There are many preconceived notions that we, as women, have about motherhood before we have our own children. These ideas come from movies, TV shows, other moms and books we read, among many other avenues. The one thing that they all have in common is that they are not always accurate. Here’s a list that we’ve compiled of some of the most common “myths” about motherhood.
Myth 1: My life won’t change much after I have a baby.
Reality: This is likely not true. Having a baby changes everything. While it will be one of the most meaningful changes in your life, it also inherently brings a great deal of transformation. Babies quickly become the center of your world once born into your family. They require around the clock care and some days will demand all the physical and emotional energy you have. Babies impact our ability to be spontaneous, the amount of attention we are able to give our partners, the time we can invest in our careers and often will shift the balance of priorities in our lives. But most of all, having a baby will introduce you to a love you have never experienced before---a love so profound that it makes all the other upheaval more than worth it and then some.
Myth 2: A good mom bonds with her baby immediately.
Reality: Motherhood, for many, can be a constant internal battle with guilt. ‘Am I good enough?’ ‘Am I doing this right?’ ‘Am I meeting my baby’s needs?’ This battle can start as early as the first days after birth when we are expected to look into our tiny baby’s eyes and feel the strongest bond we have ever felt. Not always the case. Childbirth is a physically and emotionally taxing experience for the woman and often the first emotions experienced in the aftermath are not what we had planned. We may feel exhausted, in pain, overwhelmed and even depressed due to the fluctuating hormones in our body. Our baby may be a challenging infant due to colic or breastfeeding difficulties. These are all factors that may affect the initial bond you have with your baby. But fear not, it will come and it will be like no other-just like you imagined.
Myth 3: Mothering comes naturally.
Reality: For some, yes. For many, no. Motherhood is hard work and when you combine all the major transformations having a child brings into your life with sleep deprivation and learning to care for a tiny human, there are bound to be some bumps in the road. This is another area where the guilt tends to creep in. Thoughts such as, “I should be better at this,” “I shouldn’t feel so overwhelmed,” “I shouldn’t feel depressed during this joyous time,” cause us to feel as though we just aren’t good enough for the job. Rest assured there are many women in this world for which motherhood does not come naturally. And they too will eventually find their groove and raise kids that are just as great as Suzie Homemaker’s next door.
Myth 4: A good mom knows how to “do everything” and balance it all.
Reality: Hardly! There’s that pesky guilt again. No one parent, or even two, is capable of doing everything perfectly. As mentioned, having a child will shift the balance of priorities in your family giving a new “norm” to the time you to dedicate to each aspect of your life. Whether you are balancing a career and motherhood or the daily stressors of running a busy household, there are going to be days where you have to let things slide. And that is okay! Make a list of the things that need to get done, rank them in order of importance and do what you can. The list will still be there tomorrow.
Myth 5: Moms like their kids all the time.
Reality: Is there anyone that you can like ALL the time? Our children develop little personalities of their own, and much like us, they are not always going to be perfect. Children and babies can have bad days just like any other person. They can be grumpy, moody, needy, naughty, irresponsible and a long list of other undesirable traits. Just because you may feel like you don’t like your child very much in the moment, it doesn’t mean you won’t love them at the end of the day.
Myth 6: A good mom belongs to one, big, supportive, “Mom’s Club.”
Reality: Wouldn’t that be nice? The truth is that being a mom, despite all the wonderful aspects, can often be pretty lonely. Especially in those early days as you trudge through the sleepless nights, challenges of finding a rhythm with your newborn, and the delicate dance of making time to meet your own needs. In addition to there not being enough hours in the day, motherhood tends to bring out some pretty strong and often polarizing beliefs in women. You may find that your personal views on whether or not to sleep train or breastfeed may incite heated debates with other moms in your circle. The best thing you can do is find the moms in your community that you can relate to and befriend them. Check out breastfeeding support groups, join mommy groups and attend playdates and other mom and baby friendly activities in your community. Finding a good “mom friend” is almost as priceless as finding a good spouse!
Myth 7: Breastfeeding is “natural;” therefore it should come “naturally.”
Reality: Breastfeeding is hard work, whether you encounter challenges with it or not. This seems to be one of the greatest misconceptions that pregnant women have. You envision your newborn baby, happily latching on with no problem, gazing up at you quietly while you nurse him off to dreamland. No problem, right? Not so fast. While breastfeeding is a natural instinct for babies, it is often a learning curve for both mom and baby. You can encounter difficulties with the baby’s latch, problems with tongue and lip ties, struggles with milk supply and engorgement, and constant worries of whether or not baby is “getting enough.” And even without additional challenges, in the early days you are likely on a schedule of feeding on demand or every couple hours, which can leave you feeling exhausted and your nipples feeling ravaged. To soften the learning curve of breastfeeding, consider taking a breastfeeding class before birth, joining a support group with your baby and connecting with other moms who are going through the same journey as you.
Myth 8: We are shorting our children every time we invest in our own needs, desires and interests.
Reality: We will be shorting our children AND ourselves if we don’t care for our own needs and pursue our own desires and interests. Unfortunately, self-care and parenthood don’t always feel like two things that can coexist in our lives. But without taking the time to care for our own needs, mothers can easily become overwhelmed, overtired, overburdened and resentful. Feeling this way will only hinder our ability to care for our children and family the way we desire. Take the time to make sure you are getting enough rest, maintaining your friendships, connecting with your spouse and pursuing your own interests in your everyday life. Although, this is often easier said than done, you will be a better person, partner and parent for it.
Myth 9: Life as presented on TV and in advertising reflects the way that life really is.
Reality: Real life, with or without children, is a journey through valleys and peaks. Being a mother will come with good days and bad, stress and joy, frustration and pride and all the many other emotions of the human existence. If we set our expectations on a perfect life, often as presented to us in TV and in movies, we will be setting ourselves up for disappointment and missed opportunities to grow and learn from the challenges presented.
Myth 10: Asking for help is a sign of weakness.
Reality: FALSE. Asking for help is a sign of good delegation skills. Particularly in the early days of parenthood, learning to ask friends and family for help will be a skill that will be worth your weight in gold. You and your partner will likely be feeling too exhausted, overwhelmed and totally enamored with the new life you have created to be worrying about where your next meal is coming from or whether or not the dogs were walked. If you have friends and family in the area, who are asking how they can help, tell them! Before giving birth, make a list of the areas of your life where you could use some assistance after bringing baby home and start doling out the chores. Your loved ones will likely be more than happy to assist you during this time period in exchange for a few minutes of holding your snuggly baby. And asking for help doesn’t stop being an important skill after infancy. It takes a community to raise a child. Don’t be afraid to rely on yours.