Motherhood is one of life’s most demanding roles. Not surprisingly, many women get caught up in the cultural traps of striving to comply with unrealistic expectations of what it means to care for another human. We debunk some of the common myths surrounding motherhood and replace them with the realities.
MYTH #1: MOTHERHOOD WILL SURELY BE THE HAPPIEST TIME OF YOUR LIFE
This is one of the most commonly held myths. Hence, many mothers assume that they should only feel joy, pride and sheer delight after giving birth.
While the period after giving birth can be satisfying and joyous, it can also be demanding, stressful and challenging. First-time mothers and even experienced ones often feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Like all of life’s journeys, motherhood has its ups and downs. The challenges are part of a normal adjustment process, not personal shortcomings.
MYTH #2: WOMEN INSTINCTIVELY ‘KNOW’ HOW TO BE MOTHERS
This myth tends to cause mothers to feel shame and guilt when they make mistakes or simply do not know what to do.
While it is true that mothering is to some extent biologically designed, it is mostly a learning process with a lot of trial and error along the way. Just as it takes time to learn how to ride a bicycle or drive a car, it takes time and effort to learn how to be a satisfactory mother. No woman is born with the requisite knowledge, and it is perfectly normal to make mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and discover something new about the situation, yourself or your baby. So, be curious and open to learning instead of expecting yourself to know everything.
MYTH #3: ASKING FOR HELP MAKES YOU A ‘BAD’ MOTHER
Though many mothers experience countless difficulties and challenges, they often downplay the negatives for fear of being labelled as bad mothers. Instead of talking about their difficulties, they share their ‘achievements’ and ‘successes’ on social media. They are in fact unknowingly perpetuating the myth of ‘supermums’, whose lives are chaos-free and picture-perfect both at home and at work. The mythical supermum knows exactly what to do at all times, is ever-attentive to her family’s needs as well as her own, always in perfect balance, and has flawless timing.
Pressuring yourself to be a supermum, never complaining or asking for help, is possible – but unrealistic and possibly self-destructive. Motherhood is an extremely complex and complicated role, hence achieving perfection and being right all the time are simply impossible. Every mother makes mistakes because mothers are only humans. It is human to want some time alone, become frustrated and feel overwhelmed when things do not go our way. There is no shame in admitting that the journey of motherhood is not an easy one, and giving yourself permission to attend to your needs. You matter, too.
SO, GET REAL AND GO EASIER ON YOURSELF
Believing in the above myths often causes mothers to measure their performance against unrealistic expectations, which can contribute to the development of postpartum depression and anxiety. By rejecting these myths and adjusting goals to more realistic levels, mothers are more likely to feel better about themselves and spend more quality time bonding with their babies.
Healthy habits such as scheduling breaks, nurturing yourself emotionally by learning to express and accept negative feelings, developing a good support system and cultivating a sense of humour are just some of the many ways in which you can practise self-care. Remember to continually tell yourself, “I matter, I am important and I will treat myself with care.” Then motherhood will almost certainly become less of an obligation and a chore, and more of a personal experience to be enjoyed and valued.
Article courtesy of Cindy Khong, Counsellor at Clarity Singapore
Life will never be the same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide – by Ann Dunnewold and Diane G. Sanford