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Yes, motherhood is hard—but here’s what we can do about it

I can’t count the number of articles I’ve seen this year discussing the difficulty of motherhood. I’ve even written about it myself, so I absolutely understand the need to feel like you’re not alone in your struggles.


It can feel really good to be validated and hear someone else say, “Yes! It is so hard for me too!” We shouldn’t keep silent when we are having a hard time, and I’m happy that we feel like we can collectively exhale and admit our struggles. But I worry about how this could quickly become a negativity trap.

There’s a difference in acknowledging that there are dark days and deciding to dwell in the dark.

Saying “Yes, this can be difficult, but I’ve got this” is profoundly different than being stuck in “Ugh, this is so hard. I can’t even.” I think we need to be really careful to not cross the line from acknowledging to complaining, because research in neuroscience tells us that complaining quite literally damages our brains.

A study at Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus which is an area critical for long-term memory and emotional responses. Complaining also releases cortisol which can affect your mood, blood pressure, blood sugar and immune system, just to name a few.

Neuroscience teaches us that “neurons that fire together wire together.” What this means is that each time you complain, it’s going to be easier to complain again because your brain will create a pathway. The more you complain, the more you will feel like complaining, and the more negative you will become until darkness is your reality.

It doesn’t just affect you and your health. Much like second-hand smoke, complaining affects everyone who hears you, thanks to a process called neuronal mirroring. Our brains unconsciously mimic the moods of those around us, which has probably been evident to you if you’ve ever been in a group with a downer. You can almost feel the energy drain away.

Jeffrey Lohr, psychology professor at the University of Arkansas says that venting anger is similar to “emotional farting” in an enclosed area. Yikes. On the other hand, spend a little time with a happy, positive person, and you feel happier and more positive yourself.

But wait, you’re probably thinking. Isn’t it good to vent sometimes? Not necessarily. The more you talk about your problems, the more emotionally charged they become. Let me introduce you to the term experience-dependent neuroplasticity. Each experience causes neurons in your brain to switch on and fire.

Karen Young of Hey Sigmund writes here, “Every time we have an experience, the corresponding neurons are activated. Every time they are activated, they are elevated a little in the order of importance. Everything you experience will alter the physical structure of your brain in some way. The things you do, the people you spend time with, every feeling, thought, and automatic experience will influence the wiring of your brain to make you who you are and to influence who you can become.”

It’s just like the saying goes—what you focus on grows.

We have a choice as to how we perceive our motherhood experience. By constantly complaining about how hard parenting is, we are setting ourselves up to keep seeing and feeling the difficulties.

Here are two remedies for a happier motherhood:

1. Move quickly from complaining to problem-solving.

If you find yourself discussing with your partner or friend (or a random stranger) about how hard motherhood is, move to find a solution so that you don’t stay there. If you’re struggling because you are sleep deprived, brainstorm ways to get more rest. If overwhelm is the problem, work together to lift the load. Don’t remain stuck. There is too much to be grateful for, which brings me to my second remedy.

2. Gratitude.

Yes, the simple act of looking for and appreciating the things in your life that you have to be grateful for is a powerful cure for complaining. Here’s happy news—just as negative thoughts rewire your brain to be negative, positive thoughts rewire your brain to be positive! You can create new pathways by looping thoughts about what you have to be grateful for. You’ll quickly feel a lift in mood and happiness, and your joy will be contagious to others.

They say necessity is the mother of invention—and nothing makes you more inventive than motherhood.

Sometimes that means fashioning a diaper out of paper towels and your older child's underpants (true story). Sometimes that means creating an innovative and life-changing weighted baby sleep sack and totally crushing it on Shark Tank. Tara Williams is the latter.

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One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Because parenthood is challenging, we can sometimes forget how to just be happy in the midst of it all.

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