For Anna Ashcraft, a young mom and a student at BYU-Idaho studying psychology, since she was 12, she wanted to be what her mom was, a mother.
“I always looked up to my mom,” Ashcraft said. “I’ve often wondered how on earth she could juggle it all. She just seemed like such a great example of being able to balance her job as a mother, her calling, homeschooling and still making sure that we got fed, clothed and living in a decently clean home.”
Ashcraft was confident while in her early years that motherhood would be smooth sailing with only minor bumps in the road, and would ideally be a mirror image of her mother’s journey through motherhood.
Having a child of her own allowed Ashcraft to admit that her perspective on motherhood has shifted.
When it came to balancing two jobs, being a student, a wife and a mother, Ashcraft felt those babysitting experiences from her teenage years couldn’t have ever prepared her for the trials ahead of her.
“I had really bad postpartum depression,” Ashcraft said. “It made me feel like I didn’t connect with (my daughter) at all.”
In addition to her struggle with depression and the recovery that comes after having a C-Section, Ashcraft was experiencing more than what she bargained for.
Throughout that semester, she had several panic attacks and depression episodes almost daily.
With a newborn in hand, Ashcraft said it quickly became a stressful time for her as she tried to continue her educational pursuits, be a good employee and be the wife/mother she wanted to be.
“There was a strong mentality for me that if other women could handle being a homemaker, student and have a job, then so could I,” Ashcraft said. “So, I would push myself above and beyond to do all of these things.”
It wasn’t until she was talking to her mother-in-law that she realized being a super mom or a successful woman does not correlate to overloading one’s self.
“In the world, it’s really easy to read articles about motherhood or see other mothers looking like they have it all together,” Ashcraft said. “(It) feels like (there is) a lot of criticism and pressure to be ‘Supermom,’ and some mums can get close but nobody can actually be supermom.”
Looking back, even though she was doing so many things for the right reasons, she didn’t feel like she was able to focus on the important things in her life; her family and herself.
For Ashcraft, this meant making the decision to defer her schooling as she raised her young daughter while her husband finished his degree.
In her early days of motherhood, Ashcraft felt like she didn’t know if she was more of “a woman, a machine or a milk cow.”
During the time after having her daughter, Ashcraft said there were many things that helped get her through. A few of those things included prayer, priesthood blessings and talking to her mom and mother-in-law.
One thing Ashcraft says helped her to relax the most was being able to spend a half-hour to an hour a day doing a self-care spa treatment.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s Book, Modest, Makeovers, and the Pursuit of Physical Beauty, gives words of comfort to Ashcraft.
“First of all, I want you to be proud you are a woman,” Holland said. “There could never be a greater authentication of your dignity, your worth, your privileges, and your promise.”
With a new outlook at motherhood, Ashcraft wants to encourage all the moms who are struggling with the daily challenges they face.
“You are not alone,” Ashcraft said. “Be willing to get the help you need; don’t be afraid to ask your relief society presidency for assistance or a neighbor to watch your kids so you can catch a breather. It will all work out, and as long as you’re doing your best, that’s all anyone can ask of you.”