Six months ago, you could find me posting on the One Mother to Another Facebook page seven or eight times a day. I filled up your News Feeds with pictures of my cluttered living room, regaled you with stories of grocery store meltdowns and commiserated with you about life in the motherhood trenches. I had a not quite two year old and an infant and every day felt hard. Not every part of every day—because that’s a different motherhood experience entirely—but every day had a consistently difficult quality to it. I wasn’t exactly drowning, but I wasn’t floating along on my inner tube, umbrella drink in hand either. More like I was barely keeping my head above water and hoping the undertow didn’t drag me farther from the shore.
This page was my lifeline. You thought you needed me, but the truth is that I needed you more. When motherhood felt big and messy and unfathomable, you gave me perspective. When I worried that it would swallow me whole, you assured me that I was doing better than I thought I was. When I felt triumphant, you celebrated with me. But most importantly, you allowed me to show you the hard, ugly, unfiltered side of my life as a mother and you said the two words I needed to hear most: “Me too.”
And then, slowly, with all the awkward grace of a baby bird attempting to take flight for the first time, I started to shakily soar. I KonMari’d everything we owned and got our clutter under control. My house became frighteningly clean on a regular basis. I developed a meal planning system and grocery shopping stopped being a shitshow every week. I allowed myself to say no to things I couldn’t reasonably accommodate and learned to become a little more selfish with my time. I practiced self care and rediscovered things like painting my nails and reading for pleasure. I let go of friendships in which I was the only one putting forth any effort. I stopped drinking as an escape or reward for hard days of mothering. I began wearing only clothes I really loved and felt beautiful in. I quit breastfeeding because I was in pain and unhappy and I didn’t want to be either of those things. I gave myself permission to stop feeling guilty about every single decision I made as a mother.
Mostly, I kept quiet about those transformations. Because I worried that you’d hate me for them.
I won your trust and support by being honest about the hard times and convinced myself that you wouldn’t like the new me—the one whose house is now clean almost all the time, who doesn’t feel guilty anymore when her husband lets her sleep in on Saturdays, the one who grocery shops alone and never has to apologize to the store employees about her toddler throwing yogurt on the floor. I worried that you couldn’t relate to me now that I’m comfortable in my skin, that my laundry baskets are almost always empty and my household is functioning better than it ever has. I thought you’d see that as me throwing my successes in your face.
This morning, I said this very thing to my girlfriend. I confessed that I don’t feel like I have much to say online anymore—that I had so much more to post about when life felt hard and I needed your reassurances that I would survive. I posted those pictures of my full laundry baskets and cluttered house and told you about my messy, imperfect life because I needed to know I wasn’t the only one. But now, I’m in such a good place and I’ve been afraid to tell you that too, for fear of seeming arrogant, or worse, dishonest. Sugarcoating motherhood has never been my style and I worried that if I filled up your News Feeds with the truth about how great I really feel right now, you’d think I turned into one of those people who only shares the good parts.
So I began posting less and less and enjoying my offline life more and more. I found my kids blossomed under my full attention and I felt better without a phone in my hand all day long. I made time for my husband at night instead of responding to comments and messages and emails and I started going to bed feeling relaxed and restful instead of agitated and distracted. I started really living and it felt so fucking good.
Now I’m happy. At least for the moment. I’m still coming into my own with every day that passes, but I’ve largely let go of my guilt and I’m learning that I don’t need to please everyone all the time. I certainly don’t need to keep my happiness from others just because it feels a little bit uncomfortable to talk about how great things are going. At my girlfriend’s urging, I want to tell you the God’s honest truth: my life feels pretty damn good right now. I’m confident, comfortable, and happy. My marriage is strong and my children are so freakin awesome. I’m enjoying a very healthy relationship with alcohol and food. I’m about to see my lifelong dream of becoming an author come true.
Happiness used to feel like something I didn’t deserve. In the past, I would sabotage my impending success at the last minute because I didn’t think I was worthy of good things. Happiness was scary and foreign; when life was hard, I felt like I was in familiar territory. I can see now that that way of thinking brought me nothing but extreme displeasure. I deserve good things and I know you will all be happy for me when I get them because that’s what friends do for each other.
And then there will be hard times, because those are certainly not over, and you’ll be there for me then too. I’ll keep wearing my heart on my sleeve like I’ve always done and you’ll keep cheering me on, no matter the circumstance. I know that now. So in this season of my life where things feel good, I might be online a little less. I might be out chasing my kids in the backyard or eating too much ice cream with Adam after the boys are in bed. I might be ignoring my full inbox and forgetting to post on Facebook and just enjoying my children while they still want my attention. I’ll share those moments with you when I have a free minute and I’ll look forward to seeing your lives filling up my News Feed on the brag threads and SundayShare posts and all the things we’ve always done here.
Or maybe you’ll be out enjoying your lives too; I’ll see less of you and know you’re by the pool somewhere enjoying the sound of your kids laughing (with my book in your hand, of course!) and we’ll see each other when we see each other. In a week or a month or seven months I might start to post more about the hard stuff and the guilt and feeling swamped with life and you’ll know I’m sinking a little and in need of a lifeline. But right now, I’m happily floating along in my inner tube, umbrella drink in hand and, for once in my whole damn life, I’m not watching out for the wave in the distance that’ll roll in and knock me over. I’m just going to float along enjoying this feeling while it lasts and I hope you’ll be there alongside me, whatever comes.