

It’s important to mention that I’m not operating under the illusion that we can make motherhood—or womanhood, for that matter—easy. But this is one of those times that we can at least make it easier. As doula and activist Adrienne Maree Brown said, “Easy is sustainable. Birds coast when they can.” Let’s be like the birds, shall we?

Ask For Help

When I recently asked a group of working women about their experience with earning money versus staying home with kids, and how they feel about getting help with child care, housekeeping, or anything else, a common theme emerged: The feeling that they should just be able to “do it all” because it’s their “job.”

WOW. So we’ve created these roles of what it means to be a woman and a mother based on messages we’ve inherited from the men and women who’ve come before us, and we’re living our lives to fulfill them. But I just don’t think we’ve stopped long enough to ask where we got the idea that a woman and mother should be a certain way in the first place.

Are we not asking for help because we honestly feel really well supported already and we’re good? Well, if so, awesome. But for far more women, it’s more like the following: We’re not asking for help because we should be able to do it all. Because our mother expects us to. Because our husband expects us to. Because our mother-in-law expects us to. Because the other moms on the PTA seem to be able to do it all. Because our sister seems like she does it all. Because society told us that’s what it means to be a valuable woman.

While it might feel seductive to do everything ourselves and get the momentary high of feeling like we’ve proven something or shown someone what we’re made of, in the long run trying to do it all, whether we succeed or not, is simply lonely.

Excerpt reprinted with permission from Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms (Hay House; 2019). Book is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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