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?

Your Baby & Toddler - - Just for you - BY JU­LIA BOLTT

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

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