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Moms Are Women, Not Super Human

Mother’s Day looms again and we are surrounded by joyful pictures, phrases, cards and roses. It really is a lovely and deserved celebration of motherhood, which really is a beautiful thing.

Not-all-moms-are-happy

Moms aren’t always happy parenting their children

But it’s not like that for everyone. For some women, these cards and love hearts are aching reminders that while they love their children dearly, they are not entirely happy parenting them.

My attention was caught a couple of years ago by an email read out on a radio chat show. It really stayed with me. The woman who wrote highlighted a huge but still largely unspoken about issue for women: she was a mother, she loved her kids, and she was miserable.

As a woman, and as a therapist, I am sadly familiar with the pressures that women experience once they transform suddenly from ‘woman’ to ‘mother’. With no “how-to” manual on how to navigate the transition!!

super mom super tired

What this woman spoke of so honestly is something we have all either heard about or felt. But we don’t really talk about it. We are expected to ‘take to motherhood’ much like the proverbial ducks to water. Has it been that easy for any of you? Has it been endless hours of fun and joy and wonderment at the beauty of the high pitch scream your bundle of joy emits just as you managed to drift…off… to.. sleep…??

#sigh

The truth is that not every woman does enjoy motherhood. And it can be experienced as traumatic when that dawns. Then the guilt sets in, and the feeling of being weird and abnormal. Of being less than. Why? Because no one explained to you that they felt the same, or of they did, you put it down to postnatal depression, or you didn’t really take them seriously because they seem to be coping just fine.. but really, there is no preparing for this. It’s hard.



The fact that so many women choose to have children and then choose to rear them does not automatically mean that the whole experience will be easy or pleasurable. For many of course here will be moments of intense joy!

For some though, bonding with a newborn is impossible, or at best, difficult. This does not mean you are a freak. It means you are finding this tough. You are literally at your most vulnerable when you give birth. Your body may be in shock, maybe the birth didn’t go as planned, maybe the birth triggered feelings of loss of control, or of a grief or bereavement that you were previously only barely conscious of. Maybe the birth triggered an awareness that all is not well with your partner. These are the things that interfere with our ability, or even desire, to bond with a tiny dependent squeaky noisy demanding new person.. doesn’t that make perfect sense?

How to acknowledge feelings and emotions of motherhood

SO we need to acknowledge and value these feelings and emotions. Even if they seem out of left field weird, illogical. This includes valuing our feelings of loss or rage or anger or boredom when we make a lifestyle change like becoming a parent, spending time with babies and small children, when you never have before.

Not like this anyway. Not with full responsibility – and that’s scary right? You may work with other peoples’ kids, love them even! But this is actually different. So if you feel differently now that you have your own, that’s normal. You’re no longer clocking off at 5.
This. Is It. And that is why so many women feel trapped some, maybe even all of the time.

Note: It is really important to know that loving your children and loving (or not) parenting them are two entirely separate things. It is entirely possible to love your child but not feel bonded (like in the warm and fuzzy parenting Facebook sunshine filled memes). It is utterly plausible that you can fiercely love your child but dread spending the day with them.

Fact: Parenting is not the same for everyone

Parenting is absolutely rewarding and joyful for many women. Equally though, it feels like grief for others, because so much has changed. (Same goes for men who primary parent of course, but this is Mother’s Day!)

That might be enjoying your status at work, and the feeling of achievement that brings, contact with colleagues, friendships, grown ups, time for recreational activities, dancing, laughing, reading quietly (!!), going to the hairdressers, having clean clothes, having long baths (alone – remember that?) writing that blog.. I’m sure you could add to that list – in fact, feel free to do so, it will help other people feel normal!

So what can we do?

* We can stop judging ourselves and each other and expecting mothers to be superwomen. Because, well, they’re not. THEY ARE WOMEN. JUST HUMAN WOMEN.

* Next, let’s avoid the temptation to overuse the labels ‘depression’ and ‘post-natal’. My mother said to me recently, wise woman that she is – “Sally, why are there so many people diagnosed with post natal depression these days? In my day we used call it “being a new mother”.
Now, she’s not a psychologist or a doctor, but what do you think?

Many listeners to the chat show I heard ‘diagnosed’ the woman as depressed and suggested antidepressant medication was all she needed. But there was no audible evidence of clinical depression.

She was reacting normally to what is, for her, an abnormal situation.

