There are plenty of stereotypes, myths, and popular opinions surrounding motherhood. Whether you’re a first-time mom or you’ve had multiple children, it’s easy to fall victim to some of these statements.
When you do, it can start to make you feel like you’re not good enough. Or, you may feel that you’re different from other mothers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Everyone experiences motherhood differently. Putting some of these myths to rest can help you to understand that you’re not alone in how you think, feel, or act.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common motherhood myths, and how you can move past them.
Myth #1: You Have to Love Every Minute
“If you don’t love absolutely every second of being a mother, then you don’t love your children.” Sound familiar? If you’ve thought to yourself that you are a bad mom or felt guilty for thinking this, you are not alone. Most moms feel like this at some point.
Motherhood isn’t about loving every minute. Let’s be honest, no one loves doing things like cleaning up messy diapers, waking up at 3:00 AM for a feeding, or smelling like spit-up five minutes after you put on a fresh shirt.
Are those moments you might look back on in 20 years from now and miss? Maybe. But, grumbling about it at the time doesn’t mean you love your child any less. In fact, you love them enough to make those sacrifices, even when it’s hard or inconvenient.
Myth #2: “I Don’t Need Any Help”
You’ve probably heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” So, don’t let yourself become immune to the truth behind that.
Fact is, many moms feel they have to prove they are able to handle it all. But taking on too much and not asking for help when too much is on your plate can lead to fatigue, burn out and even depression.
You may want to think you can take care of your baby on your own without anyone’s help. Maybe you can, on the surface or for a short time. But, there is a cost to that. When you try to do everything yourself, you’re not taking care of your own physical and mental health.
As a result, you won’t be able to give your baby the care and attention you could if you had someone to help you out. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s doing what’s best for you, so you can continue to do what’s best for your child.
If you don't want to miss out of bonding time with your new precious baby, ask your family or other support persons to help out with other tasks around that house that will still lighten the load.
Myth #3: “I Should Have It All Together”
"Should" is one of my least favorite words. And when I find I am "shoulding" myself, I tell myself to stop!
It doesn’t matter if you’re a new mom or you have other kids, “having it all together” is a very tall order. Focus instead on what is most important to accomplish each day and start there. Everything else can wait. Set your own goals and expectations and don't be afraid to amend them along the way. And practice a little self-compassion because you have a lot going on at the moment. You will find a new stride very soon!
One of my favorite quotes that I remind myself of often is "Comparison is the thief of joy." Moms often tend to compare their selves to other moms, and social media can perpetuate this both negatively and positively. Comparing yourself to your friends or people you see on social media is not a good idea.
It is also important to adopt your own parenting style and find what works for you and your family. You know what’s best for your child. Granted, it may not be how someone else parents their kids. Still, worry less about having it all together or doing it like your friend down the block, and more about meeting your child’s needs in the way only you can.
Myth #4: “I Will Bond Instantly with My Baby”
Some women take quite a while to fully bond with their new baby and don’t feel any emotional attachment right away. The so called "Golden Hour", or the first hour after birth when mom, dad and baby are supposed to magically bond is not all it is hyped up to be.
For many moms, they are still in pain, medicated from the birth, exhausted from the delivery and ready to get some rest. Of course there is anticipation to finally meet your child who you have carried for nine months, but the idea that bonding will occur instantaneously puts a load of pressure on mom and dad.
If you didn't feel this bond instantly, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. Also, this delay doesn’t mean that you will never feel that bond. It can take weeks or even months. Remember, the bond develops with time and comes from being with your child and learning about them. Some people need to actually form that relationship outside of the womb in order to feel a deep connection with their child. Don’t feel guilty about not having it right away.
Myth #5: Breastfeeding Is Natural
The "Breast is best" campaign has been around for a number of years which promotes the benefits of breastfeeding over formula. It creates tremendous pressure for new moms to "successfully" breastfeed. When breastfeeding does not go as planned, new moms may feel this is their first "failure" as a mom.
The frequently untold story is that not being able to breastfeed as planned or hoped can start the negative self-talk that can lead to postpartum depression. It can make a mom feel like she is not enough for her baby when nothing could be farther from the truth. It can also lead to isolation as mom does not want to broadcast that she is not breastfeeding so will not seek out social opportunities with other new moms. This only serves to perpetuate the depression. It can also lead to anxiety over trying to do just the right thing to produce more milk - drink the right tea, change diet, get the proper amount of rest, etc.
The reality is that breastfeeding looks different for each mom and baby. And some women simply don't want to. The baby may also have a tongue or lip tie that prevents a good latch and if left unattended, could impact breastfeeding. Some cannot produce enough milk to "keep up." The decision to supplement with formula can feel like a tragic blow for a mother who desperately wants to exclusively breastfeed.
Truthfully, breastfeeding is not as natural as it is made out to be. Think about this - there is an entire profession of lactation consultants and even organizations devoted to helping moms learn how to do it -- because it is not as natural as it seems and many new moms do struggle with it. And again, sometimes, ones individual biology is not on their side. It is not a flaw on the individual mothers part. It is simply hard for some women.
As you can see, there are plenty of motherhood myths to go around, and this barely scratches the surface! Hanging in my office is the following quote: "You don't have to believe everything you think." These myths are everywhere is society and they perpetuate many feelings of inadequacies for moms, new and old. If you find yourself buying into these myths and feeling less than because of them, don't believe everything you think!
It’s okay to take care of your baby in your own way, without paying attention to some of these common issues and opinions. Find what works for you, and develop a routine around that.
For more support in your new motherhood endeavors, please contact me today. I would like to help. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
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Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!