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