“Was I not cut out for motherhood?”
These are frequent thoughts of new mothers, and I think mothers in general. That internal voice can be persistent and loud (even more so for those battling PPD or anxiety).
Some of these beliefs are developed from our communities and society as a whole. From our parents, expectations from friends, family and the media. These “outside” influencers can hold a lot of power and influence over our own beliefs. It may even cause us to doubt our belief system. I believe another contributor to these thoughts is the influx of information that is readily available to us at a click of a button- ohh the lovely Internet aka Dr. Google, who apparently has a PHD in everything possible!! I think I speak for all mothers when I say that we are constantly being told different information from these outside influencers: media, different professionals (family doctor, lactation consultation, pediatrician etc.), other mothers, people without children the list goes on and on and on and on…. cough cough cue music “this is the song that never ends, it goes on and on my friends.”
Here is an example of what I have learned so far. If I hold my baby too much I am spoiling her and I am a bad mom, but if I don’t hold her enough and we don’t bond well, then I am a bad mom. If I understand this correctly no matter what I do I am going to be judged …great! I “should” do this and “shouldn’t” do that… I’ve got a serious case of the “shoulds”.
Like being a new mom doesn’t have enough new things to learn and mistakes to make that I need to be judged by others for my every move. AND on top of that I know that we are our own worst critics which means I am now judging myself even more and being critical of everything I do when it comes to being a mom. At first I was being critical and/ or overthinking. I was allowing the outside influences to take control of my own beliefs.
For some of us these thoughts are easier to cope with then others. There is a lot of factors that come into play here, your temperament, your babies temperament, your support system, and your coping strategies to name a few.
Even with my professional background I found myself becoming critical of my actions, wondering if I was doing things “right,” was I making the “best” decisions? I have to say that even though I am new to this journey it is normal to feel overwhelmed and sometimes exhausted at the mere thought of all the new responsibilities. Most moms feel this at some point, and I am sure this doesn’t just apply to new moms. As a new mom there is a shock to your system and your whole world.
“Hello there, now go away”- The Internal Voice of Guilt
I’m going to try to normalize some feelings here: the fact that you may dread 2am diaper changes, or feedings every two hours throughout the night does not make you a bad mom. I’m sure that the dread is accompanied by guilt, guilt of having these thoughts. Guilt of thinking how luxurious it would be to get a straight 6-hour sleep. The guilt is the portion that many struggle coping with…. That internal voice of guilt is the one that says, ” if you don’t love every minute of motherhood, than are you a good mother?”
I’d say to my critical internal voice: “yes! right now I am not loving the fact I haven’t gotten any sleep for 2 weeks straight, but I do not love my precious baby any less…maybe I just don’t love that part of being a mom right now.” I recognize that this is not so simple as I have made it seem, at times this can be especially difficult. For example if you are sleep deprived your coping systems are somewhat weaker.
Back it up….did I just say that you can love your baby and not all the responsibilities that go with it?!! Of course!
Mothers who are struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety do not love their children any less. If anything they feel disconnected from their babies and over-worry about the bonding. It is very easy to get overwhelmed with guilt about the bond to your baby, with or without postpartum disorders.
The responsibilities of motherhood and the love for your child are two separate emotions but it is very difficult to separate them and therefore we end up putting the emotions in the same basket a lot of the time.
This brings me back to that internal voice of “Am I a good mom.” Do I read enough with them, do I do tummy time properly, do I hold my baby too much?”
Like I mentioned above there is so much conflicting information being thrown at you. For example I was told at the breastfeeding client by the lactation consultant that I know my baby has had enough when she falls asleep on my breast, while fast forward 3-4 months and I am told NOT to breastfeed my baby to nap/ bed it’s a horrible habit and I should break it.
“You are a good mom!”
Each and every one of us (mothers) probably entered motherhood with a set of beliefs or expectations of what it means to be a “good mom.” We most likely had a list of things we swore we would never do, and promises of things we would do. Well that’s the beauty of motherhood, like each one of us it is unique. We all have a different set of beliefs. I encourage you to reflect on your “good mom” belief system, so instead of offering you a checklist or list that makes you a “good” or “bad” mom, or outlining what the “perfect” mom looks like try this:
Make a list (try for 5 things) that makes you a good mother. The list needs to be free from the words “should, shouldn’t, always or nevers”. No perfection. Take note of your “shoulds” and “always,” ask yourself if these are from your belief system or someone else’s for example your thoughts on. breastfeeding vs. formula feeding
If your comfortable sharing please comment below with some of your list, maybe it will help other mothers see that they are a good mom too ☺
Love to you all
Paitra Surerus- Marsh