Strap yourself in for the roller coaster of motherhood— it’s one heck of a ride!
As a kid, I loved roller coasters. I loved the speed and thrill of going high into the sky and then immediately dropping. It was an exhilarating rush that left me wanting to ride again. A large part of the excitement of roller coasters is knowing it’s a quick ride, hitting ultimate highs and lows for just a few minutes.
I’ve been riding another roller coaster for the past few years. It’s less thrilling and, frankly, exhausting. It’s a ride I can’t get off.
It’s the roller coaster of motherhood.
The motherhood roller coaster is unlike any ride I’ve ever been on. As someone who battles anxiety daily, I seek the valleys of calm and contentment rather than the pendulum that won’t stop swinging at lightning speed.
The top of my roller coaster feels great and comes with a sense of confidence. It’s when my two small children are satisfied or, if they aren’t, I’m able to respond to their needs promptly and appropriately. It feels like a superpower.
Diverting an epic meltdown in the middle of Target, family dance parties, nailing spirit days, and hearing “this was the best day ever” are my personal favorites.
But then, there are the lows. Unlike the strange yet satisfying feeling of my stomach dropping on an actual roller coaster, this sensation isn’t a welcome one. It hits a different part of my body — my heart.
Examples include forgetting to pack after-school snacks for the car ride home, catching vomit in my hands, trying every sensory toy in the house but not being able to help my son regulate himself, or watching my daughter struggle with anxiety— it feels like daggers.
The lows send me straight into imposter syndrome mode. I doubt my abilities and question whether the baby gods were in their right minds hiring me for this job despite my lack of qualifications.
Feeling like a fraud sucks. It feels like a dream where I’m waiting for the gang of perfect moms to out me to the world followed up with my kids being taken away from me. Dramatic … I know.
It sends my anxiety into overdrive, and I play the “what if” game. I examine other potential outcomes should I have done something different. The hypotheticals usually make me feel worse, but I justify the exercise as a way of trying to improve and learn from my mistakes. That game is dangerous AF.
The motherhood coaster feels like too much at times. It has me running for the bathroom, ready to toss my cookies. The thing is, I know I can’t get off, so I must find a way to stay on no matter how fast or low it gets. Thankfully, I’m in therapy and work hard to try to reframe my view of the ride.
In the moments where I’m being screamed at by my kids, I try to tell myself I’m the only person for this job. No one else was meant to be their mom, and contrary to how it might feel at times, they aren’t out there searching for my replacement. Hearing “I want mommy” a million times a day might get old, but it’s a proof point that I’m doing just fine.
These days, my son’s favorite activity is to drive on the “bumpy road,” aka a hilly highway near our house. Just like his mom, he likes the thrill and the feeling in his tummy when you hit the bottom of the hill. He constantly asks to go ride the hills so he can get that fix of adrenaline.
The most important lesson I can teach my kids is the same lesson I try to practice myself — to embrace all parts of the roller coaster of life. They require regular maintenance, and we do, too. Therapy and positive self-talk are key to getting me through life. And, as the kids get older, we’ll help them through the twists and turns. Whether they scream with fear or throw their hands up in excitement … it’s all part of the ride.