Motherhood is both the best job in the world and also one of the hardest, social psychologist and author Susan Newman said.
“For mothers, guilt is the biggest challenge,” said Newman, who blogs for Psychology Today Magazine and has most recently written “The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide.” She said an estimated 92 percent of all mothers feel judged in some way.
“You need to give yourself a break and trust yourself and your choices,” she advised. “You and your children will be happier.”
Newman says every mother she knows has been exposed to some sort of criticism at some point.
“And that judgment leads to many mothers feeling guilty,” she said. “It isn’t just the day-to-day difficulties — the colicky baby, the teen who defies you — it’s also the scrutiny and judgment from others.”
Newman, who lives in New Jersey, says everyone seems to have an opinion or criticism of our mothering style. Some examples? If you have one child, relatives and perfect strangers tell you your child needs a sibling. If your toddler won’t share, a friend will say it’s because you don’t make him. When your 7-year-old refuses to go to bed or your teen drinks or becomes addicted, you are told you are/were too lenient.
Other frequently heard comments: “You shouldn’t be working.” “You put your children to bed too early — or too late.” “You don’t make her try new foods.”
Newman cautions that perfect isn’t possible and that parenting mistakes are part of the mothering territory.
“But there are millions of ways to be a “good enough” mom for your family and for your children and that is all a mother can hope for or should strive for,” she said. “You want to be supportive, to be there when a child is ill, to love your child unconditionally.”
What has been your biggest challenge as a mother, and how did you overcome that challenge?
We invited mothers across the region to share their responses with readers.
“I am a mom of three beautiful girls ages 11, 9, and 7. The biggest challenge I’ve had to face as a mom is hearing the words ‘your child has cancer.’ Our oldest daughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in August 2010. The entire journey has been a challenge as a mom. At first diagnosis, I had to find enough strength to stay positive and hold myself together for our family. I had always been a planner before and I had to learn to take each day one day at a time.
“During treatment, our lives had to revolve around appointments and our daughter’s immune system. It was a challenge to keep up with the basic needs of our other two girls, school work, after-school activities, snuggle time, etc. though somehow I (we) managed to do so. It was difficult seeing our daughter go through all of the changes she had to from the chemotherapy, like losing her hair twice and gaining a lot of weight quickly especially in her face. Our daughter finished treatment at Dayton Children’s in October and has been chemo-free and cancer-free since. Through it all and even now post-treatment, I have had to continue to help my family find new ‘normals.’ Being a mom is a lot of hard work. Being a mom of a child with cancer is beyond challenging. No matter what life deals you as a mom, it is the greatest gift you’ll ever receive. I am truly blessed to be a mom!”
— Michelle Crabtree, Beavercreek
“My name is Teresa. I am from Spain and my husband is the liaison officer from the Spanish Air Force here. I have an 8-year-old daughter. She is outgoing, lovely, friendly and she is able to adapt quickly to every situation. However, it was very hard for me to teach her how to read and to write in American English when we came to the U.S.A. almost two years ago.
It was my biggest challenge as a mother. With a lot of love and patience, she was able to make progress; and now it is so exciting to listen to her when she reads… She is my teacher now!!”
— Teresa Franco González, Fairborn
“The biggest challenge with being a military mom was balancing my time so that I could spend time with my family. When my daughter was very young, I realized that I better figure it out quickly, or she would be grown and out of the house and I would be left saying ‘If I only had more time.’ I decided at that point to apportion my time, so that I could get a full day of work in and spend time with my daughter and husband at the end of the day.
“I love the fact that we all sit down for dinner together every night and then enjoy my daughter’s sporting activities after dinner. Maintaining this schedule takes some discipline and sometimes I have to bring work home to do later in the evening, but I’m able to enjoy my family life while having a full career.”
— Col. Cassie Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing and Wright-Patterson AFB Installation Commander
“With each new phase, there are new challenges, but also, moments of wonder. With our oldest daughter, I was concerned about reaching that next stage. I have since learned to enjoy the day-to-day happenings, knowing the next step is just around the corner.
“I always figured that when mothers told me time flies, they’d forgotten about the middle-of-the-night feedings and temper tantrums and were seeing the past through rosy glasses. But, I realize now they haven’t forgotten, they simply know that each phase passes, so make certain not to miss the precious first of each new stage and also enjoy the 10ths, 20ths and 50ths of each feat.”
— Jessica Baughman, Englewood
“Working full time and the mother of three children, I find it challenging to make time for all the activities the children are involved in both in and out of school. I have reconciled this by focusing on QUALITY and NOT QUANTITY of time. I try to chaperone/participate in at least one school activity per year per child. I will make sure to take the time off if given advanced notice for concerts or big events. It’s all about balance. My children know what I do for a living and are proud of their mom. That makes it easier for them to accept it when I can’t make it to events. It helps alleviate some of the ‘working mom’ guilt too!”
