When Does Motherhood Start? (And Why Is It Important?)

4ixkh1479313377Well the answer to the first question is obvious isn’t it?

But maybe not. When I asked this question to the women I interviewed for my book, the majority felt that it was once they had given birth, while for others it was on becoming pregnant. Either way, for all mothers, there is a point at which we feel like a mum. It normally comes hand-in-hand with the feeling of being responsible for another life; it is that moment when we understand that we are inextricably linked to our child. However, if we consider motherhood with all it entails then we can see that our whole lives have an impact on how we approach being a mother.

Our childhood, our life experiences and the demands of the society we grow up in play a big part in how we perceive motherhood, particularly in the early days. We have expectations of what motherhood will be and what we ‘should’ be as mothers. What we hope for, fear and expect of ourselves already exists prior to having a child in our arms.

So what is the point of asking this question or even thinking about the pre-children influences on our motherhood experience?

It may sound all a bit abstract but actually, what we expect of motherhood has a lot to do with whether we feel we doing well enough. Here are some examples:

  • Good mothers are often portrayed by society as fairly selfless individuals who are all about giving to others. Yet, all of us have moments when we need time and space for ourselves. It can, initially, feel as if we must not be quite good enough when we find ourselves needing that time for ourselves, unless we realise that this is a social idea and not one founded in reality (the reality being that we are all human with our own needs and motherhood does not change that very basic fact).
  • One of the women I interviewed spoke of how she had inadvertently painted such a rosy picture of motherhood in her mind that when she found herself exhausted with a newborn baby she automatically thought she was failing. It was only with hindsight that she realised there was no way that the experience could have ever lived up to her expectations. Through readjusting her idea of motherhood she could be kinder to herself, allowing her to discover motherhood for what it was rather than what she thought it would be.
  • Being raised to be high achievers in life left some of the women I interviewed feeling at odds with motherhood. They expected to apply the same standards and work ethic to raising a child that they had to achieving in life so far. But for these women the days with a young baby, where they didn’t feel that they were achieving anything tangible, was disorienting. Some then felt that they must be doing something wrong, until they examined their life learning.

Our lives prior to having children have an inevitable impact on us as people and so as mothers; what we do, how we think and how we feel. We all have expectations of what motherhood will be and what sort of mother we will be. But the reality is that we can’t know what it is to be a mother before we get there as it is a constant learning process. Some of the things we expect will be present, some aspects will surpass our expectations but others won’t and that is all normal.

We can't know what it is to be a mother before we get there as it is a constant learning process Click To Tweet

Starting to consider what our expectations are (and have been) at any point in our motherhood journey is useful.

If you are interested in reading more about motherhood and our expectations then you can click on image of The Guilt-Free guide to Motherhood in the sidebar and read for free the first chapter of my book using the Amazon ‘Look inside’ feature which covers this topic in much more depth.

What expectations did you have of becoming a mother? Are you the mother you thought you would be? How is motherhood different from what you expected? I would love to hear about your experiences. I reply to every comment.

So what is next?

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70 thoughts on “When Does Motherhood Start? (And Why Is It Important?)

  1. Motherhood for me began when I knew I was pregnant. My kids are grown now and both have toddlers and one is expecting twin boys and another a little girl all in March. WOOHOO!

    Nanahood began the second I knew those kids were pregnant and I cried with them when they went thru miscarriages as I did before my children.

    Motherhood to me was the greatest job I ever did. I worked outside the home and now my girls work from home so I’m here every chance I get to keep the toddlers and one is on the way over now.

    1. Hi Debbie, It is so wonderful to read about your overview of having children and then becoming a grandmother. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. All the best for your new grandchild in March. My mother says that grand-parenting is better than being a parent.

  2. What an interesting article. We do really put so much pressure on ourselves as a mother and I think we are all guilty of having an idea in our heads of what motherhood will be like and oh wow it can be so different! I’ve just subscribed to your newsletter as really found this interesting so thank you for sharing x #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Thank you for saying so, it means a lot. It is so good to consider what our expectations are in any walk of life so that we can then test them against reality and give ourselves a break.

