Featured on Nicole Paton Photography's Blog this week is the talented wordsmith Rachel sharing her answer to a niggly question I asked her at the start of my month of mum celebration - "what's the hardest part of motherhood?" Have a read through what she has to say...

"The Hardest Part"

A clean, ordered desk.

The distant clacking of somebody’s keyboard.

An empty coffee cup.

The rain pelting wildly on the roof.

My mind in a spin.

It’s early Tuesday afternoon and it's the third week of my new job. I’ve made good progress here. The grind of full time work feels more familiar than I thought it would and I’ve settled in comfortably. Still, today my head is spinning.

A week or so ago Nicole asked me to write a short piece about “The hardest part of motherhood”. I hadn’t been sure what to write because in many ways, everything is hard just as much as everything is easy, and I wasn’t sure how many of my thoughts would fit into the word count (and how many of that word count would actually be coherent). As well as this, if I can be completely honest, I hadn’t been feeling like all that much of a “mother” lately.

In the past few weeks, I’d opted to have a home holiday without my kids. I’d bumped up my oldest son’s after school care to five days a week, and I’d ripped my youngest son out of his wonderful, small kindy and plonked him full time into a daycare with thirty kids per classroom. Yes, per classroom, there are three other classes at this daycare so, you know, it’s basically a small city.

On top of that, my husband was constantly sorting out the dinner and the washing, I hadn’t cleaned my shower in three weeks, and being cranky to the kids just ten minutes into my morning had become the norm.

Based on society’s wildly misinformed interpretation of motherhood as a soft, homely, nurturing experience, I was failing miserably. 

So was this it? Had I officially graduated into my version of “the hard part”?

I push my keyboard back and spin out of my office chair to walk into the staff room. There’s a shelf of collective mugs next to a fancy looking coffee machine, but I opt for the jar of instant coffee alongside the bench. Typical.

I remember a time when drinking a full cup of coffee, uninterrupted, felt like a luxury. See, I’d had experience in the “hardships” of parenting. I’d ended up having my children 21 months apart which was a move that resulted in about four years of sleepless nights, early mornings and disruptive days. It was hard. I’m not sure how I’d survived.

Then, when my youngest was 5 months old, a good friend of mine passed away. I sang Blippi songs in the lounge and cried out of sight in the hallway. I cuddled my baby tightly, knowing my friend no longer had the chance to cuddle hers. It was hard.

We’d struggled through full seasons of sickness, visiting the doctor’s clinic almost weekly and spending countless days inside.

And don’t think I’d forget to mention Covid and the countless opportunities it took from us all. Opportunities we still haven’t felt the full impact of. We put things on hold, we missed out on things, we tried our best to recover and move it. I was really freaking hard.

Parenting is one challenge after the next, after the next, after the next. I can’t help but feel like that’s one thing they failed to warn us about in antenatal class. Would it have scared us too much?

I sit back down to my desk with my hot drink and refresh the browser on my computer. Up pops a news story about wild weather hitting our country in the coming days. I instantly think about my kids. Do we have enough indoor activities? Did I pack their raincoats today? Do we have dinner sorted? Will i be able to drive home tonight? Will our home flood to the rafters?

There’s really no end to it is there?

It’s quite clear, now that I’ve written it all down, that the hardest part about motherhood has nothing to do with our kids.

It’s everything else.

Sure, we all have our days. We all have moments when our kids drive us up the wall (I probably have more than most). But the nitty gritty, the painful, the laborious stuff, that’s where our kids come out of the equation.

It’s riding the wave of work, of failure, of expectation, of sleeplessness, of grief, of sickness, of time pressure, of relationships, of living costs, of bills, of unsolicited advice, of marriage, of this and that and everything and anything, of every second of every day. Because everything that affects us, ultimately affects them. And we’re hardwired to put them first, through it all.

My battles don’t match my sister’s. My issues could never compare to those who are single parents, or are in poverty, or have lost children, or have sick children, or have disability - I could go on. How could I try to define my journey against many others in harder situations?

But I know we have one piece of common ground: If the hardest part of parenting is everything else, the best part is being a parent. To my kids. Being a parent to THEM.

Them racing to greet me when I finally get home each night. Them snuggled up on the couch on a rainy morning. Them growing stronger and taller and looking more like their dad. Them grinning when they get their way. The way they remind me of my little brothers. Them asking politely for pancakes. Them dancing to their heart’s content. The way they say “I love you”. The grubby hand marks they leave on the ranch slider. Them. Them. Them. Them. Everything them.

My love for them is constant. A tide that never goes out. And while I sit in my office chair, thinking about them, I remember that my current feeling of failure is just another wave of the “hard” things.

All I need to do is keep afloat.


If you want to follow Rachel you can find her on instagram as @thinkmamathink or Read more stories of motherhood on her website Here

Thank You Rachel!

Thank you for your candor, raw and heartfelt words. I know that a lot of the mums and parental figures reading this will connect with you on so many different levels and on different things.

And as the 'Month of Mum' comes to an end I think it is only fitting to highlight that parenting and motherhood is as much about the hard times as it is the good.

There is no romanticising here - being a mum is hard and feeling like a good mum ... even harder.

I truly hope that as you read Rachel's words you felt a connection and sense of relief that the struggles are universal but so to is the joy!

Aroha nui, Nicole

Readers - please encourage and support Rachel through her socials linked above.