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Moms, the struggle is real but also ‘heartbreakingly fleeting’

Taking care of kids can be absolutely draining. Martin Lee/Rex Features

More and more moms are telling it like it is: motherhood can be overwhelming.

The struggle was most recently chronicled in the blog post “To The Thirtysomething Mums,” which has been read 2.5 million times since being posted last week.  It was written by stay-at-home mom Catherine Dietrich, whose seven-month-old and three-and-a-half-year-old keep her perpetually busy.

“I refer to this stage of mothering I am currently in as ‘the trenches,'” the 36-year-old British South African ex-pat tells Global News.

“It is physically exhausting as well as being emotionally taxing, and anybody who says they have time to look after themselves as much as they did before they had kids is in on a secret neither I nor any of my friends are.”

Her biggest struggle is in the mundane everyday monotony mothers can feel, “no matter how much we love our children.”

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Catherine Dietrich with her girls.
Catherine Dietrich with her girls. Supplied

There’s a “real sense of sisterhood stemming from what we are all experiencing together,” Dietrich says though. In her blog post, she uses an outdoor pool as a metaphor for mom life.

“We cannot relax. Our focus is entirely on our children. We are tired,” she writes of the mothers knee-deep in the pool with their young kids. “Our tankini-clad bodies are battle-scarred and utterly not what they used to be.”

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Meanwhile, the 20-somethings are lounging on the hill, flipping through magazines, chatting with their friends, “Facebooking and selfie-snapping on their iPhones.

“They are rested. They are toned. They are magnificently oblivious to what is coming their way in the future. They don’t even see us. Or if they do, they swear they will never be us.”

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Then there are the women in their 40s, also rested and toned. Dietrich calls forty-something “the holy grail.” She thinks it’s when women “get [their] selves back.”

The loss of self

Rufi Thorpe relates to the piece. Except the 31-year-old California writer and mother-of-two says she can’t afford to lose herself for a decade, at least not from a professional standpoint.

Managing her two boys, aged 10 months and three-and-a-half, leaves little time for her to nurse her craft. It doesn’t help that her husband’s work keeps him out of the home for 75 hours a week.

Rufi Thorpe with her two boys. Getting a good picture with them is tricky, she says. Supplied

In an essay titled “Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid,” which she penned for women’s magazine Vela, Thorpe confesses it all makes her feel “profoundly unfree.”

“There is a deep, almost suffocating solitude to my days… It is possible I am clinically depressed. It is also possible that taking care of small children is just really hard.”

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She tells Global News she feels trapped between “conflicting desires and unpracticed in the skills that would bring me relief.”

“I did not grow up seeing women who asked for what they wanted or needed. I saw women who ate a bag of cookies or drank a fifth of gin because there was no way they were going to get what they wanted or needed.

“So I think in many ways it is about learning new ways to be, and that kind of personal growth is always slow and arduous.”

READ MORE: Balancing business and motherhood: how female entrepreneurs are making it work

Thorpe is getting some relief this summer while her husband’s cousin lives with them and helps out with the boys.

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Getting help

Both women know that asking for help is crucial. And both agree there needs to be more help from society, ideally in the form of universal childcare.

“Women are not supposed to spend all day alone with two small children. The children get bored, the woman gets desperate. It’s a stupid model, but it is a hard one to find a way out of, especially now that most households are dual income and women are trying to also focus on having careers,” said Thorpe.

It’s also important to utilize the other 50 per cent of the parenting equation, Dietrich stressed.

“Dads are key… I think when dads take initiative in child care rather than deferring to the mums that takes a lot of pressure off us and can help us feel less overwhelmed.”

“Also, acknowledgment of how hard it can be is so important to us.”

‘How heartbreakingly fleeting it all is’

As difficult as motherhood can be, Dietrich and Thorpe are fully aware of how precious it is as well.

“Although thirtysomething so far is a bit of a blur, it’s also a kind of magic,” Dietrich wrote.

“Never again will I feel a squidgy cheek rest on my chest in the middle of the night. Little arms reaching up to me after a fall. The delicious baby smell and the little pairs of skinny jeans and sparkly trainers. The scooter rides and monkey bars and the bed time stories.”

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In writing that, she said she wanted to remind herself how “heartbreakingly fleeting it all is.

“What I hoped people would take away really is that, although these days in the trenches of parenting can be tough and demanding, we will miss them desperately when they are gone.”
“Being needed by our littles is such a privilege, we are actually ‘giving ourselves away’ for these brief few years of our lives, rather than ‘losing ourselves.'”

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