When I look back on the months before I had my first child, I can’t help but laugh out loud at how naive I was.
“Oh my sweet summer child, you really thought those sleep training books were going to work?”
Yes, I did think they were going to work. In fact, I thought all of my postpartum plans were going to work — I had spent hours upon hours reading books and watching YouTube videos on everything baby-related and there was no doubt in my mind that I was beyond ready.
Having always been a bit of a nerd, I was inadvertently looking at motherhood as another test I needed to pass and I was studying hard.
Needless to say, my expectations had completely missed the mark.
Our precious daughter would not fall (or stay!) asleep unless someone was holding her, and my dreams of nursing my baby fell apart when it became clear that my low milk supply made switching from breast milk to formula inevitable.
Nothing was how I expected it to be and the baby blues hit me hard. It was at that point that I first started asking myself the dreaded question — “What am I doing wrong?”
My mind couldn’t reconcile my new imperfect reality with the one I was presented with in books and on social media, and I was frustrated, sad, and angry all at once.
Perhaps it would have been easier if I had had close mom friends to confide in.
At the time, most of my friends weren’t even thinking about motherhood and I was terrified to approach them with my problems, thinking they wouldn’t understand my predicament. And there was only so much my husband could do, considering he had to juggle his fatherly responsibilities with working full-time.
Things took a turn for the worse when my maternity leave (which was all too short) was up.
At the time, I was still working as a teacher and was afraid I wouldn’t have the clarity of mind to be there for my students. Being away from my baby was hard but I also felt like I had to be a “working mom” just to show that I could do it.
I remember sobbing in the car on my way to work one morning because all of it — the exhaustion, frustration, pressure, and the feeling that something was wrong with me — had snowballed into a full-blown meltdown.
But this also marks the moment that I began to wake up from the delusion of modern motherhood, thanks to the new substitute teacher I met that day.
Like me, she was a new mom, except that her attitude was much healthier than mine. “Listen, if I could clone myself, then I could do it all. But I can’t, so I’m not going to beat myself up over it,” she replied when I told her about feeling guilty for barely working out since my baby had been born.
A lightbulb went off in my head — “Who said I had to do it all? I’m doing my best, shouldn’t that be enough?”
RELATED: How To Be A Good Mom – 10 Habits Of Great Moms Who Embrace Perfection
Modern moms are under so much pressure these days.
You have to feed your kids organic food, make sure their toys aren’t toxic, constantly come up with creative and educational activities, and somehow avoid screen time even though there’s a screen everywhere you look.
And let’s not forget that despite the rise in body positivity over the past few years, women are still judged if they don’t “bounce back” two months after delivering a little human.
Meanwhile, the support system of extended family and neighbors is lacking, leaving a huge burden on the mom’s shoulders.
The truth is that chasing the ideal of modern motherhood will stretch your mental health to its limits without you even noticing — you’ll be too consumed by feelings of guilt.
It’s no wonder so many moms suffer from depression and anxiety, and I’m sure I would’ve quickly gone down that path if I hadn’t had my lightbulb moment.
That’s not to say I don’t feel a pang of guilt when I feed my kids chicken nuggets for dinner.
However, I realize that one unhealthy meal isn’t going to scar my kids for life, so what’s the big deal? More than anything, your kids need a happy mom. Anything else is just background noise.
If I could go back in time and tell pre-baby me just one thing, it would be to take it easy.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and there isn’t a mom in this world who was one hundred percent prepared for raising a child.
Trust your instincts (yes, they exist) and understand that the perfect, modern mom is a figment of your imagination — you’re so much better than her anyway.
Ivana Davies is a teacher turned stay-at-home mom. Her experience inspired her to start her blog, Find Your Mom Tribe. You can catch up with Ivana on Facebook.
This article was originally published at Medium.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.