This past Mothers Day has really had me thinking. Possibly due to the big focus around Mothers Day Connect, but more likely due to the attention that has been given to post partum depression (PPD) on my social media newsfeed of late.
I read a great piece about the things we leave unsaid when discussing motherhood and that really got me thinking.
As a child, teen and young adult, I had a few very specific ideas about the mother I would be. Hell, right up till I actually became one. I’m pleased to say that fundamentals never changed on how I want to raise my child, but there were some interesting shifts. I never wanted natural birth, ever, so being the woman fighting against a C up to 41 weeks, was amusing. Never had any intention of breastfeeding, so being the woman telling another mother that my “extended breastfeeding” is MY business and WHO endorsed, so take a hike, was surprising to the 20-something me that still hangs out in the back of my consciousness. Here’s the one I’ve really been contemplating, though. I always figured I’d be that annoying sunshine mom who always tells you how parenting is the best thing ever. That I’d be perpetually chirpy, packing lunches and putting together cutesy outfits.
Only the good Lord knows why fantasy mom me would have had a lobotomy along with her first cesarean, or started taking some pretty serious drugs, but that’s what I thought. As it turns out, I parent much more in line with my actual personality, which must be a source of great relief to my friends.
See, the post I read is about how we don’t discuss the dark thoughts and moments that are such a huge part of becoming a parent. How we talk about all the unimportant shit, but not the stuff that might actually break you as a human being. And how, because nobody brings the darkness into the light, new mothers feel alone when everything isn’t fairytale perfect inside their new bubble.
I’m a naturally honest person, perhaps a little brutally so, so I never hid my darkness. My childless married friends asked about parenthood in the early months and I was frank about how hard it is, how exhausting, how debilitating and frustrating and overwhelming. I knew the woman had never wanted kids and I bluntly told her not to. I have never been afraid to admit that I have put my screaming infant in her cot, howled “I can’t anymore!” at my husband and locked myself in his office, hitting my head against the wall, because I was tired, frustrated and overwhelmed and terrified of hurting our child.
I also was not enveloped by overwhelming love for this wailing creature the moment I laid eyes on her. That took me three months (and boy, is it OVERWHELMING LOVE). I just don’t do insta-feelings. They’re not my thing. Did I have full maternal instincts to provide and nurture and protect? Yes! Is that love? Nope. It is not. Did that make me feel like less of a mother? No. It might even have kept me sane.
The most important thing motherhood has taught me is that it is not for everyone. I believe more than ever that the parenting discussion with non-parents should be a frank one. Parenting is bloody tough and I’ve wanted kids for as long as I’ve known it would be an option someday. Being a mom was always my greatest ambition, so if I struggle, and I have a huge support system, where does that leave those in doubt?
We all have this fantasy of the parent we will/might be and what parenting will be like or how we might change our minds someday. The reality of parenting, however, is seldom discussed. The loneliness, the fear, the frustration, the loss, the gain, the change.
Perhaps it’s time we all drop the filters when chatting to new parents or prospective parents or just friends. Perhaps we should drag the darkness, kicking and screaming, into the light.