Blame social media, blame society, blame the need to keep up with the Joneses. The bottom line is that mothers are struggling on a daily basis and many feel too much pressure or shame to be truthful about it. We see picture perfect motherhood on Instagram, even leave out the darker details of our parenting struggles when we talk to close friends or family. For many, the real version of motherhood is not just a messy bun, massive cup of coffee, and wild-running children in the background of our morning selfie.
Yes, social media is a big part of the problem, but mothers have been hiding their pain for a long time. Social media has just become a way to highlight the parts of our personalities we wish to share with our audience, and leave out the not so pretty parts. We see soothing filters on serene post-birth photos, or sleepy newborns with milk-drunk smiles. What we are rare to see is the face of an exhausted new mother who has been up every hour with her infant, or the tears that flow when a bottle of pumped milk get spilled, or fighting between couples, or feeling crazy, or even feeling suicidal. Parents, especially western parents, are often suffering in isolation after the birth of their child, feeling pressure to maintain the appearance of togetherness, or at least joy, and swallowing a lot of grief, bewilderment, and anxiety.
Parents dealing with a postpartum mood disorder are less likely to share the difficulties of their journey. Mothers who have PPD/A (postpartum depression/anxiety) don't want to be judged for feeling angry, sad, scared, or unbonded with their newborn. I know that for me, I felt a lot of pressure to keep up appearances socially (both in person and online) due to my doula status. Since I am friends with so many colleagues and clients, I felt very alone in my struggle with my mental health. I felt like I had to look like I had my shit together, that I loved being a mother, and that all my training and experience had paid off. Meanwhile, though I felt deeply bonded to my baby, for which I am grateful, I was full of anxiety, angry at the wrong people, way too hard on myself, and generally unwell. The image of motherhood I had crafted in my head was not what was unfolding in front of me. I also experienced a difficult pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum physical recovery, so those factors contributed to my feeling so out of sorts.
Yet, despite encouraging so many clients to reach out for support at the first instance of not feeling well, it took me several months to realize that my mental health needed attention, and that there wouldn't be a quick fix. Even at nearly 2 years postpartum, I still struggle sometimes. Though much more spaced out than the early days, my hormones cause mood issues, and certain situations can trigger me to become upset. It's a long journey toward healing from what was a very unexpectedly difficult journey to become a parent.
I love my daughter so much. She is so beautiful and her life is a gift to our family. There is no doubt about that. But even still, there are times where being a mother sucks--we all know it. I'm here to encourage you to step out of the shadows and shed light on what's going on for YOU. We've got to be in this together, and not let image or societal pressure prevent us from seeking support or being real about the difficulties of our experiences.
Motherhood is some crazy shit, y'all! I'm just going to say it. You love your kid in a deep way that is barely measurable in words, and that beautiful being's presence often prevents you from taking care of your own basic needs, from sleeping, from socializing, from intimacy with your partner, and so on. Are they worth it? YES. But do we need more venues for sharing about the real aspects of parenting and not just the Instagram-able ones? ALSO YES.