How often do we hear polarizing views of motherhood? It’s either portrayed as an incredibly tough challenge or an exclusively joyful experience? How many times did we hear each of these perspectives while we were pregnant? Especially with our firsts. I know I certainly lost track! But what if both things were true? In reality, motherhood is a nuanced journey including a myriad of emotions, and it’s time we embrace this complexity rather than resort to oversimplified narratives. Instead of defining motherhood as just one thing, one emotion, or one experience, I invite you to consider motherhood as a tapestry of moments.
“Motherhood is so hard” Messaging
Imagine a new mother who is inundated with the “motherhood is so hard” messaging. When her motherhood experience is as hard, as she was expecting it to be, she is less likely to seek mental health support, resources, or any kind of help. Because this is what she signed up for. So she rides it out and hopes it gets better. On the flip side, let us imagine a new mother who heard how wonderful and fulfilling motherhood is. When her motherhood experience is hard, which she was not expecting, here comes the self-shaming. She thinks there must be something wrong with her or her baby. She is also less likely to seek mental health support, resources, or help.
Motherhood is both challenging and fulfilling – it’s not a matter of choosing one over the other.
By acknowledging this duality, we can create a supportive atmosphere that enables new mothers to share their struggles and seek help without feeling ashamed. The messages we receive during pregnancy can deeply influence our perceptions of motherhood. Constantly hearing that motherhood is hard might make a new mom feel reluctant to seek support when she needs it most while believing that it’s always wonderful can lead to self-blame when challenges arise unexpectedly.
It doesn’t mean it’s always easy and wonderful
Also, just because having a baby is something a mother wants (she may have done everything possible to have a baby) doesn’t mean it’s always easy or wonderful. All mothers are allowed to have hard moments. “Well, you wanted to have a child” is not a helpful or supportive comment. It blames the new mom for her experience as if she’s not already blaming herself for everything. Regardless of how desperately a woman wants to become a mother, it doesn’t exempt her from facing difficulties. Dismissing her struggles with a simple “You wanted this” only adds to her burden. Instead, we should extend compassion and understanding, recognizing that every mother’s journey is unique.
This is true for all of those big blanket statements we make relating to motherhood. From breastfeeding to identity, relationship and marital changes, and infertility – just to name a few. It sets unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for new mothers, setting them up for failure. The truth is that motherhood is a mixed bag of every emotion felt by humans. That is then magnified by biology and hormones! Conveying unrealistic expectations about these aspects can be detrimental to a new mother’s mental health. We are setting them up for feelings of failure when things don’t go as expected.
Motherhood isn’t all or nothing
As women who have already embarked on the motherhood journey, let’s start painting a more accurate picture of motherhood, one that celebrates the highs and acknowledges the lows. Motherhood isn’t all or nothing; it’s not always good or always hard. These series of moments balance each other out. The wonderful moments make the hard moments worth it, and the hard moments make the good moments that much better. Embracing this complexity allows mothers to feel validated in their own experiences.
Motherhood is a multifaceted journey that deserves credit for its complexity. By acknowledging the challenging motherhood moments and the fulfilling ones, we can create a more supportive environment for new mothers. Embracing the diverse emotions and experiences of motherhood allows women to navigate their journey with strength, knowing that they are not alone in their struggles and joys. Let’s foster compassion, understanding, and acceptance as we celebrate the tapestry of moments that define the beautiful, and bumpy, journey of motherhood.
By Crystal Griffin
Crystal Griffin is a Certified Lactation Counselor and postpartum coach with a master’s degree in counseling psychology. After having her son in 2020, she finally realized her passion was empowering and supporting new moms. Crystal lives in Franklin, and you can find her on a Cape Cod beach reading a book when she’s not chasing after her husband or son.