  3. I find this so interesting, I think that my process of identifying as a mother was gradual with constant reevaluating. I thought I was already a mother when pregnant then found the birth of my identity at the birth of my son and, like my son, it’s grown and changed since then…in a big way linked to confidence. Thoughtful and useful as ever, thanks Kirsten #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Thank you, Lucy. I think that the process you are describing is a great and natural one where we learn as we go along allowing our expectations to be acknowledged and replaced with our new learning and awareness. It is a satisfying process where we look back and realise that we have grown through our journey.

    1. I agree Talya, it is really worth giving what has shaped our attitudes some thought. We can get some useful information in doing so. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Another brilliant article Kristen! Really interesting how we all have different expectations. I didn’t really accept or think about what it meant to be a mum until my baby was born although I did feel ‘different’ and very protective towards my bump. I didn’t really know what type of mum I wanted to be just what I didn’t want to be. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime
    Catie recently posted…#a blogging good time #23My Profile

    1. Thank you, Catie. I think many of us fall into that camp. We have somewhere within us preconceived ideas of what a mother ought to be but we don’t really have to think about it unless we find ourselves not meeting those expectations. It sounds like you were quite open to how it would turn out.

    1. That is certainly a pressure that seeps through our society. It is as if we give up our person status and need to become a saint. I am glad this post got you thinking, Lucy. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Thank you for sharing that, Bridget. It becomes that much more real when we actually have a baby in our arms, certainly more intense.

    1. Thank you Kirstin. That is why I wrote my book. I wanted to get expectant or really new mothers to realise that they can be a mother in their own way without all the guilt/pressure.

  5. It’s funny but for me, I think it was in the first few days after birth, with both of them. I think up until they were safe in my arms I was afraid that it was all too good to be true, that it would go wrong somehow. Then in the first few days after my first and probably the first few hours after my second (vastly different birth experiences) I had a moment where it was like ‘oh, hello little person of mine, I’m your Mummy’ 🙂 xx #momsterslink
    claire recently posted…5 films you absolutely should NOT watch while pregnantMy Profile

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Claire. It really can be such a different experience from one child to another can’t it. For me it became real once I had my son.

  6. For me, I think motherhood began when I found out I was pregnant but the big moment for me when I made that transition into a parent was when we found out about our daughter’s heart condition at the 20 week scan. From that point on, everything became very real and every decision we made was made with our daughter being first and foremost in our minds. Having unrealistic expectations does make parenthood harder though – I have certainly been guilty of having this rose-tinted image of motherhood and feeling guilty that I couldn’t live up to it. Having a more realistic view has certainly been liberating. It certainly is a constant learning process. Great post. #coolmumclub
    Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love) recently posted…Friday Focus 04/11/16 – Dancing feetMy Profile

    1. It is lovely to have you commenting, Louise. I found when I was researching for my book that motherhood became much more real for those women who had to make decisions about their babies health during pregnancy. Although we are all responsible for our babies that feeling of responsibility kicks in much earlier when there are complications during a pregnancy. I am glad that, like me, you have found removing those expectations of ourselves liberating.

  7. For me, I became a mother at our 20 week scan when they thought something was wrong with Ben.
    I like to think I’m a good mother but recently was told someone thought I Was a bad mother when pregnant, but at that point it’s hard to make a judgement surely?

    1. That is a very strange thing to be told and must feel odd for you, Lianne. I think a lot of the motherhood journey is about learning to trust ourselves and let go of the demands/expectations of others. Many mothers who experience complications or have concerns in pregnancy feel that this is the point they really become a mother. The responsibility becomes very apparent at this point. You are certainly not alone in feeling this way.

    1. It is impossible to know because we can’t experience the intensity of parenting before we get there and do it for real and like you said it is an ever changing process. Thank you for your comment, Lucy.

