WHEN IT’S NOT ALWAYS FUN
Every parent has those days – when everything feels like really hard work and, to be honest, not that great. But is it the last great taboo of motherhood to admit that you don’t always like parenting?
One mom describes them as Throw Your Kids Off The Bus days. Of course she isn’t really advocating throwing her children off a vehicle, but there are few moms who wouldn’t know what she’s talking about – those days where your kids’ behaviour is frustrating, confounding or even just plain irritating, or the repetitive nature of parenting just feels like an unrewarding slog. But if you were to vocalise those feelings to your mom friends, the chances are that an uncomfortable silence might just fall across the group. Why is the myth of motherhood as a serene, calm, always-happy experience so pervasive in our culture? And why are we so reluctant to dispel that myth? The truth is that mothers feel immense insecurity about admitting parenting isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.
MOTHERHOOD’S BIGGEST TABOO?
“It’s one of the big taboos – although there are so many around motherhood,” says clinical psychologist Ruth Ancer. “I think there are such unrealistic expectations placed by society – that we can do it all, and have it all, and that having children is the ultimate dream. We see all these messages and no one actually says that it’s really hard, so you feel like you’re going mad and most of the time you don’t know what you’re doing.”
BUT I DIDN’T EXPECT TO FEEL THIS WAY It catches a lot of moms by surprise that they can feel that
conflicted about something that they have always been educated is a wonderful and magical special bond. People who don’t feel that way often feel that there is something wrong with them and wonder how they can love their children, yet feel this tension and conflict at the same time.
“The problem is that women aren’t encouraged to speak openly, because they fear being judged,” says Ruth. “Sometimes they think that they always just assumed they would be good mothers and it completely destroys the idea that they have of themselves: ‘If I can’t be a good mother, what can I be?’ The idea of what a good mother is is so distorted. If only people understood that having the right intentions and holding your child in mind, that you can’t be perfect, that at times it is going to be terrible, but that as long as you’re getting it right most of the time, as long as your intentions are good, as long as you are a thoughtful mother, that’s a good mother,” she adds. “If we had a more realistic idea of what a good mother is, then we wouldn’t judge ourselves by saying, ‘We are such terrible mothers’, we would say we are just normal.”
SHOULD WE BE MORE HONEST?
In a recent article published on The Huffington Post, author Janet Casey writes, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all just brutally honest with each other about how hard it is to care for our bundle of joy? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear another mom say, ‘I just broke down and cried’? I feel like there is a degree of guilt that moms face when they don’t feel that endless amount of happiness every minute of the day. It’s not easy, and we should stop pretending like it is. We don’t need to feel guilty about not loving every minute of motherhood.”
Clinical psychologist Jeanine Lamusse agrees that talking about it is the healthier option. “I think it’s necessary. Keeping up appearances is a huge problem. If you acknowledge the fact that you’re human and you make mistakes, you do need to talk about it. You need to have a support group or a space where you take that, because the more you hold onto it, the more you start feeling alone with it, the more alone you feel, the more negative you feel about yourself. The more you hold onto it the more you start berating yourself, and that internal narrative of berating yourself all the time breaks you down. If you’re constantly breaking yourself down, how are you going to be able to rise to the occasion of parenting your child? You can’t keep it in, because that doesn’t allow you any room to let go of it and any room to recognise that you are actually normal and you’ve got strengths and weaknesses,” she advises.
OF COURSE IT’S HARD TO ADMIT
“How often would you go and have coffee with someone and talk about your own failings? It’s very hard for us to be open to other people about our strengths and our weaknesses. The more comfortable we become with the fact that we are human and that we have strengths and weaknesses, the more comfortable we become about talking about our strengths and weaknesses or our failings as a parent. Because we are all going to fail our kids. In fact, we need to fail our kids, because if we don’t stress them in some way, how are they going to learn how to cope?” says Jeanine.
Adds Ruth: “Anyone who says it’s all easy, that they are so grateful every moment of their life for their children and that they’ve never wished they could have one Sunday morning to sleep in, that they’ve never had any unconscious thoughts of ‘What would it be like if I didn’t have a child?’ – I think they are liars. If people didn’t have this perception that, ‘I’m the only one that feels this’, it would be far healthier.”
Jeanine stresses the need for individuation. “We need to remember that we’re not only moms. There are many parts that make us who we are. Typecasting ourselves and putting us in one particular role is limiting ourselves and our emotional experience. You can’t do that to yourself – you need to have a bit of variety of experience. You still need to go and have tea with your friends or have your own personal interests apart from your child, because you are not one with your child. You are two individuals! You cannot expect your child to be one with you, nor can you expect your child to consistently be a reflection of you,” says Jeanine. “I think the judgement might fall away once we start allowing more room for difference – recognising that we’re all human, we have feelings, we have ups and downs and we all share that.” YB
it’s not easy, and we should stop pretending like it is