The ‘Perfect Motherhood’ Myth

I have read again and again that mothers are often the worst, most critical judges of one another. Very often, I think that extends to women in general, mothers or not. I think a lot of times though, it is all done with good intention and in goodwill. Afterall, motherhood itself revolves around caring for another  (or a few) human being(s). It is a huge responsibility and sometimes, you could pretty much make or break a little human being’s life.

I find it sad that most of us mums already suffer from different extents of mother’s guilt yet there is always that never ending external source of guilt being piled on us. Many times, it can come from people who are not mothers and who think they can understand but don’t in actual fact.

I have been there and done that. I have been that single person casting a judgemental glance and a silent tsk at that mother in the supermarket with the noisy, tantrum-throwing kid. Why can’t she keep her child quiet? Been there, done that. So I can’t say I’m angry with these people nor am I offended.

Being one of the first of my friends to be pregnant, I had so many people ask me if I have started you know, pregnancy education for the baby growing in my womb.

I’m certainly not making fun of the dedicated pregnant mothers who do. Who make the effort to listen to Mozart, or talk to their growing foetuses regularly. Again, I have been there, done that in the sense that I was that single person who imagined myself being that perfect, perfect mother.

However, people don’t seem to realise that in real life, perfect scenarios rarely happen.

When I was pregnant, I barely survived. My weight fell below 38kg. For a pregnant woman, it was dangerous. I spewed 4 times a day. Some days, I ate one biscuit for the entire day. I felt sick all the time; I was always lying on the couch trying not to spew, I was always running to the office bathroom retching. I would take one bite of a quickly-thrown-together dinner and run off to spew, often worrying my 6 year old daughter.

I once drove myself to the hospital and had 3 doctors and a couple of nurses stare at me: How did you get yourself here? Your blood pressure is so low below normal that we are shocked you are even standing. I had to stay in hospital for the day for needles and all and then insisted on leaving so I could go pick up my 6 year old.

There, my very perfect pregnancy.
I barely survived myself, barely made it through, barely looked after a husband and a child… yet again and again I was made to feel guilty about not doing all the fancy stuff during my pregnancy.

See, I wouldn’t mind a casual question:Do you do pregnancy yoga and all that education stuff? and being left alone when I said no. However, it irks me when after I say no, I get a look of disgust: “Don’t you know you should do that because it will help the baby be smarter? Don’t you know you should do that so that the baby will yada yada yada…”

Well, don’t you know I need to keep myself alive so the baby can be alive? I’m barely alive! Look at my skin and bones!

Post-pregnancy, I still face the same thing.

The fantasy of the perfect motherhood haunts me constantly. Sometimes, it stems from myself. But, most times, it stems from others.

Apparently, the perfect motherhood entails that your number one priority and focus should always be your children. The truth is, I too have the perfect motherhood all worked out in my head.

Perfect motherhood scenario:

Play with your child. Take your child to the park. Teach your child. Read your child books. Listen to music with your child. Constantly talk to your child and nurture them. Yes, even when they are sleeping, you should be whispering lullabies in their ears. When they are eating, you should be sitting next to them describing the different foods that they are eating so you know, they are learning all the time. When they are quietly watching tv, no you cannot leave them alone, you really should be sitting beside them every minute giving an additional commentary so you know, they can always be learning extra information. Talk, play, sing, dance with your child. Perfect motherhood.

Unfortunately…

yet again, some people don’t realise that in real life that rarely happens.
Sometimes, you need to let you child watch some tv because hey, lunch and dinner isn’t going to cook itself while you focus entirely on your child all day. Piled up laundry isn’t going to wash itself while you are whispering lullabies to an already asleep baby. And those baby commercials are fake because babies don’t actually even sit still when you try to read to them. At least mine don’t. My reading sessions last less than 3 minutes before my toddler snatches it off me and wants to do something else.

Ladies and gents, the truth is I try my best to juggle it all. And I don’t think I am doing a bad job at all.

I do reasonably. But I’m sorry, while I do read with the kids and say a quick prayer with them, I do not gaze for hours upon their lovely peaceful countenances while they sleep and continue to whisper lullabies. While they sleep, I quickly scoot off to do the other dozens of household chores awaiting me.  There are nights I linger a little longer to have little short chats and so on but I truly cannot afford that every night.

[I have to pause here to say that I am really not mocking the dedicated mothers who actually do all these. I know a mum who has wanted kids for the longest time and she just loves her child so much that she talks/sings/plays with him/her all the time. Good on her I say! I just think that no 2 situations are the same; to each his own; there needs to be some understanding and empathy instead of expecting all mothers in their different situations to conform to one notion of a perfect motherhood]

Yes, even breakfast isn’t actually breakfast!