— Patricia Abboud, MD, Centerville
“As a working mom who loves to volunteer in the community I want to make sure I’m spending enough quality time with my daughter. I’ve come to treasure the time I have with her by reading, playing in the garden, blowing bubbles and getting my hands dirty with sidewalk chalk. I want her to have good memories of exploring the world with her mom!”
— Jessica Saunders, Washington Twp.
“My greatest challenge in foster parenting is understanding the biological parents’ thoughts, actions and feelings. Most times they are angry at the foster parent for providing for their child and misplacing blame. I handle this by building a good relationship with the biological parents while I have my foster children and help them in any way I can to reunite them. My service is to promote reunification for all involved to have a better life.
By doing this, once the kids go home, the biological parents allow them to still have a relationship with me and my family, which I find very rewarding.”
— Jacki Peterson, Springfield
“My greatest challenge as a mother was trying to make sure that I was the best mother I could be and realizing that God is the source of strength to be a mother. A mother’s heart is like none other. It worries at night, it feels and senses things way before it happens, it can heal, love and hurt. A mother is the greatest job that a woman can ever have.
“My daughter was hospitalized for one week in Dayton Children’s with Kawasaki Disease at just 10 months old. I was terrified. How did she get this? Was it my fault! How can I help her not be in pain? Will she survive? Then in that moment… I realized that when I trust God, I am the best I can be even when I am completely vulnerable.”
— Carmela Daniels, Dayton
“My biggest challenge is maintaining balance, and I think this will be an ongoing struggle. Balance between work and home, parenthood and marriage, everything and me the person.
“As much as I love my job and I feel very dedicated to my patients, I remind myself daily that my first priority is to raise my children and be physically, mentally and emotionally available for them. That doesn’t mean that I never miss things — a practice, a celebration, a holiday — but it does mean that I strive to make my family No. 1, and they see me struggle with some of those decisions. I try to spend quality time with them every day, going to the park, playing outside, reading a book or even doing some household chores. We turn off TV and ignore text and email and focus on our family. I try to listen to them when we talk — even Ethan the 2-year-old — and we have actual conversations.
With our marriage, Jeff and I strive to put each other first. We try to spend a few hours every week or two together without the kids. I must say that some moments, days and weeks feel more balanced then others. I did hear a great quote once, to paraphrase: you CAN have it all, just not at the exact same moment. I take that to mean live in the moment, be present wherever you are. Happy Mother’s Day everyone!”
— Melissa D. King, DO, Germantown
“The biggest challenge I have faced is that my kids are constantly changing and developing. This requires me to constantly grow with them and sometimes they and myself are not in sync! I try to deal with this by being aware of when I am the best person to deal with an issue and to either hear how family and friends deal with similar issues and sometimes get help from others. As I watch my children grow, I understand how it takes parents along with a ‘village’ to raise a child! Even as a pediatrician, I still need others for advice and support.”
— Shalini Forbis, MD, Kettering
“The biggest challenge is balancing ME time with FAMILY time. I have come to realize that if I don’t take care of me, the family unit can break down. I am starting to get my exercise in two to three times a week before work. That way, it is done. And, I am taken care of for the day.”
— Becky Gonter-Dray, Troy
“The challenge is that we were the ‘do-it-all- generation of women… supported and encouraged by the new Ms. Magazine (1971). We were going to have careers, babies, be soccer moms, fabulous cooks, love, protect and take care of everyone around us — keep all the balls in the air at the same time.
“When I think of those days, the vision is somewhat blurred. I look at my own children try to “do it all,” and I want them maybe to only do most of it, they don’t have to do all of it. Today the job of mom is daunting… (my mother said the same thing to me). Social media, for example, has added yet another layer of bombardment on our kids requiring moms and dads to maintain constant vigilance.
“What was the solution or escape for me? I ran for 10 years including a marathon. It was a private, guilt-free solution for the quieting of the soul. (Forget that I will spend the equivalent of that time repairing body parts.)”
— Patricia Ward, Middletown
“As a working mother my biggest challenge has been trying to manage my work schedule with the activities of my kids. I always believed that children should be engaged in extracurricular activities, it is important, helps develop character and build confidence. Sometimes I have to say no because some activities — even though valuable — are held at times impossible to accommodate. Over the years, I have developed a support system, so it seems I am more able to allow all if us to pursue our dreams and obligations within reason.”
— Mamie Anim, MD, Washington Twp.
“I am a mom of two, the oldest (Mollie) is 21, the youngest, who has Down Syndrome, is 11. The biggest challenge of motherhood is trying to run the household, keep everything organized. My husband works full time at the post office.
“Our faith, our family and friends have helped us get through. Madelyn is a miracle baby — she basically wasn’t expected to live. She had so much against her before she was born. She’s now a fourth-grader at Bridgeport Elementary in Hamilton in the multiple disabilities classes and she’s just a happy child who makes you smile.”
— Cindy Baker, Hamilton
In celebration of Mother’s Day, we invited moms across the region to open up about their greatest challenges and the ways they’ve overcome those challenges. Turn to Life for advice and inspirational stories from everyday people in your communities and experts throughout the region.