Last year I told my husband that I didn’t want anything for Mother’s Day. “Don’t get me flowers. Don’t get me chocolate. I don’t want a card,” I said.
My husband listened to my advice. He did get me a card, but he followed my orders not to make a big deal about Mother’s Day.
And I lost it. My son had just turned one, and an entire year’s worth of new motherhood stress, anxiety about just moving to a new city, my son’s health issues, worries about finishing my dissertation all exploded into one focus: Mother’s Day.
All the feelings that I had been bottling up inside spilled out. Inexplicably, without any kind of warning or any clear reason, I cried almost the whole day. I was a mess. I sobbed about how I was bored, I was lonely, I was unappreciated, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I was just so tired (after not sleeping for more than a year).
My husband was completely baffled. There was no precedent for this kind of behavior on my part. Normally I’m a pretty calm person, not given to long bouts of crying or dramatic mood swings. He had no idea what to do, what to say or how to reason with me. Eventually, after hours of this emotional turmoil, he got a little annoyed. Didn’t he do exactly what I had asked him to do? What is it that I wanted anyway?
I knew then that I had to get serious about reclaiming a life for myself after new motherhood had thrown me for a loop. I had to finish my dissertation. I had to find some new friends. I had to find an outlet outside of the house. Otherwise, I was going to lose my mind.
Over the next few months, I completed the analysis of my research and the first draft of my dissertation. I did make more of an effort to meet new people. But it wasn’t until I did something completely unexpected that I started to feel like more of myself.
I started a blog.
Although I’ve always been a writer, I’m not a likely candidate for a blogger, especially a “mommy blog.” I’ve never been particularly good at technology. I’ve never been a huge fan of social media or sharing my life accomplishments and opinions on Facebook.
But as a new mom, discovering an online venue to write about my experiences was life-changing for me. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone. I had an intellectual outlet and a daily challenge. I made connections — professional and personal — and a new community of support.
It turns out that I’m not alone, either in my feelings of social isolation during early motherhood or with my satisfaction with blogging. According to research, “mommy blogging” can help mothers feel better, feel less stressed, receive emotional support and feel more connected. Mothers who read and contribute to blogs were found to feel less alone than those who are not participating in an online community.
Another blogging friend and I have been so fascinated by our own experiences of new motherhood and emotional support that we have started a project called The HerStories Project: Finding Support, Staying Sane, and Reinventing Yourself During New Motherhood. Through HerStories, we have been collecting women’s stories of emotional connection. We’ve also started a survey to find out more about women’s experiences of early parenthood.
That motherhood is difficult, emotionally and physically, is not news to anyone. What is surprising to me are the possibilities for connection and support that are out there for moms who look for it.
So go ahead. Get Mom flowers, but also get her a blog for Mother’s Day. And don’t be surprised if she starts making friends that none of you will ever meet.
I’m hoping that things will be calmer this Mother’s Day at my house. But if it’s not, I can always blog about it.
Jessica Smock will receive her doctorate in educational policy from Boston University in one week. When she is not blogging about parenting at School of Smock, she is creating surveys about new motherhood and collecting essays of friendship at the HerStories Project.
Photo Credit: MorgueFile