Today I’m starting a five part blog series on the “Myths of Motherhood”. So many of my clients walk into sessions with a number of “shoulds” on their mind. This pattern of thinking tells them what a good mother should feel, say and do. These shoulds tell them how motherhood is supposed to be. The problem is that most of the time these ideas are unrealistic and based on their own distorted or unhelpful patterns of thinking. As a famous therapist Albert Ellis once said….Stop shoulding on yourself!! As you can imagine, it can make a real mess emotionally, behaviorally and relationally.
My goal with this series is to debunk some of these myths of motherhood to help you rethink the expectations you may be placing on yourself, help you realize you are not alone, drop the shoulds and maybe even extend a little self-compassion your way.
Myth #1: Every pregnancy is expected, wanted, excitement is the only acceptable emotion
Nope, they are not! In fact, the national average of unplanned pregnancies floats around 50%. That just goes to show you there are plenty of surprise babies walking around our streets every day (you might even be one of them!). The fact that a pregnancy was unplanned or even initially unwanted is NOT an indicator of whether or not you’ll be a good mother.
The thing is whether planned or not, pregnancies come with a ton of change, transition, loss and even grief. YES! The “happiest time of your life” can include feelings of grief around the loss of your body, identity, freedom, spousal connection, work identity, finances, sex life, sense of self and SO MUCH MORE! Pregnancy can be delightful, or it can be really challenging. Just because you don’t love every minute (or ANY minute) of it does not make you a bad mom. This can be ESPECIALLY hard to accept for women who worked really hard to become pregnant. They often carry a sense that they should be grateful for every hemorrhoid and vericose vein that accompanies their pregnancy. I’m here to tell you….there AIN’T NOBODY WHO IS GRATEFUL FOR HEMORRHOIDS!
What’s really troubling is that we don’t get this kind of messaging as moms. The expectation by society, family, friends, and the media is the opposite. Images of happy, glowing moms flood our social media or Pinterest feeds. People ask leading questions like, “Aren’t you so excited?" or “Don’t you love being pregnant?”, with certain expectations for a happy, upbeat answer. You are frequently asked how you’re feeling but rarely is anyone is asking about your mental or emotional health. This puts a lot of pressure on moms to “perform”, often not being fully honest about how they are really feeling.
If you’ve ever watched “Sex and the City”, you might remember the episode where the character Miranda “fakes” her sonogram. When she finds out she’s having a boy the technician reacts with jubilation and expects Miranda to do the same. She follows suit, even though it’s not how she really feels. I’m sure anyone who has been pregnant before can identify with this pressure to be, or feel, or do to some extent.
Hopefully the acknowledgement of this idea as a myth allows you to be able to release the expectations and “shoulds” you are holding yourself to. If you find this difficult, or if your thoughts around this idea are interfering with your ability to function, you may benefit from getting some professional support on how to change this way of thinking. Feel free to reach out to me on my contact page for more information or support. Stay tuned for Myth #2 next week!!