  8. A really interesting article. When pregnant I was just an expectant mother, for me the whole motherhood journey started the first minute my son gasped his first breath. It is a relentless journey. Motherhood and parenting never stops does it? My mother still mothers me and sometimes I have to remind her I am nearly 50 and a mother myself. At every stage of the journey there is a new challenge and a new reward and that is what I love about it. #ablogginggoodtime

    1. I really do agree with you comment, Jo. I think the process goes on. We don’t ever stop being mothers and for me also, it has changed me so much that I view all children differently, and myself and life. It is an amazing, if challenging at times, journey. Thank you for giving us the benefit of your experience in this comment.

    1. Do you know that that response is quite normal. We don’t feel the full force of the responsibility to our children until we have them in our arms (unless there are complications) and this is the time when for a lot of us we feel like a proper parent. So you are certainly not alone in this. thank you for sharing your experience.

  9. Motherhood for me started the second my eldest was born and I first locked eyes with him. Things have changed over time in the role I play as both my boys’ Mum as they’ve grown and become more independent, but I still feel such an intense pride in them and love for them. I’ve always been the best Mum that I can be, at times that has been less and at other times more than I could hope.

    Thanks for linking up to #PicknMix

    Stevie x
    A Cornish Mum recently posted…04/11 Pick ‘n Mix Fridays Blog LinkyMy Profile

    1. I was nodding my head when I read your comment, Stevie. It really does change with time and we do our best which is not always as good as we would want but it is our best. Thank you for your insightful comment.

  10. For a long time I thought I would never be a mother as I didn’t get pregnant for the first time until I was 35. But as soon as I found out I was pregnant a feeling of mixed emotions came over me…mostly fear of failure. My parents weren’t the best parents and I was raised by my grandparents so I really was scared I would somehow develop the lack of “mothering” that my mother did. Her children were always second to everything else in her life. So now that I am a mother I feel I constantly dwell on if I’m mothering enough and feel so guilty if I even want to do something like go back to work because I don’t want my children’s needs to ever be sacrificed for my own. Great post. And I love, love, love, your new pic! Thank you for taking the time to link up with #momsterslink.

    1. Our life and feelings about ourselves has such a big impact on how we approach motherhood, Trista, as you know from your experiences. Your parents putting you second to everything has framed your whole parenting experience. It is really good when we realise that about ourselves. It frees us up to make decisions that are more rounded. I am glad that you have found it in you not to copy your mother but to be there for your children but also that you find away to not dwell on everything and fit yourself into the equation too. Thank you for your heartfelt comment.

  11. Great post! Personally, motherhood for me began when I first saw my son, despite carrying him for 10 months it wasn’t until I held him in my arms it really hit me im a mum now! #MarvMondays

    1. The responsibility really kicks in for most of us when our children are born. It becomes very very real in that moment. Thank you for commenting, Aba.

    1. We are a mixture of all the forces on us in our lives and we bring it all with us to motherhood. Thank so much for your comment, Fran.

  12. Interesting article, Kirsten, I think my experience is similar to Charlie at Mess and Merlot! I just got on with it and felt like a mum after having my eldest. But, yes, nurturing and protective of bump.

    I can tell the difference between me and my sister’s experience. I was kinder to myself (relatively) because I was surrounded by lots of other supportive mums at church and from my antenatal group who were able to help me recalibrate my standards and be more chilled. My sister has a more isolated parenting experience, with few mums to share her experience with and I think that has made her much tougher on herself and also made her parenting decisions harder work…ie. Keeping going up to calm a crying toddler when they go to sleep rather than leave them for a bit…They’ve been fed and watered so they are fine. #MarvMondays
    Jane Taylor recently posted…Why buy an art print when you can own the original for less than £100?My Profile

    1. Hi Jane, the people around us do really make a big difference to the motherhood experience. Having support and people to bounce ideas off is very helpful in life generally but in particular with raising children. It is not really meant to be done alone. Thank you for sharing. Kirsten

  13. Fabulous post and its so true that there is this image of what pregnancy and motherhood should be like and when you can’t achieve that it makes us feel less of a parent. I was never prepared for the judgement of others in my parenting choices early on and the constant un wanted advice from strangers! thanks for sharing a very though provoking post x #bigpinklink

    1. There are such strong opinions out there on parenting and everyone has one, which in itself is no problem. It is only an issue when it is thought that one approach or ideal should be applied to all and/or it is done judgementally. Being a mother certainly gets us to toughen our skin to the amount of unsolicited advice, doesn’t it!

