Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Dark Side of Motherhood

It's funny how sometimes it's easier to speak of difficult times when they are in the past, rather than while they are happening. Now that I'm feeling like I've found my motherhood groove and am grounded and well, I want to explore the side of motherhood that for some reason is not explored much in the wider world. The times when it's not nice, and lovely, and wonderful. When it's actually so hard, and so huge, and so demanding, that it threatens to smother you and your life as you knew it. The times where you find yourself wondering if you've made a big mistake that you can't undo. The times that find you going through the motions but panicking inside, wondering whether you can really do this for years and years and years.

This side of motherhood isn't talked about much. Everyone's too busy telling you how it's the most amazing thing you can ever do. Maybe it's because everyone who has difficulties as a mother is reluctant to speak of her experiences for fear of being judged a failure by others who seem to have it all worked out, who seem so together. Or maybe we fear that people will think we don't love our children if we are struggling to be happy being their caretakers. Or maybe it's because, as the days and months and years go by, and our hearts swell with the love that grows along with our growing children, the difficult times pale into the distance and are not easily recalled. Who knows why it isn't talked about much, but the reality, or at least my reality, is that it was largely only when I spoke about my own difficulties, whether they be current or in the past, that others would open up and tell me that yes, they too had difficulties, and yes, it's a hard hard job, and yes, they had struggled with this same thing and that same thing... Don't get me wrong, it was definitely reassuring to hear that I wasn't the only one who had had a hard time with breastfeeding, getting out of the house, driving with my crying baby, the sheer unrelenting grind, it definitely helped to know that it was a common thing. But why was I only hearing these stories *after* I opened up? *After* I had gone through the torment of feeling like I alone wasn't coping.

I think women should make a point of telling all mothers to be about all the hard times they had, so that when the new mothers find themselves in deep dark places that are lonely and scary, they know that others have stood there, that others have felt their pain, that it's not because they are failing and it's not because they are not cut out to be a mother after all, that it's just a part of the gig.

There is one person I know who did this, and it made a huge difference to me. She told me while I was pregnant that she cried every day for two months after giving birth to her beautiful child. She told me that she was scared she had ruined her life by having a child. She is now a happy and wonderful mother to a thriving two year old child. Knowing that she went through what she did helped me. It made me sad that she went through it, but it helped me to know about it. It made me feel OK.

So next time you see a pregnant woman about to have her first baby, rather than regale her with tales of bliss and happiness, which I'm sure she has been showered with, maybe the best thing you can do for her is to tell her about your three most difficult times as a new mum. Reassure her that if she struggles, which she will, she is not a failure. She is not doing it wrong. There is probably nothing wrong with her baby. It's normal, and it's OK to talk about, and it will pass.

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