Is The Great Motherhood Contradiction just one cruel joke?
During my now 3 years on the job, in this overwhelming crash course in crazy, existing in this realm of tiredness induced hallucinations, attempting this thing called ‘motherhood,’ I have noticed that if I were to be asked for one word to sum it up, it would be… ‘contradictory.’ I have never felt more proud of my accomplishments, yet ashamed of them, all in the same confidence destroying minute. I have never felt so sure of my convictions one day, then utterly devastated by them a week later. I’ve never felt so supported by my peers, yet feel judged by them at the drop of a hat. Why do I feel this way? Because of the Great Motherhood Contradiction-there are so many wildly confusing contradictions in this chaotic parenting wilderness, that most of us really could end up questioning if we do know our ass from our elbow-if we challenge and contradict it enough, will our ass still be our ass, and our elbow still be our elbow?
It starts while you are pregnant. You are introduced to a whole range of drugs you could have to reduce the pain of labour, yet you are made to feel weak if you accept them. It’s like a modern day Adam and Eve-lets show all the couples what they could have, then walk away and watch, and see if the woman takes it…
A natural delivery is where we are told it’s at, but caesarians have been invented for those who either don’t want to, or haven’t be able to deliver via their vajayjay. A myth invented by some folks points to you being less of a woman if you have one. You will even find memes dedicated to shaming women who had caesarians-if having one wasn’t enough trauma, a woman then has to deal with that kind of negativity?
Formula has been invented for women who do not want to, or do not succeed in breastfeeding. Even though this precious powder will keep the child of such a woman alive, the woman will be made to feel weak for not persevering with breastfeeding, or like she doesn’t love her child as much as the breastfeeding women, and won’t have a strong bond. In other, very tragic news, a woman can be publicly shamed for either kind of feeding method-apparently certain members of society can find child feeding disgusting, whether it be flesh or plastic delivery.
We are told that we should drop the weight gained during pregnancy fairly easily, but have you seen a tummy minutes after delivery? There is no way that stretched, wrinkled alien sack of potatoes will ever resemble a pre-pregnancy tummy. Yet celebrities seem immune to this curse, and we feel bad for not living up to their beach perfect, washboard tums, more than likely the result of immediate tummy tucks, and a host of nannies minding the baby while they work out from 5 minutes postpartum onwards.
We are told to let kids be kids, yet in public they are expected to behave like miniature adults. So, biting, scratching, screaming, throwing themselves on the floor, alpha toddler behaviour is all normal, but not when someone else’s precious offspring is caught in the crossfire at playgroup-is that what you’re saying? They can eat like savages at home, because they are just mastering the art of eating without looking like cavemen, but in restaurants and coffee shops, those skills are expected to be honed to perfection, and they are expected to be as quiet as someone at a silent yoga retreat, when they aren’t silent at any other time of their life, ever-do I have that right?
We are told to let kids be kids, yet there were so many educational buzzwords included in the ‘nursery talk’ that I attended for my toddler’s nursery, that momentarily I wondered whether I’d walked into an open day for Oxford or Cambridge.
We are told to take five minutes for ourselves, yet if we choose to take that five minutes while putting children in front of the television, we are not only lazy parents, but we are destroying their minds, and will be responsible for all kinds of developmental delays and probably ADHD.
We are told that we will need a network of mummy friends to help us through this parenting process, yet should we choose to use our phones to contact them during child rearing hours, we are ignoring our children and favouring technology over them. During prolonged cluster feeding sessions, should we, heaven forbid, become bored, and pick up our phones to scroll the news, or see how long our mummy friends (you know, that support network that is so important,) have been cluster feeding, we are branded as ‘brexting.’ Can we please stop saying this? Who coined this shameful term anyway? Oh, are we supposed to sit in a quiet room, meditating over the gift of breastfeeding-we all know that children of texting breastfeeding mothers are likely to grow up unhinged right…
Ok, so we have constantly confusing contradictions thrown at us, and on top of that are subjected to sleep deprivation-a commonly known, and effective form of torture. Translate these situations to a work environment: Your boss contradicts everything they ask you to do, and reinforces that you that you are a terrible employee, and your decisions are awful. They then lock you in a room for several months and don’t allow you to sleep. This of course would be considered bullying, and the union would be all over it. Strict policies and protocols would be set up to prevent this happening again, and you’d probably get sent to a fantastic therapist (to help you recover from the stress and anxiety no doubt caused,) who your company would pay for. The cruellest joke of the Great Motherhood Contradiction, is why, when mums become mentally ill from the same terrible behaviour, are people surprised? Even worse, often they are shamed into keeping it a secret. After all, they’ve just given life! It’s an experience denied to some women-they need to consider that, don’t they? It’s supposed to be the best time of their lives! They need to feel guilty for the feelings they have, the desolation, the tears that won’t stop, the mourning for an old life, the anxiety, the gripping fear… It’s an unfortunate message experienced by many who become mentally ill postpartum, and a stigma that needs to change. Work related trauma and you get a top therapist paid for. Postpartum depression, and you get put on a long waiting list for treatment.
Life for parents, without the Great Motherhood Contradiction would certainly be easier. Where has the camaraderie gone? Because it’s not just the media, and bystanders contributing to the mass of contradictions and judging behaviour-its other mums: A full on mum on mum wrestle to see who is the more self righteous, who is succeeding the best at a job where nobody really has a clue what they’re doing. Why are we making an already fantastically difficult job even harder? Why are we doing this to women at a time when they are more vulnerable than they will ever be? Let’s just stop. Stop with the mixed messages, stop with the judgement, STOP WITH THE MUMMY SHAMING FULL STOP.
This post first appeared as part of the blogging I do for Meet Other Mums, who I am very proud to blog for as part of their blog squad! Please check out their site!