  • If this piece resonates with you, and it feels safe to do so, check with your friends to see if this resonates with them. Talking it out with them will probably help, that is my hope for you.
  • If you feel like you are going crazy and that you’re faulty in some way for not loving every minute of parenting, then I hope you can relate to this piece, especially the “you’re normal” bit.
    Seeking support, help, advice from a friend, parent, mentor, therapist, it’s all good.
  • If you are deeply concerned about your behavior or of you feel you are at real risk of actually hurting yourself or your children then definitely seek professional support. You do not have to go through this alone and people are trained to help you. They’ll have seen this before.
  • And contrary to what you might believe, it’s a sign of strength to seek help. It is in fact, good parenting and good modeling for your children.

You are teaching yourself and the people around you that you are after all, human.

Sally O'Reilly

Sally O'Reilly

Sally O’Reilly is an IAHIP, ICP and EAP accredited Counselling Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor with nearly twenty years of professional experience. Her particular area of expertise and interest is work with teenagers. She enjoys a busy full-time private practice and has developed and facilitated a personal development, substance misuse and sexual health programme for teenagers for over 15 years. She is a regular contributor to national print and radio media.
Sally is also the co-author of Two Wise Chicks.
Feel free to follow Sally on: Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

24 comments

  • This is a really important post, and I am so glad you wrote it. I have always had a big issue with the fact that people throw the phrase “moms do it all” around, as if it is something to aspire to. It is yet another huge weight that is put on women to do it all and still hold everything together. At best it’s unrealistic; even worse, it can be dangerous.

  • You make such good points here. While I was always completely fulfilled by being a mom, my sister needed more. She was/is a great mother, but she needed a career and I think that’s fine too.

    • Hi Liz and thank you. That’s the thing – we are all different, even when we are parented similarly. We would do well to have more people saying “That’s fine too”. So nice to read 🙂 Sally

  • I can relate. I’ve always dreamed of getting married (achievement unlocked), having kids (I have one), and being a hands-on, stay-at-home mom (now work-at-home), but there are days when I just want to take a break from all the parenting madness and spend some time for myself.

  • I love my kids and I enjoy being a mom. I have to admit though, that I also long for some time off . Your post will be helpful especially to new moms.

  • This is an awesome post indeed and should help some woman/ mothers . I have often wondered why there was some woman who just didn’t feel the mother instinct. This post does actually explain a lot of what other mother like myself didn’t understand. Thanks for sharing.

  • I think society has put so much pressure on women as they figure out motherhood. I am thankful that I bonded with all three of my children. They can be a handful sometimes, annoying, ect but at the end of the day they are kids and I love them anyhow. I’m not a perfect mom but I do the best that I can without feeling like I’m being judged. I try to enjoy each moment with my kids because they grow up so fast.

  • I love reading these types of posts, When I was a new mother I was so conflicted about being a new parent. I loved my daughter but just could not get being a mother together. It helps to know that I am not alone and that help was available if I needed it.

    • Hi Rachee, it’s great for me to know that this was of interest to you. It’s such a struggle for so many women, I hope I articulated it well – seems you totally understood what I meant!
      Thank you, Sally

  • I think moms of newborns especially need to hear this message, but even I do with a six and a three year old. I worked my tale off today from 6am to just about noon and didn’t sit down but once just cleaning, and I know I will do the same tomorrow. Sometimes the work we do is so thankless and this is a good post about it being ok to not completely enjoy motherhood.

    • Hi Heather, gosh, you are busy. I’m glad you liked the post and filled with admiration that you made the time to not only read it but to comment too! Maybe go have a coffee? 😉
      Sally

  • I am so glad I never had the feelings of not loving parenting. My daughter is my best girl friend! She’s 20 and was homeschooled through her senior year. She’s graduating community college with a 4.0 and going on to get her BA and MA in Secondary Education Integrated Language Arts. Our bond made her into the woman she is today. My son was homeschooled through his sophomore year and is an amazing teenager. He is responsible and a free-spirited musician. I can’t imagine not loving parenting these amazingly talented kids!

  • About Author

    Sally O'Reilly

    Sally O'Reilly

    Sally O’Reilly is an IAHIP, ICP and EAP accredited Counselling Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor with nearly twenty years of professional experience. Her particular area of expertise and interest is work with teenagers. She enjoys a busy full-time private practice and has developed and facilitated a personal development, substance misuse and sexual health programme for teenagers for over 15 years. She is a regular contributor to national print and radio media.
    Sally is also the co-author of Two Wise Chicks.
    Feel free to follow Sally on: Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

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