During pregnancy, motherhood is often portrayed to be a fairly idyllic experience. Happy couples smiling down at their children, a content baby fast asleep in their cot, a newborn calmly breastfeeding in their pristine white sleepsuit – these images are all too common. The reality is, however, parenthood isn’t quite that simple.
This picture painted by the media doesn’t always reflect real life, so whilst you are sure to experience some of the many joys of parenting, you may find being a new mom far more challenging than you first expected.
Many of the struggles and challenges new moms experience are the ones that remain hidden – the struggles which occur under the veil of darkness, during the night in nightlight-flooded nurseries, whilst pacing the floor during cluster feeding or home alone during maternity leave.
These invisible mom struggles affect us all. Here are some of the invisible mom struggles you might experience and how to overcome them.
The Pressure to be Perfect
It’s important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect mother. Comparing yourself to others, whether that’s mom friends you meet at baby clubs, friends and family or mothers you see online in the media can actually be very damaging. Motherhood comes with good days and bad – so don’t be too hard on yourself.
When you look at another mom, you are seeing a small interval of their day – a snapshot of their life. Whilst everything may look perfect on the surface during that short time period – you have no idea what the rest of their day has looked like. The mom who’s baby is napping calmly may have had zero sleep last night as her baby battled colic. The mom with a full face of makeup who looks like she’s successfully juggling it all may have had one rare morning to herself after begging for help from her family. A bad day is not a bad life, so try and take the rough with the smooth – parenthood is certainly a journey!
Why does no one tell you about the guilt that moms experience? Guilt that you’re not spending enough time with your partner, guilt that you couldn’t breastfeed or guilt that your partner isn’t able to give them a bottle. Guilt if you don’t see your friends, but guilt if you have a morning away from your baby. Guilt if you return to work after becoming a mom and guilt if you don’t. Nothing can prepare you for the guilt you will feel and though at times it’s completely irrational, it can be hard to overcome.
Feeling guilty isn’t necessarily a problem, as long as you can rationalize it. Remember your parenting journey is yours and yours alone – don’t allow others’ preconceptions or opinions make you feel guilty for the choices you make.
The Loss of Me Time
It is entirely possible to adore being a mother, whilst simultaneously mourning for the person you were before. You may miss your pre-mom self, the freedom, the independence or the ability to get a full night’s sleep. During those early newborn days in particular, it’s perfectly normal to feel a little lost and miss the ‘me time’ you used to experience. The good news is, it does get a little easier. It is entirely possible to incorporate small elements of self-care into your routine as a mom – you have to just remind yourself that your health and well-being are important too.
Feeling Touched Out
Breastfeeding your baby can come with so much pride and scientifically produces the happy hormones oxytocin which can improve your mood and mental health – however, being the sole source of nourishment for your child comes with an intense amount of responsibility. There may be times, when you’re exhausted, sleep deprived or have a clingy cluster-feeding baby where you want nothing more than not to be touched. No cuddles, no top tugging, no clamping down on your nipples – nothing. This touched-out feeling can be challenging to overcome, but try and stay calm. These moments too will pass.
These invisible mom struggles can be overwhelming, but allow yourself to acknowledge your feelings and emotions. Reach out to other moms and you’ll soon learn that you’re not alone and that others are experiencing the same thoughts and feelings.