By Lela Casey
For most of my life I was considered a nice person—perhaps too nice, even. I went out of my way to be kind to people and often had trouble saying no.
And then I had my first child, and something inside me switched. A darker, self-righteous version of myself took over. There were so many changes that happened during that first year that I wasn’t able to see how much I had changed. Until now. Looking back at those early years from the soft, cushiony chair of big kid parenthood, I realize how many ways I was an asshole during those first few years.
Here are the top 5 reasons I was an asshole new mom”
1. I was judgmental.
Oh, so judgmental! It fills me with shame to think about all the times that I wrote off other women because they let their babies cry it out or gave them formula instead of breastfeeding or raised their voices a little too loudly when their little one tore apart the library book at story time. What did I know about those women’s stories? Who was I to judge how they raised their kids? How could I not have considered that not everyone was fortunate enough to have the choice to stay at home with their babies or the extra help to be able to function with so little sleep. Who knows how many great friendships I missed out on because I was such a judgmental asshole.
2. Speaking of sleep.
I didn’t get any. Having a non-stop nursing toddler in my bed all night long made me tired and grumpy and even more of an asshole. Most days I was too exhausted to leave the house for anything more than a quick grocery trip. And when I DID leave the house, I was irritable and rushed. I couldn’t be there for my friends because I could barely function myself. Looking back, I wonder how many people I pushed away because I just couldn’t get my shit together.
3. I was a terrible wife.
Being drooled on, clung to, and slept on 24 hours a day left me very little energy for… anything, really. I’d never been a good housekeeper before, but after my first son was born, I just threw up my hands in defeat. My husband would work all day, come home to a filthy house, and then have to spend the rest of the evening listening to me complain about how exhausted and lonely I was. And sex? I was too tired, too grumpy, too touched-out to even think about it. A lot of that couldn’t be avoided. New motherhood is demanding however you look at it. But perhaps if I would have trusted my husband to take care of my son a little more, I would have been able to give myself the care I needed to not be so wretched all the time.
4. I never hosted anything.
There were so many kind friends who invited me over for play dates and coffee and parties. I never reciprocated. EVER. I told myself that I was too exhausted, that my house was too messy, that I just couldn’t handle one more thing. But the truth is, most of those women were in the same situation that I was, and they still managed to get it together enough to invite me over. Looking back, I know that they wouldn’t have cared how messy my house was. What they needed—what I needed— was someone to talk to who wasn’t constantly trying to grab their boobs or stick their dirty hands in their coffee. Opening up my door more often would have made those early years so much more pleasant.
5. I had a martyr complex.
There’s nothing like neglecting yourself to make you feel like you are carrying the whole world on your shoulders. There was help available—my husband, my friends, babysitters. But instead of accepting the help, I chose to drown in new motherhood and wear my suffering as a badge. Asshole move.
Twelve years have gone by since my first child was born. It’s easy to look back on my younger self with a critical eye. But the truth is, new motherhood was hard. Really fricking hard. And I did the best that I could. When I see new mothers now struggling with juggling the needs of their babies and themselves and their husbands, my heart goes out to them… no matter how they manage to get through it. I would never think of calling them out on being grumpy or judgmental or martyr prone. You know why?
Because I’m not an asshole anymore.
About the Author
Lela Casey walks a thin line between wanderlust afflicted gypsy and stable suburban mom. She is a regular contributing writer at Kveller.com. Her work can also be found on themid.com, elephantjournal.com, brainchildmag.com, femininecollective.com, and pjlibrary.com.