Shortly after the birth of my second child, a friend politely inquired “So, how are you finding Motherhood?”. Stuck in a fog of sleep deprivation and a toddler hell bent on assassinating his new baby sister, I found it incredibly difficult to answer.
I told her I thought it was “hard work yet worth it all in the end” but what I really felt like saying was “It’s actually a little bit crap and if I knew it was this hard I’d probably be sipping margaritas by a pool in Thailand right now”.
This is the part where I tell you how grateful I am for my children and how truly blessed I am. If you know me well you would already know this to be true – I adore them and lavish them with love and I really do appreciate how lucky I am. I’ve recovered from the time my son threw a plastic basket at the baby capsule while I was driving, tried the strangulation method via the bassinette straps and placed an Elmo bathmat over her face.
My problems arise with talk that surrounds this supposed new trend of complaining about motherhood like it is some sort of competition. My experience has been that it’s still unacceptable to front up to how difficult you might be finding it. And it often begins before the baby is even born.
While spending an evening at a hair salon, the hairdresser asked me if I was excited to be pregnant. I told her I was and I left it there but this was my first child and I was also incredibly frightened – by god was I frightened – I wasn’t entirely sure if I was up to the challenge or not. Perhaps sensing my apprehension she decided to say “You’re not really into this are you?” Well it’s a little bit too late if I wasn’t! Why do we feel the need to shut down a woman any time she doesn’t slip nicely into our idea of the “norm”?
Given that Post Natal Depression affects up to 15% of childbearing women in this country it is not always as simple as “deciding” to like something either. Many people spend years in cognitive behavioural therapy just to change a mindset. Should we not then encourage Mothers to speak honestly, however uncomfortable that might make us?
I love hearing people speak glowingly of parenthood and I’ve made it a mission to only speak positive words to parents on the cusp of new parenthood “thou shalt not divulge thy horror stories of birth” is my new mantra – but I don’t begrudge anyone else’s feelings on motherhood.
If motherhood is defined as “the state of being a mother” then it’s probably best to avoid asking this question to the mum of a newborn who doesn’t like sleep. But if motherhood means “the relationship between an offspring and mother” well then I think I’m doing just fine.
Have you always felt that you could be completely honest about your role as a mother?