Mothering certainly has its wonderful times.

But it’s more than playing with kids all day.

It’s hard work. Important work. Stressful work.

It’s time we understood motherhood stress.

Deborah Shaw Lewis, Motherhood Stress (1989)

Before my first baby was born, I thought about becoming a mother and “taking some time off” to be at home. I never thought it would be a vacation — like relaxing on a beach in the Bahamas for a few years — but I hadn’t really thought of it as work either.

I had dreamed of outings to the park, visits to the library, and wonderful winter afternoons in a warm kitchen, baking cookies with my children. And the house in the background of all my dreams was always spotlessly clean.

My reality includes parks and library trips and baking and lots of other wonderful things: cuddling children in my lap, reading stories, playing games, watching children grow, taking pride in their achievements. In all my wildest fantasies of motherhood, I never could have imagined all the joys of my reality; nothing prepared me for the rush of tender feeling I’d get when my nursing baby looked up into my eyes and grinned his first toothless grin.

But my reality includes a lot of other thing that weren’t a part of my dreams. I never realized how much time I’d spend changing diapers, washing clothes and more clothes, wiping up spills, picking up toys, driving children everywhere, pinching pennies between paychecks. 

I never imagined yelling at my kids in frustration. I’d never pictured myself walking out the door to take my children to a park and feeling guilty about the messy house I was leaving behind.

I never imagined the tension I would feel between the ideals of my dreams and the nitty-gritty reality of my life after I had children.