Motherhood is a hard thing. And that’s okay – we can do hard things. Hard things are absolutely part of the package deal that is this life. We get through them (and sometimes even enjoy them) with the support of our friends and family.
I think that parenting, and motherhood specifically, are so challenging because sometimes there is not a lot of support. Sometimes you just need to stuff your face full of cake so you don’t notice that overall there is not a ton of societal support for mothering.
Women are told that being a mom is the most important thing. That you aren’t complete until you have a child, or children.
We are also told that we can have it all. We can be successful partners, parents, and employees. (Also, you should take this survey about having it all if you have time. I know the doctoral candidate will appreciate it!)
It is then logical to assume that we’ll have the support to make these things true. Parenting is important, we deserve to have successful careers, successful marriages. It is not unreasonable to think that someone other than you will do the dishes periodically.
And yet when you do a Google search for what motherhood is you see:
With this introduction you might be asking, “Why did you say motherhood is a betrayal?” I am calling this post “The Betrayal of Motherhood” because of all the negative emotions that come along with being a mother (don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of positive too!) betrayal is the one that I have felt most keenly.
Betrayal by my body
Betrayal by my mind
Betrayal by society
For years before becoming a mom I naively assumed that my body would essentially be the same after giving birth. After all, what do you see in the grocery store check out? “Get your pre-baby body back!” But there is no getting that body back. Dr. Staci Tanouye, who is an OBGYN with the Mayo clinic, has said “One of the things many women don’t realize is that even if they get back their pre-pregnancy weight it’ll be shaped differently.”
Great, so although I was one of those lucky ducks that went back to my pre-pregnancy weight (and even a littler lower, thank you breastfeeding!) none of my clothes fit. This led to something of a meltdown before I interviewed for my current job. None of my professional clothes made me look like a professional!
Betrayal by my mind – this is probably why your attention is waning right now. I once read “Gone With the Wind” in one week. Now I think it would probably take me a year to finish the same book.
In all seriousness, “mommy brain” is no joke. It is a whole other level of exhaustion/forgetfulness that I hope to recover from some time in the next 15-20 years. Just in time for my mind to start declining due to old age. Hooray!!
Remembering even the most basic of things is a challenge at times. Is my wallet in my purse? Did I put any food in my lunch bag?
That said, it is a complete mystery to me why I can remember complex things. Do you want an insightful commentary on restrooms as gendered spaces? Do you need to know the process for transferring your credits internationally? Or maybe you just want an in depth look at a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene program. In any of these examples, I am your gal.
Betrayal by society is the most challenging of all, as far as I’m concerned. And I’m not talking about immediate support groups. Families, friends, even colleagues can be a wonderful support network. In this case, when I say society I really mean “A group of people that set a standard and everyone that is affected by that standard is part of it.”
State subsidized child care is a standard not being set by our public policy makers and so many of us are affected by that.
Minimum wage as a living wage is not a nationwide standard and many of us are affected by that. In states with a higher minimum wage, everyone is better off.
A year of paid maternity leave is not a standard in the U.S. But paid parental leave makes economic sense and if it was a standard so many families would be better off!
If our public policy makers, as the standard setters for so many things that affect our way of life, believe that family is so important they would make these things happen. But as it is, we are betrayed by those we put in office because they view these things, essential to successful parenting, as unimportant.
It is this betrayal that is so challenging because we feel powerless against it. The other two, well. . . we have some power over those.
You can reaffirm your body image. Look what your body did! You are amazing!
Can’t remember anything? Start using a planner (seriously, my planner has saved my sanity.). Say things out loud, even if you think you’ve already said them.
Changing public policy? What can we do about that? Politicians seem to be basically the same. You could run for office yourself, but who will pack the lunches? I know that sounds sexist, and it is, but that particular statement is also the truth of my life. I am the one that packs the lunches.
I don’t have all the solutions. All I can do right now is encourage you to communicate to those movers & shakers what is important to you. Do you want on-site daycare? Talk to your supervisor, it makes economic sense. Do you think our representatives and senators should put their money where their mouths are? Write to them or call them and tell them that this is a priority for you and it can work!
So yes, betrayal is part of the package deal. Fortunately for us, hope, optimism, and perseverance are also part of the package deal. And with an amazing village of moms and dads to be a part of, we can do anything!