I am sure many mums are so familiar with the whole disarray and pandemonium going on at home. (And I only have 2 kids. Mums who have multiples, respect to you all!)
I think people, especially people who don’t have kids, need to let up a little.
It’s ok, I am not angry, I have been there imagining myself peacefully and confidently settled in the routine of perfect motherhood.
I do want to be that perfect mum who does everything and anything for her kids. Who puts them first and spends every living minute with them.
But I can’t. Because when I try to, I fail.

Because in real life, there is a lot more to the equation than we wish.

I am not making motherhood out to be the most terrible chore. I try to juggle it all and enjoy it as I go along. I enjoy my routine with my kids. I enjoy my own balance between marriage, kids, self. But it is all far from perfection.

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT today

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Mandy Webb

Freelance writer and Mum of 2 who loves penning my musings, documenting my journey through motherhood and life while indulging in my love for beauty and wellness! I believe in mums looking after themselves, inside and out... not only because we deserve it, but also because it helps us to be our best selves for our families. Read more about my story here

12 comments

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  1. Eva - The Multitasking Mummy 1 October, 2013 at 04:07 Reply

    LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!! This is exactly how I feel! I actually wrote a post last week ‘I’m a Stay at Home Mum because…I’m Lazy’ based on a comment I overheard. I am exactly the same, I don’t do all of those things, I have an extremely demanding 21 month old and to do those things would be impossible. I laughed when you mentioned about the speaking commentary while they watch TV. I only read about doing that the other day and just laughed…really? I think one of the really downsides to blogging these days is (and you just can’t help it) but you compare yourself to others, I know I constantly read some blogs and think “how do you get time to do that?” or “your house looks perfect, when do you get time to do that.” or “Your kids actually sit for more than 3 minutes and read that book or do that activity?” You poor thing, your pregnancy really sucked!

    • Mandy W 3 October, 2013 at 03:04 Reply

      Hey Eva! Yeah my pregnancy really sucked big time!! I do admire those mummies who appear to do it all. Haha I was just being a smartarse about the TV commentary; I do talk to my baby when I watch with her as well but it’s ok if I leave her to watch on her own from time to time right?? Just exaggerating and being sarcastic about comments I get from non parents about my kids watching TV and for the record, I even time it when my kids watch TV. They never watch TV for more than 1.5 hrs at one go. The TV is only turned on in the morning once and once in the evening that’s all! I guess I’m more irked by ignorant comments from non parents more than anything!

  2. Tegan Churchill 1 October, 2013 at 12:50 Reply

    The trouble with parenting is that there is no true measurement of success. A parent with a child with a mental illness, may be the most loving parent they could possibly be, while another ‘normal’ child has parents who would rather get drunk than be a parent. It’s all trial and error, learning from our kids and working out what is best for us and our children. The best teacher in all of this? The little person who is relying on us for everything.

    • Mandy W 3 October, 2013 at 03:06 Reply

      So true, Tegan. I guess that is why there is always so much debate around parenting because there really is no true measurement; no one size fits all solution as well. I agree at the end of the day, it’s about learning from out kids and working out whatever is best for whatever situation we are in x

  3. Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me 2 October, 2013 at 04:00 Reply

    I’m exhausted just reading this – it sounds like my hectic life with 3 kids, and I work from home which means I’m always on the computer which means my kids are always underfoot – arghhh!!
    I know what you mean about those ‘perfect mums’ I know heaps, but inside they are dying inside like us and just don’t verbalise it. I’m sorry you had to go through such sickness I can’t even imagine the toll that took on you emotionally and physically :) x

    • Mandy W 3 October, 2013 at 03:08 Reply

      Hey Emily! Yeah my pregnancy was so bad I don’t think I’ll want to go through another one :( And I haven’t even whinged about my crazy bad labour. I don’t believe in the perfect motherhood and it irks me more than anything when people expect that from mothers. Just cut down the unnecessary judgement!

  4. Rhianna SG 2 October, 2013 at 12:48 Reply

    Being a mum is hard work there is no doubt about that and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. All we can ever do is our best and not worry about the rest of the world

    Sending some fairy wishes and butterfly kisses from #teamIBOt your way lovely.

    • Mandy W 3 October, 2013 at 03:09 Reply

      Thank Rhianna x I agree all we can do is our best. I just wish I could turn a deaf ear sometimes; I just get so annoyed with judgemental comments like that!

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