Friday, March 11, 2011

Faking motherhood

I love being a mom, but I don’t always enjoy the tasks and sacrifices associated with motherhood.  I love my children more then I ever thought possible, but I don’t always like them.  And yes, I have fantasies of running away and never returning.  And you know what…millions of other women feel the same way, so why do we rarely talk about it?
I recognize and appriciate the minority of women out there who are truly gifted at motherhood. These women are gifted in the same way as those who have natural musical, academic, or athletic aptitude. Mothering innately flows from them with ease, joy and passion.  It is their life purpose to care for their children.  These few women will have no idea what I am talking about.  For the rest of us…you know exactly what I am about to dare speak of.
Socially unacceptable
I started expressing my negative feelings of motherhood very early on in my journey (while my kids were still cooking in my uterus).  Unfortunately, about the same time I started expressing these thoughts, I quickly learned that it was socially unacceptable to do so.  Nothing can clear a room or silence a crowd faster then a pregnant or new mom expressing unhappiness about her new “bundle of joy,” or questioning why the hell she allowed herself to be knocked up in the first place.  So what is a new mom with dark thoughts to do?  Well, stuff them of course.  We soon develop the socially acceptable responses that all the other smiling moms have.   You know the ones:
  • I just love being a mother.
  • I am blessed with such a good baby.
  • Yes, I am a little tired-but isn’t it all worth it?
  • I am enjoying every moment.
  • I’ve never been happier.
  • I am happy to get up in the middle of the night just to smell my baby.
  • I’m so lucky that my husband is great with the baby.
  • My children have brought my husband and I closer then ever.
  • I could just breast feed all day.
  • I can’t wait to have another one.
You’ve heard these statements.  You have probably even spoken these untruths.  We learn very early on that we have to talk like the rest of the moms to feel like a “normal” member of the motherhood society.  We look around and see all the shiny happy faces and deduct that we must be some sort of a genetic defect of a woman since we don't feel the same way.  If everyone is enjoying themselves and feels fulfilled as a mother, then we must be missing the maternal gene, instinct, or whatever it is that makes us supposed to "fall madly in love” with our babies and never have a cross thought.  If this is true, then we must not let anyone discover our defect-so we fake it.  This is exactly how the cycle of silence begins.
I want to blast the roof off this secret of motherhood!
It is my passion and life purpose to get people talking about the secret of motherhood disappointment, stress, and lack of fulfillment.  I know what internalizing these scary feelings did to me, and I am bound and determined to educate every woman I can, so they can speak their truth, own their experience, and define motherhood on their terms (despite the plastered grins around them).  I am not the only one on this bandwagon.  I have read just about every book on this topic, and they all say the same thing-the vast majority of mothers with young children are overwhelmed, disappointed, stressed and suffering from adjustment issues directly related to their new roles. Yet, we rarely talk about it.  When data is collected anonymously, the truth come out.  
Recently on a social networking site, a new mom posted about her frustrations and conflicts she was having with her spouse.  I was outraged to see that she was blasted, by other mothers about how she should be thankful for what she had.  This “beat up” mom posted an APOLOGY the next day and thanked her “friends” for shedding new light and a positive perspective for her.  Bullshit!  I was so sadden by this display, and disturbed on so many levels.  
  • This new mom reached out with heartfelt honest, and got slammed for it. 
  • This is one more case of a mom sucking it up and feeling guilty because nobody else dare admit that it sometimes sucks for her too.  
  • It perpetuates the cycle of silence… “I must be the only one” mentality lives on.
  • I full heartedly believe that many cases of postpartum depression can be prevented if new mothers felt supported to feel, own, and speak their truths.
I publicly posted about how brave this new mom was for venting- and bravo to her for owning her experience.  Most importantly, I told her that she owed no apologies and to continue to feel whatever it was that she was feeling.   She was thankful for the support, but I bet she won’t be so honest in her posts or in her future conversations.  One more mom joins the secret smile society.  Not only was I disappointed to see this public display of forced conformity, but it hit a personal nerve with me as well.  I was blasted a while back when I posted a piece titled, The worst parenting advice I ever received, on one of my favorite sites, Sane Moms. I angered another mother who lost her child and thought I should be thankful for mine.  My first reaction was of complete and total guilt.  She was right, here I am bitching about my perfectly healthy baby who is screaming her head off and I am about to lose my fucking mind-and this woman’s house is completely quiet because her baby died.  I was stymied for days and the layers of guilt piled on one by one.  All those feelings of 'what the hell is wrong with me'  came flooding back-until I realized we had two completely different realities.  Neither was right or wrong, but different.  I had no reason to feel guilty, and she had every right to feel pissed by my post.  I am so thankful for what I have, but I am allowed to bitch about what is difficult for me,  and so are you!  Whatever you are feeling is YOUR reality, and nobody can deny it or take it away.  Yes, someone always has it worse, and at the end of the day it is of the utmost importance that you practice gratitude and appreciation.  But in the moment, it is your feeling, your frustration, and your guilt that you have every right to feel, own, and speak it out loud.  It is only when you own these feelings that you can begin to look at what is working in your life, what is not- and start to define motherhood on your terms.
Let us break down the walls of silence and conformity to 'smile through your overwhelm' one mom at a time.  
Will you join me in the advice I give to new mothers?
May you pop that baby out and fall madly in love.  May your transition into motherhood be one of ease and pure bliss.  My wish is for you to “enjoy every moment.”  But if you don’t, you are a real mother. May you have the courage to feel your frustration, the strength to speak it, and the openness to allow others to support you. 


  1. This blog should be given to every mother-to-be at their first prenatal appointment. How our world would be a different and more honest place. I have sent this article to every mother I know so that they too may feel less guilt about having appropriate reactions to the often frustrating situations brought about by our dear children. I too love my kids tremendously, but life isn't rosy, and guess what? There's nothing wrong with that either!

  2. Dear The Cathcart Clan,
    You made my day! If I can help one mom with each post feel a bit more "normal" in her experience, it makes it all worth it. It is funny you say that such things should be given to each mom at her prenatal appointment-as I just met with my OBGYNs office to offer support groups for new moms and moms to be. There just isn't enough "real" emotional support give to new moms. Thanks so much for reading and for passing this post along!