You do not need a PHD in female psychology to know that for many the birth of their children is a life changing event. Firstly, the body you once knew so well takes on a life of its own, boobs grow then shrink and sag, thighs spread, tummies stretch and lots of sleepless nights become wrinkles on your once smooth complexion and grey hairs on your head. Your face and body, something you've always been taught shows your beauty, seems to turn against you.
Secondly, the lady you once knew seems to disappear overnight. Suddenly there is this tiny person who cannot survive without your constant attention. Personnel space and time become a distant memory, as does 8 hours’ unbroken sleep. No one gives you a manual, but instead they tell you things like, "its natural, you’ll get the hang of it", or my favorite, "you're a woman, it’s in your blood to be a mother".
Thirdly and most importantly most of us develop guilt. Am I doing this right, should I be teaching my 2-year-old French, will they survive without me if they stay at grandmas for the night? Am I a bad mother for working? Am I a bad mother for not working? I didn’t hand puree my children’s organic 18 veggie mix tonight will they hate me?
Motherhood is portrayed as this magical nurturing experience, and while it is certainly amazing and life changing, it is also extremely hard, lonely, isolating and scary. Motherhood can be an instant recipe for anxiety and depression, particularly as it makes us face the deepest parts of how we love, and especially how we love ourselves all while massively sleep deprived. Most women are reluctant to seek help, because we feel people will judge us for not coping. Isn't it supposed to be like the movies? My other friends seem to be doing so well, am I just bad at it?
The truth is, for most of us, motherhood is our AHA moment. It is the light bulb were we fully grasp unconditional love and the realization that we do not love ourselves unconditionally. I found it was the time when I held this tiny baby and wanted to show them the world, but had no idea who I even was.
I believe these are the type of stories we should be telling young mothers, instead of focusing on this beautiful natural motherhood myth, of painted nurseries and designer bootees. Motherhood is messy, happy, sad, joyful, scary and exhilarating all at the same time. Motherhood was the single greatest moment in my personnel growth, it made me want to learn to love myself so I could teach my children how to do it properly. It gave me the strength to stop pretending and reach out and ask for help. It taught me that it is not wrong to make myself a priority.
We have this tiny period with these little beauties, to teach them, guide them and enjoy their innocence and I didn’t want to waste a day of it. So I begin to fill my self-esteem bucket so full, it naturally spilled over onto my whole family. I embraced the changes in my body and learned to look at, and love it, in a different light. If I had to go out for a while to recharge, I learned to let that guilt go. When I have struggle days, I have a few trusted friends who I can talk honestly with. I have also found that they generally are feeling the same or have recently felt the same way. A problem shared, is a problem halved.
The most important thing I learned was to let the superfluous stuff go. I taught myself to live in the moment, so what if some days it was a miracle if I showered. I learned to celebrate the victory of navigating a nice day without then beating myself up for not posting my Anne Geddess inspired family pics on Instagram, or finishing my hand crafted first month baby album. The more I tried to over achieve, the more anxious I became. The less I didn’t meet these expectations the more depressed I came. So I took away the expectations and learn to live with what the day brought.
When I broke it down I realised my only goal was to teach my children how to love themselves and those around them. How other mums were, or were not doing it, had no impact on my family, only I did. So I let the other rubbish go. If that meant turning of the news or social media I did. I realised we all have our struggles and the so called perfect mum is a myth, it just doesn't exist in reality. So now I accept my good and bad days, I reach out when I need to and I understand my mom and her struggles with a lot more empathy …. x sare