The reality of motherhood is quite different to the images presented on social media, and even what you hear at mums’ groups …
Parenting is a never-ending debate these days. From the way we give birth, to how we feed, to what nappies we use, to what parenting style we embrace, all is up for discussion.
We have a baby, and then we bring them home. What a reality check! This little, helpless human depends totally on us for everything – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What a responsibility, right?
The Reality of Motherhood
It is our baby, but it did not come with a user’s manual. And we are supposed to keep this human alive and healthy. We need to provide it all for them, and we don’t even know what they need at any time. They only cry – and we have to guess what it is they want. And we are sleep deprived, because – have I mentioned, 24/7 and they wake up like, 20 times per night, or so it seems?
And, then, Daddy goes back to work. And you are alone. With Baby. Exhausted, in a fog, with the responsibility of keeping them alive. And relatively happy. And with a house to keep. And food to cook. And errands to run.
The Anxiety! The Overwhelm! The “I can’t do this parenting thing” feeling!
And what’s a mum to do? We look for answers where we know: join mums’ groups, ask people on Facebook, on Instagram, do Google searches, ask on Yahoo, on Reddit … maybe someone can help, maybe someone has the answers: How do you cope? How do you survive? How do you do everything?
What you See on Social Media
And you are hopeful and wait for answers … that finally come. And you are faced with this never-ending parade of perfect mummies who seem to have it all sorted out:
Their baby has slept through the night since 3 weeks old; and not only do they take care of Baby, they also maintain a spotless house, cook a 3 course dinner every night while waiting for Hubby in their sexy lingerie, looking like a model, because … haven’t they said already? They lost all of the baby weight within three months of giving birth! And they go to Gym at least 3 times per week, and their sex life is better than ever, and why are you so lazy that you don’t get back in shape?
And what do you mean you have had pre-made shop bought meals since Baby was born? And no gym? And you can barely shower because you are either up with Baby or collapse with exhaustion in the shower?
You should get your act together, or your husband will cheat on you, your baby will be embarrassed by you and your mother-in-law will remind you that she never liked you anyway!
And you read all that and what do you think? How do you feel?
- A horrible sense of guilt for not being the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect homemaker;
- Anxiety, because you still don’t know how to manage it all, and how to make sure Baby is okay; and
- Depression, because of all of the above plus the perceived image of perfection that others put out for the world to see and you just don’t match up;
- And add to all that, the perfect storm of hormones that are fighting their way back to normal levels!
And you know what? That image is just that: an image. The keyboard warriors will post anything they want – who will check it out and call them out on it?!
The Reality behind the Social Media Posts
The reality is:
- The spotless house is actually a spotless 1 square metre;
- The child on the perfect square metre is captured about 2 seconds before they puked all over the place.
- The calm and smiling face you are staring at with jealousy is carefully plastered with heavy-duty make up and you don’t even get to see the puke stained t-shirt she is wearing, or the baggy pants left from when she was 38 weeks pregnant – because they are the only ones comfortable enough to wear because of her episiotomy.
But you don’t see all that. All you are left with is a fake image of perfect parent-baby bliss, and a deep and dark cloud of depression that you can’t be like THEM, that you failed.
You don’t have to be like their public Facebook image, actually, they are like the real you.
They are selling an image of perfection that you should not even try to compete with. You are unique, your family is unique, your age, experience, family and social support, your health, your baby’s health, all these make you who you are, make you unique.
So, what is a mum to do? You still have the same Anxiety and by now possibly even Guilt or Depression. Where can you turn?
Firstly, I want to make it clear that seeking help IS the way to go. Just don’t turn to social media. Instead:
- Talk to a supportive friend that won’t judge or boast.
- Get professional counselling from a Psychologist, especially if you are battling Anxiety and/or Depression.
- Talk to your husband/significant other about how you feel and what you’re going through. Ask them to help, either by taking over household duties, or the baby-feeding-and-changing-nappy night shift, perhaps to take care of Baby for an hour so you can have some ME time, or just for a shoulder to cry on.
- Talk to the health nurse that comes to check Baby in the first weeks, or the nurse at your local Child and Youth Community Health Centre – they may be able to link you with a support service.
- Talk to your GP about your feelings and your worries.
And if you still go online or to social media to look for your answers, be warned: you may get some good advice, but you will definitely get a lot of unhelpful at best, and straight out harmful advice at the worst.
Author: Alexandra Ellermann, M Psych (Clin), AMAPS.
Brisbane Psychologist Alexandra Ellermann has extensive experience in working with children, adolescents, adults and families with a range of challenges, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, intellectual disability and developmental delays, and trauma and abuse.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.