We all saw the pictures of Princess Kate last week, looking incredible only several hours after giving birth to her second child. And I think most mothers were in awe, because most of us were not fit for human viewing in such a short time after giving birth. Personally, I still had a catheter in and couldn’t walk after my emergency c-section and two days of labour!
I don’t want to take anything away from Kate- my best friend was exactly the same in the 12-24 hours after her two births, experiencing powerful bursts of energy.
The point is, we are all so different, and the image of Kate as the idealised mother raised for me the mythologies of ‘perfect mothering.’ For me, there are really 5 main myths
Myth 1.That you feel joy and love immediately after birth.
I may have had an odd reaction, but for a few months after my son was born, I had this incredible feeling of powerlessness and resentment, purely because I LOVED him so much. If he had needed any of my limbs (or my life), I would have given it all to him. I still would, but now I’m accustomed to the feeling. As Elizabeth Stone said, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Myth 2. That it all comes naturally.
Breastfeeding, wrapping, sleep deprivation, and knowing what our children need in any given moment can often be instinctive. These things can also be hard and impossible to work out. We become detectives when we are trying to understand what they want! When we build up motherhood to only be an idealised and joyful part of women’s lives, it can lead to a sense of failure if we don’t feel that we live up to that ideal. My truth: having a baby for me was like being hit by a tsunami. Motherhood is not an achievement. It is so much more than that.
Myth 3. That you enjoy and feel happy in every minute spent with your child.
Motherhood is relentless, and asks so much of us at times when we are often at our most vulnerable. While we might love our children all the time, we don’t always like them… Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a pat on the back for getting through the day!
Myth 4.That motherhood isn’t a full-time job.
Let’s be clear. Intensive parenting is a full-time job. Anyone who works in addition to intensive hands-on parenting has two full-time jobs. Even when you are not with your children, they are inside your mind. And when you get home from ‘work,’ you start a whole new job, cleaning up, putting them to bed, making and feeding them dinner, entertaining and educating them. Mothering may be fulfilling and rewarded with lifelong love, but it is also very hard work.
Myth 5. That mothering shouldn’t be affected by the stresses of your life.
Here’s the final point: if things are going well in our relationships, we are better mothers. If things are going well in our career, or if we feel like we are generally living on purpose, mothering is easier. That’s the best reason to commit to conscious living: if you feel good, you are the best version of yourself, and the best mother you can be.