  14. This is such an interesting article. I fully expected to feel like a mother the moment I found out I was pregnant, but I didn’t. Then I expected to feel like a mother when I felt the baby moving around me. My feelings towards pregnancy were completely different to what I expected and I don’t know why. I felt like a mother as soon as I held my baby for the first time after a long and difficult birth. I continue to feel like a mother in different ways every day, and new intense feelings develop at all sorts of opportunities. Thanks for sharing this great post #MarvMondays

    1. Many of the mothers I interviewed for my book found something similar in that it didn’t follow the path they expected. Motherhood is really something we can’t know until we get there. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Kirsten

    1. Hi Laura, It doesn’t sound ironic at all. It sounds like as well as the loss you also felt your motherhood and the desire to be a mother again. In interviewing for my book I spoke to women who experienced loss and for some of them this too for them focused them very much on what they wanted. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. Kirsten

  15. Another really interesting post. I can relate to some of the points you mention. The biggest thing for me was feeling I wasn’t accomplishing anything whilst caring for my newborn. I was just to tangible deliverables and having milestones to hit. All of a sudden I was thrown into a world of taking it day-by-day and sometimes minute-by-minute. It took me a long time to adjust but has actually now made me a much more adaptable person now I’m back in the workplace too. Thanks for sharing x #MarvMondays
    Angela Watling recently posted…Five Favourite Finds – October 2016My Profile

    1. Yes, Anglea, it really does make us more adaptable. Many of us find the lack of structure tough at first. Many of the women interviewed for my book did and I was the same. Just as you said though, it makes us more flexible in the long run. Thank you for commenting.

    1. That is really interesting that for you it was visual proof that changed things. Thanks for sharing that, Jade. I love the name of your website.

  16. This is a brilliant article. I definitely think that it is hard to be a mum and you shouldn’t feel bad about having any time off, but of course you do! There is this image of the ‘perfect mum’ that everyone has in their head but we’re all just doing our best, and that’s good enough! Thanks for linking up with the #bigpinklink
    Louise Pink Pear Bear recently posted…So, what do you do then?My Profile

  17. In my ind, it began the day I knew I was pregnant but the real test was after 3 months of birth- back to work with sleepless nights, constant cries and weak body. Yes, every women becoming a Mother has some fantasies about Motherhood. It takes some time to balance it all. This post is a must read for all mothers-to-be. #mg

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Upasna. It does take time to alter our expectations to what reality consists of. It is probably a fairly continuous process because children change so much but the toughest part is with first time motherhood.

    1. Motherhood really does change us and so I really agree that it is something that we grow into as we go along, hopefully letting go of old ideas as they are no use to us. Thank you for commenting, Charlotte.

  18. This is fascinating and I particularly agree with you when you say that mothers are humans and as humans we also have needs that we need to meet for ourselves. Of course once you become a mother your priorities shift away from you and your child becomes your priority but we must not feel guilty about not being perfect and having our own needs. #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Here here to everything you have said, Pat. Of course our children are our priority which actually also makes it important that we care for ourselves too. Thank you for your comment. It is appreciated.

    1. It is a big deal isn’t it. Sarah! The responsibility is at times wonderful and others, scary. Thank you for commenting. Kirsten

  19. A fascinating outlook and I totally agree. My expectations were insanely high of myself, I am not the mother I thought I would be, yet I am better and worse in different areas. Motherhood is something you really have to learn and discover along the way #mg
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…the gift of imaginationMy Profile

    1. Hi Mackenzie, I don’t think anyone can be exactly the mother they thought they would be. Like you I set myself pretty high standards and I haven’t met them all but actually I think I am better for being the more relaxed person that motherhood has taught me to be. Thank you for commenting. Kirsten

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