“I’m a bad mother” “I’ll never get this right” “He just won’t stop crying for me” “He prefers you” “Is it something I did?” “I don’t know what to do with him” “I’ll hurt him”I don’t know if mother shaming has always existed in some form but what I am sure of is that social media has reinforced the concept of mother’s guilt and shame.
We are constantly presented with unrealistic images of perfect babies and perfect mothers and somewhere in ourselves, even when we know we are being manipulated, we believe that we should strive for that perfection.
Mothering has almost become an extreme sport and a competitive one at that. In a baby’s first days, weeks and months it’s mother (I am speaking only about mothers in this post) finds herself in a foreign country. Even when it’s not a first baby she can struggle as both circumstances and the baby’s personality may differ. In this foreign country she is sleep deprived, she may or may not get an opportunity to eat nutritional food, her body is at the baby’s beck and call (if breastfeeding), she may be in pain from stitches and be unable to sit down, or get dressed or even bend down to tie her own shoes!
And the most challenging aspect of being in this foreign country is for a mother to find her way, whilst attempting to take some care of herself.
There is a myriad of obstacles; physical, mental and emotional but one of the biggest obstacles is that of mother shaming.
New mothers are vulnerable and in seeking perfection they may stumble on the path of shame. It is too easy to believe that you’re not doing a good job, when you haven’t slept in days. It’s easy to believe that you’re a bad mother because you’re not breastfeeding or that you are breastfeeding but it’s a struggle. Is it wrong that your baby sleeps in bed with you? or that your babydoesn’t sleep in bed with you?
I could go on and on because there is absolutely no shortage of areas that mothers can feel inadequate. Guilt about things we do or don’t do as mothers is growing as societal expectations grow.
Post-natal depression has become an issue that people are now willing to discuss, but I think that as with any mental ill-health, there is still shame involved in admission. The women who have been brave enough to bring the subject to the fore have given a great gift to new mothers.
Feelings of failure and shame brought about by messages we have received or are receiving about ourselves and our mothering are insidious and unhealthy. Whenever we can, we must attempt to change the narrative of the messages we send ourselves so that we can replace shame with pride. What an incredible gift to present to yourself and your baby!