One of my readers gave me the idea for this blog. She mentioned that she didn’t live up to her fantasy of what a mother is. That set me thinking about the ideas that we all carry round in our heads of what motherhood will be like and more importantly, what kind of mother we will be.
For me I was quite unsure of how I would be. I had not wanted children for most of my life until a very unexpected change of heart came upon me. Finding babies slightly scary I could not really imagine myself as a mum.
For me the shock was how much I loved my son. My joy and pleasure at my baby boy was something I had never expected. I am certainly not the mother I thought I would be. I have changed so much and learnt so much. I actually like the mother I am now more than the idea of the person I had in my mind. That is not to say that I don’t feel like I have failed plenty of times because I do, but then I bounce back and realise I am okay, not perfect but okay.
Motherhood whilst being a much greater joy than I could have imagined was also tougher than I thought possible. There were plenty of times I have questioned if I was doing something wrong for it to be so tough but soon learnt that I was genuinely not alone in this.
What we imagine motherhood to be is influenced by many factors.
Our own childhood
How much we generally enjoy babies and children
How much we want to be a mother
For how long we have wanted to be a mother
Social representations of motherhood
Our idea of the mother we are going to be can have a big impact on how it is for us once we have our children particularly initially. No one, and I say this with a degree of certainty because of all the women I interviewed, no one finds motherhood exactly as they expect it or finds that they are the mother they thought they would be. We cant know what it is like to be a parent until we are one, not fully. It is also not how we expect partly because we learn so much, being a mother changes us. Everyone experiences some element of surprise and adjustment.
But what if our ideas of motherhood are so far from what we expect? Well then it can be tough.
I interviewed mothers who found that the reality was not even close to what they imagined. Some had expected to take to mothering like a duck to water but did not. One mum spoke of how her own mother loved bringing up children so she assumed that she would feel the same way. But for her, the experience was quite different. She loved her child but could not devote herself to mothering entirely without loosing her emotional footing.
Another mother spoke of her long wait to have a child in which time she built up a perfect picture of what life would be like. When her wish eventually came true, the reality could in no way live up to the fantasy she had constructed, whilst she longed for a baby.
Of course there is no problem to finding that our ideas and reality don’t match as long as we are kind to ourselves and allow for some time to adjust. The problems occur when we make a meaning out of this difference that is unhelpful to ourselves, like,
What is wrong with me?
What am I doing wrong?
Why is it like this for me?
If this sounds familiar then my next post will be on ‘Self blame’