05 Oct The pressure on mothers
The pressure on mothers
The other day I was inspired by a speaker who said the following in a lecture: ‘Be mindful of what/ who energises you, and who/what depletes your energy.’
Why didn’t I hear that before?
This quote can be applied to all aspects of our lives. In fact, this speaker was saying to a mother who was in tears because of the terrible guilt she was carrying all those years. The guilt and shame that looking after her babies ( then children) wasn’t giving her a kind of energy, infinite joy, and all the love she was supposed to ‘feel’ even if she loved working with kids.
I felt exactly the same. As a matter of fact, I fell into that ‘baby blues’ on the 3rd day after Anouk’s birth. Why on Earth is ‘baby blues’ not talked about in details in all those prenatal books I was consulting religiously?
The hospital staff ended up giving me some drugs to stop me from sobbing I couldn’t control. I don’t know what they put into my body though.
Well, the baby blues started as I heard ONLY my daughter was crying from distance. Other babies seemed calmer and they were all sleeping most of times. My daughter, on the other hand, was screaming all day and all night long. Well, it seemed like that on those foggy days.
I then realised, ‘ oh, s__t, is this what I got into? Is this what I will have to deal with the rest of my life?’.
I asked a nurse, ‘ why is my baby crying all the time? Is there something wrong? Is everything ok with her health?’
She said, ‘ it is because of you’.
In Danish, we say, ‘hold kæft’.
Ah, it is all my bloody fault that my baby is crying all the time.
I do not recall well how time passed after we came back home from the hospital. I struggled with the feeding routine, I struggled with Anouk’s resistance to having naps ( even the mid-wife who came to visit us to help us set the routine gave up after 2 months), I struggled foremost with boredom and loneliness I was constantly in touch with.
I was and I am supposed to feel only the motherly love- certainly not those taboo words like boredom and loneliness. I envied those mothers who seemed so natural and endlessly happy being with their babies. I wish I were like them.
I didn’t know what the heck I was supposed to do. I didn’t know whether I was supposed to hold her 18 hours a day, or stare at my baby lovingly with an empty brain that was eating up my ‘something’ that energised me.
Don’t get me wrong- I loved and love my daughter more than anything.
I couldn’t deal with the pressure either that I was responsible for this little person until I die. It was an overwhelming fact one has to come to terms with.
We had our daughter one year after we moved to Switzerland. At that time, I didn’t speak French, I didn’t know anyone, my relationship with my mother wasn’t exactly ‘working’(that had been the case for decades).
I couldn’t wait until I could be liberated. I couldn’t wait until I could be left alone. I couldn’t wait until our nanny arrives so that I can go to my studio and practise or do mind-numbing activities to ‘fuse out’.
I hated myself for feeling this way. I was at times in tears, asking myself ‘why on Earth can I not just enjoy being with her? Why can I not be more maternal like other mothers?’.
What really doesn’t help is other women who think they know better, and give you a list of things you are doing wrong: I shouldn’t send Anouk to a day care because she was only 2, I should be staying with her full-time because that is what mothers should do, I should give up music until she is old enough, I shouldn’t carry an ugly heavy rucksack that had everything ready: 2 sets of extra clothing, nappies, food, toys, books, etc, because it was too ugly for the evening dinner, or a concert, etc, I should be a better mum to Anouk- because if she cried, it translated into my shortcomings as a mother. … I ‘failed’ the exam of being a good mother because I was depressed soon after Anouk was born… endless…
I admire mothers who just adore their babies and who can just stare at them, and feel the infinite joy and happiness. I do wish I were like them.
There were obviously many many moments I felt the joy, love, happiness, and gratitude. But I didn’t feel it all the time- unfortunately. Obviously, not many people talk about these ‘unmotherly’ feelings.
When I began to appreciate the motherhood was when I was able to verbally communicate with Anouk and hear her inner world . I am not creative enough with children. I am a very boring person to them. I can entertain them for a very short while but I often feel exhausted and bored by doing all those physical games or endlessly repeated simple activities.
I know many mothers suffer from this guilt and shame that they miss doing what energise them. The guilt being they should be just loving their babies unconditionally, and that they felt the conflict between what really energised them and the colossal new responsibility.
I am sure I sound like a cold, heartless, and unloving mother. The fact is, I won’t be a better mother if I didn’t have my time alone, if I didn’t have time with music, if I didn’t have adult moments..
I definitely wish that I enjoyed Anouk’s infant stage more. I Definitely wish that I simply didn’t miss anything. I so much wish that I weren’t a depressed mother in the first few years of Anouk’s life.
If I were able to express these difficult feelings, if I felt these feelings were ‘allowed’, and seen as ‘legitimate’, or if I had enough confidence to talk honestly about it, I would have probably felt less pressure to feel the emotions
society has assigned us to feel- eternal love- and I would have had more strength and wisdom to enjoy the early motherhood more.
It is not to say that it is our society’s fault. I am only saying that mothers should feel safe, and have a ‘right’ to express the overwhelming emotions from a drastic change in their lives- it goes without saying about fathers too.