I’m afraid of failing at being a mom.

Being a mom is hard. A lot harder than I ever thought it would be. In fact, I was so scared of it I kept pushing it back in our life plan. I always thought that I would be a mom, but then we got married and I started a career and then it just never seemed like the right time. We planned on having kids after 5 years of marriage, but we both felt that we wouldn’t try until we felt absolutely sure that it was the right time.

After our 6th and 7th anniversaries came and went, we had plenty of conversations. I even remember a long walk and Doug (my husband) saying he felt it was the right time. Then I snuck away to my car, called a girlfriend and almost started hyperventilating at the thought. I kept saying to myself, “I am not ready. I like my quiet time. I want to go back to grad school. I want to teach and have my career. I want to travel more. I want my marriage to be awesome.”

Then, I went back to grad school. I kept growing in my career. I started teaching at the College for Creative Studies. I took a trip to Spain with my dad. Doug and I went on a cross-country road trip and more weekend trips than I can count. And I was in love with my BFF after 8 years of marriage. I had crossed all the items off my list, except one. I needed to feel that this was what God wanted us to do and that I wanted to be a mom. Not out of expectation, but out of desire. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but there was a ginormous shift and, suddenly, I wanted this and I felt that we were ready.

I wish this is the point in the story where I could tell you that from this moment on I felt a deep sense of purpose that gave me the confidence to be a great mom. But in fact, this is where things started to go a little off the rails for me.

As you can probably tell, I am a planner. I LOVE to be in control. I rarely try something if I haven’t already researched it and generally feel confident that I could do a pretty good job. I love what I do for a living (being a Creative Director and strategist at an ad agency), and I thrive on putting logic and creativity to work. So logically, I thought that from the moment I became pregnant, I would instantly bond with my baby.

But I didn’t.

For months I struggled with trying to feel connected and ready to start this next chapter in our lives. I read just about every book and blog, and I searched to find someone else like me – but I couldn’t find them. I only found women who loved being pregnant and felt they were moms from the moment they saw the plus sign on the pregnancy test. Because I wasn’t a glowing pregnant woman, I felt like a failure … and I wasn’t even a mom yet! However, I was reassured when my midwife told me that when my little girl was born and I met her for the first time, then it would happen.

After 22 hours of labor, I remember meeting her and thinking, “I am so glad this is over.” Not exactly the pure joy and connection I was promised. I sat stunned, watching Doug bond with Maggie (our daughter) as she turned to his voice, not mine. I felt like a failure again and it was only day one.

Turns out, I didn’t know what to expect even though I read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” They left out the chapter about “how to make the lasting, joyful bond with your child and transition to motherhood.” I felt lost, afraid and not in control. I felt like I was losing the person who had reached her goals and felt confident in life. I felt like I didn’t know how to succeed at being a mom.

About 2 months into this thing, I realized that I was probably dealing with some postpartum depression, but also that motherhood is something unique and not a clearly defined title with a job description. I realized that if I constantly let the fear of being a bad mom (aka – not in control of every situation) cripple me, I would lose my former self. I wouldn’t be the role model I want my little girl to see.

So, I pushed through the fear of the unknown. I bonded with Maggie in our own way, including rituals (which include singing and praying together at bedtime every night – sometimes even on Skype when I am traveling for work). I realized that I have the rest of our lives to continue to build our relationship.

I made it a priority for us to travel (from Hawaii to road trips). I realized it is okay to be “that family with the crying kid” on the plane or in the restaurant and that experiencing the world as a family is best when not everything is under control.

I am discovering the next chapter in my career as a mom. I realized it is okay to create boundaries and that I can be a great mom even if I have to Skype our bedtime routine.

I am feeling the joy of being a mom. I realized every cuddle, tight squeeze, toothless smile, tickle fight and laugh is a moment to be fully present and engaged.

I can’t say I have licked this “feeling like a failure,” especially after 2 hours of nonstop whining from Mags, but I can say that I figured out that it is okay to admit that this is hard stuff and to not have it all figured out.

Kari is a wife, new-ish mom, creative director and traveler who enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog, Up Up and Aways.

Follow Kari on Twitter and Pinterest.

Krystle: Kari, if more women were brave enough to share these stories, humanity might get over the stigma that a “perfect” mother has it all together, all the time. And being honest about our feelings shouldn’t result in a crippling wave of shame and guilt. Women are impossibly strong, especially when we’re united under one mission, so I hope that your confession inspires a movement of mothers that bravely share their stories with the world.

Fear Confessions is a series of essays by creatives who share personal stories about facing their fears. It’s a celebration of vulnerability.

  1. Thank you. As a mother of two (who still wants more babies in the future), your post made me cry a bit in my cubicle this morning. No, no one is perfect. Motherhood is heavy and it is hard, but it is always beautiful. You’re a wonderful mom, I just know it.

  2. Great post Kari! Have you read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg yet? She eludes to the fact that as a woman it is a hard choice to have that career and children at the same time. As a mother of two, an art teacher and currently going for my second masters, I feel swamped with “time”. But limits are everything and I am lucky to have a husband who encourages my appetite for career advancements and helps out with the kids. It’s not an easy road being a mom, but it sure is worth it. Keep up the great work Kari-bean!

  3. This is honestly the most honest thing I’ve read in a long time. Being pregnant, I don’t feel like the rest of the moms around me. The happy, excited mothers who are glowing and showing off that baby bump like it’s a new bikini. I have hideous stretch marks and I’m not talking to my baby like how you expect motherhood to be. And I wasn’t married, we were only dating for a short time before I discovered I was pregnant and it’s hard to create that bond with this unborn child and still learn the man you live with and love.

    I’m scared I won’t bond with her right away like I’ve always imagined but this, this article, this confession really reassured me. Thank you so much for sharing and I hope that I don’t dig myself into that depression after having her and that we do create our own special bond after some point in time. Great share.