The shame around being a “bad mother”
Sometimes I resent being a mother. That is not to say that I don’t love my child. Unlike my mother and some mothers who can’t love, I do love my son. With all my heart and soul, always and forever. I believe all mothers have moments when they resent motherhood. I believe that the contemporary expectation to be a non-stop happy and vibrant mother is not only unrealistic, it’s also severely shaming and stigmatising. It makes natural temporary feelings of dissatisfaction or unfulfillment fester into gnawing guilt.
That makes me think how terribly unprepared and largely delusional so many mothers enter into motherhood, including me. I wanted my child with all my being but I was not prepared for what was to come. And, yes, we can’t expect ourselves to be completely in control and knowing everything about parenting but in many cases we are psychologically and emotionally unfit to meet the demanding role of being a mother.
I can see it now but at the time I had no idea what having a baby was going to be like. The only thing I had was my trust in my “maternal instincts” and the belief that as a woman I’m meant to be “a natural” at mothering. And that is an absurd and almost foolish idea to believe but that is how many of us approach the uneasy task of mothering a child.
Maybe it’s not just me. Maybe we live in a culture with inadequate societal expectations with no education available for future mothers on what it means to nurture a new life and a human being. What’s more, there is absolutely zero mention of the importance of mental and emotional health and how the mother’s state in these areas can reflect back on her children, perhaps even scar them for life.
So, no, mothering does not as a rule come naturally and instinctively to all women and that assumption solely can cause a lot of pain to new mothers. And, yes, new mothers need a lot of support in terms of education and knowledge and actual help from people and community. Furthermore, I cannot stress enough the importance of the overall stable psychological and emotional health of the future mother – it is as crucial, if not more, as her physical condition.
There are so many women who aren’t in the position and condition to become mothers and I was one of them. I can see the toll this has taken on me, my partner and my son simply due to the fact that I’m trying really hard to be the best mother I can with almost no support or help. Sadly, this has become somewhat of a norm these days and many women struggle and feel alone. Eventually they shake off the delusion and wake up to a nightmarish reality. But the worst is that they see themselves as “bad mothers” and failures in mothering.
Surely, the shame around being a “bad mother” and resenting motherhood can and needs to be obliterated so that mothers can do their jobs at raising healthy, independent and responsible individuals well enough while feeling “good enough” about themselves. Because we will do anything for our children, always and forever.1