By Erika Mitchell
noun: myth; plural noun: myths
- A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.
There are so many myths surrounding parenthood and motherhood in particular. There are countless blog posts and opinion pieces written about the subject but it bears repeating because the idea of an ideal mother is so deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness. The unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves can tear new mothers apart.
I remember opening the door to my midwives when my tiny son was only four days old and apologizing for the mess my house was in. I was glassy eyed with the shock of becoming a mother, struggling to nurse, feed myself, drink enough water, and already drowning under a pile of laundry. All I needed to be doing was snuggling with my baby and adjusting to my new reality but that’s not what my brain believed. I was convinced there was a ‘right way’ to be a new mom and I wasn’t achieving it.
Fast-forward three and half years and I still struggle with living up to the ‘Perfect Mommy Myth’ but I have developed strategies to cope with the feelings of inadequacy. When I don’t actively dispel the myths, I feel anxiety and hopelessness creeping in. The overwhelming panic of not being ‘enough’ paralyzes me and everything becomes exponentially harder.
First: I remind myself that I am not ‘all mothers’. I am me, mother to two rambunctious, happy, emotional boys who expend more energy in one hour than I have for an entire week. I remind myself that I only need to be their mother so there is no need or point in comparing myself to other mothers. I don’t need to live up to some mythical standard my kids care nothing about.
Second: I look around and assess if anything ‘important’ is missing from my kids lives: are they clothed? Fed? Roof over head? Are they using their imaginations? Healthy? Laughing part of the day? Then as far as they are concerned I’m kicking butt in the Mom department and I need to pat myself on the back.
Third: I remind myself that the Moms I see who have it all together are usually doing something for themselves that make them feel good. The Pinterest mom who creates ornate lunchbox art and throws extravagant birthdays likely loves that stuff. The athletic Mom who has abs of steel and runs marathons with a stroller obviously enjoys exercise. The Mom who homeschools must take joy in teaching her children. Those things are wonderful but they aren’t my things. And that’s okay. I love snuggling with my boys and baking with them and playing leap frog in the park. I also enjoy yoga by myself and long baths and reading and when I do those things for myself I am a better Mom.
The great Motherhood Myth is that your child and your motherhood experience will be exactly like anyone else’s. The truth is that your child is unique, just like you are and your experiences will be unique. Parenting is not a one size fits all experience.
When my first son was born I was given two pieces of advice that I have held close:
1. Love the child you have, not the child you expect.
- As long as you are doing your best you are doing enough.
As the years flow by I often stop and remember those two pieces of wisdom. Perfection is a myth. The reality is getting up every day, enjoying life as much as possible and forgiving ourselves when we don’t, as long as we keep trying. Mothers are not supernatural beings because of our perfections, we are superheroes to our children because we are present and we love them.
Erika is a mother of two and an aspiring midwife living on beautiful Bowen Island, BC. She is slowly learning the art of self care, remembering to breathe deeply and appreciating one day at a time.
For more information on motherhood myths consider viewing the following videos that include interviews with prior PPPSS clients: