Woman with newborn

For some, becoming a new mom was not what they expected. So we wondered if real moms thought motherhood was easier or harder than they had imagined. We asked moms about what they really thought about motherhood — and they weren't shy with their answers.

The expectations of motherhood

I lost my identity and my freedom

Many women find they lose their sense of self when they become mothers — their hobbies, interests and freedom. "I hate to sound egotistical, but honestly, one of the most challenging things for me was losing my old identity," explains Claudia. "I used to be hip and trendy with new clothes and parties to attend in those new clothes. Now? I'm a mom. I rarely get noticed. I used to get attention from men wherever I went. Now, I can't even get help loading 20 bags of groceries while juggling a diaper bag, a baby and a toddler in the middle of the summer in a desert. Do I love being a mom? Yes! Would I trade it for my previous life? Of course not. But I miss being a free spirit, traveling around the world with nothing but my man next to me and a backpack."

I didn't have a support system

Being pregnant can be tough. It can be even tougher if you don't have a support system in place. "I loved being pregnant and birth didn't hurt because I had an epidural. What really stung was feeling like I had to do everything," shares Kate L. "Men seem to be culturally conditioned to be helpless when it comes to caring for an infant. I ended up leaving my daughter's father when she was eight months old. We decided to split our time with her 50/50 and that ensured more fairness. I had to leave him to get a fair division of labor!"

I'm so tired

So many of the women we spoke with talked about how tiring being a mom can be.

"You just learn to function on next-to-no sleep, and grin and bear it."

"Motherhood is harder than I thought it would be because of lack of sleep!" says Claudia W. "If the baby is up, you are up."

"For me, being a mom is more of a balancing act than I first anticipated," Anna E. explains. "From the start, the demand on a new mother's time is absolutely incredible. Between the constant feedings, everyday household chores, and even just my basic daily needs (shower, dress, eat, etc.), I was run ragged by days end and felt like I had nothing to show for my tireless efforts. I've come to realize that, as a mother, you just learn to function on next-to-no sleep, and grin and bear it."

Parenting is overwhelming

Many other moms talked honestly about how completely overwhelming (albeit wonderful) motherhood can be.

"Being a parent is one of the most precious, absolutely irritating jobs any person could embrace," says Tammye M. "When I gave birth to my oldest daughter, the feeling of responsibility was overwhelming. There were times when my kids would push me to the limit, talk back, skip curfew, come home with a hangover when they were too young to be drinking — but they all turned out wonderful."

"When I had three young kids, I was so overwhelmed that I thought there was something wrong with me," Sherri M. told us. "It was like having three kids and only two hands. No sooner would I get one ready to go somewhere, and the other two children were un-ready!"

"I did not think it would be as tedious as it is," Julia A. reveals. "I say the same thing 20 times a day, year after year. I yell a lot more than I ever imagined I would, too."

Ruth N. sums it up very succinctly. "What makes parenting hard? It goes on forever!"

Breastfeeding was challenging

"My son had tongue-tie, and we had to have it corrected two times over his first two months," Amy B. says. "That situation left me with mastitis, which was misdiagnosed as thrush. My son also had untreated GERD, so he was not keeping food down. We went to the hospital where they told us he was malnourished... so we began supplementing. Talk about stressful!"

Just always plan ahead

As with most things, parenting is a little easier when you plan ahead. "Planning ahead may be the biggest lesson of parenthood," Crystal Z. explains. "From planning what will be in your hospital bag when you deliver to what will be in the diaper bag when you leave the house, parenting has taught me to always think ahead."

It's a rich life

"Being a mom means giving life and becoming the most important person in another human's world — that is a huge responsibility," Pamela L. says. "There's a quote that goes something like, 'Being a mother means having your heart walk around outside your body for the rest of your life.'"

"Being a mother means having your heart walk around outside your body for the rest of your life."

Even with all the challenges and responsibilities of motherhood, most moms wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

"As a mother, it's not about me anymore," says Lisa W. "It's about these wonderful kids. I've never been so selfless as I have to be as a mom. When you have kids, you have to get up early, whether you want to or not. You have to feed them first while your lunch gets cold. You have to love these little people who seem to follow you around undoing everything you're trying to do. All day — in big ways and small — you put yourself aside and give to your children. If you can easily embrace putting their needs first, they take you down a path to richness and meaning that you never could have found on your own."

More on parenting

7 Signs this isn't your first baby
How to get help with your newborn
New moms: The good, the bad and the ugly

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