Letting Go of the Perfect Mother Mythby Katlyn Joy | May 24, 2012
Motherhood has its own romance and myth, represented in film, literature and in communities of women. We buy into it because so few people will blurt out uncomfortable truths such as, "After 18 hours of labor the only thing I was in love with was pain relievers." Or "I felt like I had given birth to an alien. She didn't look anything like I expected."
On TV women coo and admire their newborns with a non-sweaty radiance while their adoring husband beams. New moms are represented as often tired and overwhelmed, but no one ever says just how overwhelming it can be, or scary.
I remember my own first experience as a mom, when I had adopted a newborn baby boy. When the papers were all signed and the lawyers, counselors and birth mother had all left it was just my husband and myself alone with a newborn baby. I know we looked at him less as a baby and more as a bomb about to go off. The prevailing emotion was panic, not adoration at that moment.
Fast forward to the birth of my first daughter and I was numb. I was happy and relieved to have gotten through the labor. I had used no pain relief techniques beyond calmly breathing. She was eight pounds and had a large head. I was not in love. I was not crying tears of joy. I was simply tired and happy to have that behind me. And I felt deflated. Why didn't I feel the way a new mother should?
In the midst of sleep deprivation, when showers seem like the highlight of the week and being so bleary-eyed and short tempered you are ready to square off with other moms in the diaper aisle, you may ask yourself what is wrong with you.
You had looked so forward to being a mom, maybe even enduring fertility treatments or experiencing loss, and now you feel like a failure or a robot or worse. You wonder why other moms don't seem to have all the nagging doubts, less than angelic thoughts or emotions and how you could be such a bad mom.
If you were expecting to breeze through birth, slip into your skinny jeans and strap your smiling angel into his carseat and go off into perfect family happiness, you are no doubt devastated at your reality. Perhaps the first mistake is the denial of the reality of motherhood. It's not easy. It can be painful and exhausting. And while, yes, it is definitely worth every bit of trouble, the payoff doesn't always come at the end of the day, or the week or sometimes it seems for years on end. (Depends on your toddler and teen years.)
However, the successes in parenting aren't measured in the short-term. You will have endless set backs in toilet training, tantrum negotiations and homework battles. Ugly outbursts, on both sides, are to be expected at times. That will not be the end of the world and you need not return your "World's Best Mom" mug to the nearest retailer.
You just need to kick out the perfect mom myth, brush yourself off and wait for the real dividend in parenting; grandchildren!
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