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Is it normal my self-esteem is so low as a mom?

Having a baby changes everything, even how you feel about yourself. Our advice columnist shares how to build your self-esteem as a mom.

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Dear Is This Normal,

How can I work on my own self-esteem and not wait around for my husband to finally compliment or encourage me? Since our firstborn, a year after we got married, he has stopped being romantic completely and we haven’t had a date night or time alone just us 2 ever since. We now have two kids, 4 and 1. The only times he starts showering compliments is right before and during sex. I’m working on losing weight but all he does is tell me to keep working on it, while also talking about how beautiful women like Jennifer Lopez are. It’s so hurtful and even when I talk to him about it, he doesn’t change. 

Signed,

Not Feeling the Love

Dear Not Feeling the Love,

Oof, mama. There’s a whole lot to unpack here, isn’t there? I want to start by saying that I am so sorry you’re feeling this way, because I know how much it hurts and how easily it can undermine your own self-worth and confidence. Should we need validation from others to feel good about ourselves? No, of course not. Does it help us when we feel supported and encouraged and like someone is rooting for us? It sure does! And clearly, you’re not feeling supported or encouraged (or even very unconditionally loved) during a time you’re also feeling very vulnerable and unconfident. And that is a difficult combination.

I think we need to approach this from two separate angles. First, we need to talk about you and how you feel about you and how you can start rebuilding your confidence and prioritizing your self-worth. Because YOU deserve to feel good about you, and you deserve to be loved and to love yourself. And then…we need to talk about your husband. Let’s start with the most important part, though—YOU.

The first thing I’m going to suggest for you is therapy. Get you a therapist, mama. Therapy can be so, so beneficial in so many situations, but I really do think you (and your confidence and self-worth) deserve to have a safe, supportive space to work through these issues. I get the sense that there is some underlying stuff happening here too, that isn’t directly related to the strife in your marriage. And that is OK! We are more than wives or partners or husbands or parents, and our self-care, needs and mental and emotional well-being matter, and need to be nurtured too. Getting married and then having two kids in five years is…a lot. And needing and asking for help to process everything you’re feeling is perfectly OK and encouraged.

If therapy isn’t doable for you right now (because I know it is a privilege!), then my next suggestion is to stop looking to your husband for support and start getting it from the other people in your life who love you. Your friends, your family…even your 4-year old! Kids give THE BEST love and are so supportive, and can make you feel like a million bucks just when you need it the most. Also, consider joining an in-person or virtual support group to help carry you on your weight loss journey, like Weight Watchers or Noom. Having that added layer of support from people who understand what you’re going through and recognize your hard work and accomplishments can be so rewarding. Sometimes you just need a high-five or for someone to recognize that you are doing hard things—and there are so many people out there who can be that for you.

Now, let’s talk about your husband and marriage. You know what I’m gonna say, right? Right. THERAPY. Talk to your husband about getting into couple’s counseling or at least exploring different exercises you can start to work through together at home. Again, there is no shame in calling in an outside voice to help in your marriage; it’s clear from your letter that your husband either doesn’t hear you or isn’t listening, and either way, continuing down that road is not healthy for either one of you. It’s not just that he’s being dismissive of your physical appearance; he is also being dismissive of your mental and emotional health, if he knows it bothers you and still continues to do it. Since he’s not receptive to you speaking to him about it, it’s time to pull in a professional who is trained to work with couples.

Also, one final note because this kind of ish bugs me: Jennifer Lopez is STUNNING and I know she works hard to look the way she does. But she’s also very rich and has access to a whole cadre of chefs, personal trainers, beauty gurus, and other people to help manage her busy life. If your husband isn’t interested in a squad of professionals at your house all day, every day, he may want to stop comparing apples to oranges. Also something tells me J-Lo would not be cool with her name being used to tear other women down. Just a hunch.

Sending You Love For As Long As You Need It,

Is This Normal

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