Motherhood is Hard Work So Cut Yourself Some Slack!

The media creates images of perfect mothers such as June Cleaver and Claire Huxtabel. TV moms look perfect, have spotless homes, and great relationships. Magazine covers portray moms holding beautiful babies, breastpumps and briefcases who are perfectly made up.  From such images women define their “shoulds” and “musts”creating unattainable standards of perfection and judging themselves for not keeping up.

The truth is that motherhood is hard work. As women become mothers and face the accompanying stressors and challenges, they often internalize their  inability to cope flawlessly as personal failings.  Add sleepless nights and fussy babies and it’s not hard to see why mothers lose confidence. When the idealized view of one’s self and motherhood collides with reality, they criticize themselves rather than recognizing how well they are doing given the endless expenditure of physical, emotional and mental energy that goes into caring for children.  Pretty amazing!

Nuclear families encourage isolation, especially in the early days postpartum. Experienced mothers rarely discuss hardships inherent in mothering.  No one wants to admit they felt less than adequate, irritable, anxious or depressed maneuvering new motherhood while this is true.  Although the internet provides some connection, many moms lack the  face-to-face support needed to see that everyone faces challenges and make mistakes.  Supporting themselves and each other by acknowledging that motherhood is hard work and that perfection must be tempered by reality  is what’s needed.

So, starting today cut yourself and the moms around you some slack.  You’ve earned it.  You deserve it!

Jamie Bodily is founder and director of ParentsCount which provides birth and postpartum doula services, childbirth education and counseling

7 Comments »

  1. I love this!! I have a print of the word “SHOULD” crossed out hanging in my office. My clients seem relieved when they realize they are creating their own “shoulds.”

  2. Love it, Stacey and Jamie! And may I recommend my classic book, Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box: Cut Yourself Some Slack and Still Raise Great Kids in the Age of Extreme Parenting, as everywoman’s bible for battling the societal shoulds?

  3. Hello, what u say is true, but it’s not the image of perfect moms that gets to me, it’s the future image of my daughter gets to me.. I am afraid my lack of time not being with her at all times scares me… What if’s.. Like early childhood learning etc how much of it will be affected????
    I work full time and I am full time student and my daughter is 2 so my time around her is limited… I try to make most of that limited time but sometimes I slack because I am tired. My husband does his best but it doesn’t make my guilt go away.

  4. Yams, it is a tough spot when we feel like our time is limited and we want every minute to be quality time with our children. As much as we idealize that notion, at some level we have to recognize that it is not achievable nor is it necessarily in yours or your daughter’s best interest. You need time to rest and recharge or you can’t give your best to your daughter. There is a lot of research that indicates that children of working mothers fare quite well when their child care is high quality. Recognizing that you are doing the best you can right now for your family is an important first step to recognizing that there are limitations to any choice you make.

  5. When my kids were littler, I tended to have the opposite problem. Other parents often criticized my style of parenting and offered advice that was unwanted and didn’t apply well to me and mine. There were times when I felt like the isolation was better because at least then I wasn’t dealing with criticism and negativity regarding my parenting.

    Finding support as a new mom can be really tricky when there are so many different schools of thought about the “best” ways to handle various situations with babies and toddlers.

  6. Hi Angela,
    I know what you mean. I was lucky enough to have a small group of friends w/similar values who supportend each other even when we took a different approach. I think it’s a shame that we’ve gotten this idea that there’s a single right way to be a good mom and that women become critical/judgemental of each other rather than supportive.