I went out to the cinema last night with a female friend. I haven’t done that for ages, it was lovely. We were chatting in the car ride there and back (because we drove 20 minutes to get to a cinema that only charges £3.50 per seat) and the conversation turned to how challenging general life can sometimes be as a mum. Life as a mum is full of joyful moments and full of happiness in the main part but sometimes it is hard. There’s no getting away from it. But do we as mums talk about it enough?
Life as a mum can be hard in many different ways but we were generally discussing the juggle of all. The. Things. I have a lot of thoughts about community and support network and how vital and simultaneously lacking they are in modern motherhood but I’m sure you’ve read a lot of that lately. What we got into last night was the all-pervading idea that when you’re a mum everything should be picture perfect.
I personally felt very vulnerable when I was pregnant. It’s not something I bring up a lot because often when I talk about being pregnant it’s because I’m with a pregnant friend and I feel like I don’t want to put a downer on things. I don’t talk about my second baby’s traumatic birth unless it’s with people who were around me at the time. I certainly don’t talk about it to pregnant women because I don’t want to scare them or make them think it might happen to them. Interestingly, the last time I opened up to a friend I hadn’t seen for a while about it she explained that she had in fact experienced a similar birth. The odds of which are so very slim it was almost funny. Almost.
I have more than a couple of life experiences I keep in a hidden lock box particularly relating to my life since becoming a mum. I think we all do, and isn’t it a shame? Because maybe if we all talked more about the difficult experiences as well as the amazing we would all feel more empowered as mums.
Hopefully you have those friends you feel you can have a moan to and you don’t feel judged by if you say you’re having a rubbish day. Perhaps those friends are in a similar position to you in their lives. I hope you have those friends. But perhaps we also need to be bolder in sharing the big things with mums we don’t know so well?
I’m not even entirely convinced it’s the right thing to do. Maybe there’s a balance? For instance, maybe if I had been more forward in sharing my baby’s birth story it could have helped another pregnant woman feel braver to ask for an extra scan. Yet also I know there was a time when it was just all too raw to talk about at all.
Help or Hindrance?
I think we also need to consider is it relevant? If a mum is having a hard time breastfeeding and we share how we got over some obstacles that may be helpful. Do you think it is still helpful to go into detail about the hard journey you had with breastfeeding if mum is doing just fine? I’m not so sure. When I was pregnant first time round I had a lot of women tell me how hard they found breastfeeding (sometimes completely unsolicited) to the point where I was under the impression that breastfeeding was nigh on impossible. I would say “I’m hoping to breastfeed” rather than “I’m going to breastfeed” because 1. I felt like I was being naïve to say it absolutely and 2. I didn’t want to offend anyone who had found it hard!
Pregnancy and motherhood are such an emotional time in our lives. Things like birth and breastfeeding are emotive topics. Perhaps being vocal about our difficult times needs thoughtful timing. But I do think if we were all just a bit braver in sharing our bad experiences it would help to alleviate some of the immense pressure to be perfect.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all learned how to listen to one another without taking the other person’s experience as a reflection on ourselves or what we do? I’ve heard this referred to as ‘holding space’ and I think it is one of my all-time favourite phrases. If we were all able to ‘hold space’ for one another, the bad experiences might get mixed in more with the amazing and that would facilitate a more universally realistic reflection of the experience of motherhood.
Talk to your mum friends today. It might bolster them. Let’s chase down the picture-perfect ideal and kick it back to way back when!
How do you feel about this topic? Do you feel OK talking about the big things as well as the everyday? Do you think you would feel more comfortable sharing your hard experiences if you heard other women doing the same?