I LISTENED to a brilliant discussion about motherhood on BBC Radio 5 Live recently. Callers were sharing heartfelt experiences of how difficult it’s to find yourself once you have given birth, which, from experience is totally relatable. Motherhood is often “othered” and brushed aside by society with attitudes such as, “well at least you can have children”, “it’s what you signed up for”, “just get on with it” and perhaps the worst “what do they do at home all day?”
It’s easy to forget that everyone struggles, including mothers. It isn’t always plain sailing because you have no idea how motherhood is going to impact you, change your feelings towards yourself, your relationships and the world around you. Then there is the constant judging by other parents, family, society and conflicting messages on how you should raise your child, which can harm your self-esteem.
If you’re struggling with the transition into motherhood, which is quite normal and probable given you’ve just birthed a human being that occupied your body for nine months, the chances are it can negatively affect your emotional and mental health too.
Physically, it can take around a year for your body to fully recover, including for your organs to move back to their original place. And of course there is huge pressure, including in media to ‘spring back into shape’. It doesn’t matter if you don’t fit into your jeans straight away or look like the celebs, when they step out of hospital. That is not real or natural, and you don’t need unnecessary pressure in your life. Healthy recovery and healing are gentle processes, which take time.
The looming question of ‘who am I?’ is likely to surface at some point. Questioning your identity is normal because when you put everyone else before your needs (which inevitably happens), it’s no surprise you can forget who you are. Let’s face it, you don’t have time to think about yourself because there is a little human who is fully dependent upon you, plus all the other stuff that needs to be done. This also loads motherhood with guilt and shame of not being a ‘good mother’ for ‘wanting a break from it’ or ‘not earning money and contributing’ constantly chipping away at your self-worth.
And this is just scratching the surface of the complexity of motherhood. Yes, it is hard to find yourself, but it’s entirely possible. It took years of trying and failing to find what was right for me and my family. Although it can be tough, believe that motherhood is a journey of exploration, an opportunity to redefine yourself and create your definition of success.
Forget what others think and focus on you. It’s ok to want to stay at home, return to your career or try something completely new. There is no right, wrong, good or bad. With some soul searching, it’s possible to find what is best for you and your family. Perhaps, it is about striking a balance between your needs and loved ones while retaining your own power, so that one day when your children grow up and leave home, you still have a sense of who you are.
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