5 Myths Moms Shouldn't Believe... But Do.
As a new mom, I was certain I would nail this motherhood thing. I had amazing role models. I had read "What to Expect When You're Expecting." I had this idea of the "perfect mother." Some of what I knew about mothering was from observation. Some was from seeing my sister grow into her role as a mother. Some were general ideas. And others were a plain old pipe dream. But within my first year of motherhood, you know what I learned about my ideology of the "perfect mom?"
I was ALL wrong.
Recently, I read a few articles that talked about how new mothers have an idealogical mother figure on a pedestal - and they strive to be that kind of mother. But it's exhausting and often, unachievable. During the years leading up to motherhood, women gather these little pieces of knowledge, beliefs, and ideas of motherhood and place them together like mosaic tiles to form a larger depiction of their ideal mother figure. Karen Ehman calls this the Mosaic Theory. And it's exactly that - we gather these perfect little snippets of moms we see in daily life: Insta-moms, Pinterest moms, Blogger moms, and moms we see on TV. But the one thing we don't see? What goes on behind the scenes.
What we see on social media isn't real life.
You see a mom on Instagram who has a clean kitchen with fresh flowers in an expensive vase on the counter, while your kitchen looks like a scene from Hell's Kitchen. What you don't see is the pile of dishes hidden in the corner, or the stack of bills that was thrown into the "junk drawer" before the picture was snapped. You don't see the full picture, but as moms, we still hold ourselves to this high standard of being a picture-perfect mom.
When you go to a friend's house who has a kid about the same age as yours, and their house is clean, beds are made, toys are put away. Your mind may drift back to your house with piles of laundry, a dirty dishwasher, and plates still on the table from breakfast. But that's okay. Maybe the grandmother had the kids yesterday and she spent the whole day cleaning. Or maybe you had a sick kid and housework got put off for a day or two. Everyone's story is different, so don't let one day get the best of you.
Thanks to the mosaic we so tediously craft, we waltz into motherhood wearing rose-colored glasses. By the time we step back to look at the image we created, it takes our breaths away. And not in a good way. Meaning, we go crazy running around as we race to replicate our ideal mother-figure.
"We moms are never going to be perfect. Not our homes. Not our method of discipline. Not our food. Not our schedule. When we keep these mythical mosaics of perfection as our goal, we only set ourselves up for sure failure. We need to stop pursuing the appearance of perfection," Karen Ehman set out to destroy the foundation of motherhood myths in a Fox News opinion piece. If we work to destroy the mosaic, we can focus our full attention on being our best. The best mom for our kids. The best mom for our family. No one else's.
Every mom has the handful of myths they undyingly cling onto. I have my top 5 - and I'm realizing that if I were to buy into all of these myths (now that I'm actually a mom, raising a very strong-willed little girl), I would find myself in a very unforgiving and unhealthy lifestyle.
My Top 5 Motherhood Myths
1. Motherhood is Natural and Instinctual
This is perhaps one of the biggest myths that new moms need to ignore. With this thinking, that means we should automatically know why our newborn is crying. Or how to have them latch the first time you try nursing. While nurturing your baby may come naturally to you, it doesn't always come naturally to other moms. It's a big change - from having to only feed yourself to having to feed and sustain another human being. Not every new mom knows exactly what to do right away, but they will figure it out and learn what works best for them and their child. Which leads me to my next point...
2. The Way I Parent My Child is the Right (& Only) Way
When we think we have mothering figured out and have it perfected, we build fences around our methods and shut out every mother and parenting book that may do it differently. Why? Because we think our way is the best way. But instead of shutting them out, we should be encouraging different parenting techniques and building bridges between our way and other ways. Bottle vs. breast. Crib vs. co-sleeping. Homeschool vs. public school. There is no right way. When we are close-minded we lose sight on what is really important. It doesn't matter whether your baby is bottle fed or breast-fed, as long as they have full tummies. It doesn't matter if they sleep in a crib or co-sleep, as long as baby and parents are sleeping. As long as your kid's mind is expanding and learning, it doesn't matter where they go to school. It's time we start putting our differences aside and focus on encouraging other mothers to be the best they can be for their families - even if it's completely opposite than how we raise our kids.
Mom-shaming has become a huge problem due to social media sharing, playgroups, and seeing pictures of moms and their babies (again, we don't know the whole story). Jealousy, anger, and sheer tiredness can lead to us taking it out on other moms. The voice in our heads that screams when our kid throws their food on the floor finally gets sees an outlet when we scroll past an Insta-Mom having a perfect day, in her perfect outfit, with perfectly done hair. Instead of judging and shaming other moms, lift them up. Encourage them. Help them. Let your instincts drive the urge to help other moms, not tear them down.
Build bridges, not fences.
3. The SAHM is the Best Mom
There is a stigma that mothers who work outside of the house don't give the proper care and attention to their children as well as moms who stay home all day. There is the opposing stigma that SAHMs lack the intelligence and competency to work outside of the home. Neither of those stigmas are true. Both working and SAHM moms are practically superheros. It takes a special mom be to able to work all day and keep working when they get home. It takes a special mom to be able to stay home all day with her kids and listen to hours of PawPatrol and sing the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" for the umpteenth time.
For some women, they realize that by working, they are able to care for their children better. A mother's intuition allows her the freedom to decide what is best for her children and family. Some mothers don't have the choice - they need to work so they can put a roof over their child's head and food on the table. Other moms work because they need to have the mental stimulation they can't find at home. Instead of stigmatizing the working mom and the stay-at-home mom, we should be celebrating the freedom of a mother's intuition that allows her the opportunity to care for her family the way it best suits them.
4. A Good Mom Can Do It All
Right off the bat, I can tell you this is wrong. But I can also tell you that I believed it going into motherhood. I thought that I would be able to work, take care of the baby, take care of myself, cook meals, do the laundry, clean the house, everything... WRONG! Women are wired to be the more nurturing of the two genders, but motherhood comes in seasons. It takes patience to figure out a balance. There will always be tensions between the home and outside commitments. There will be rearranging and rescheduling. There will be carry-out dinners. There may be a day when you wear sweats because you're behind on laundry day. The sooner we embrace this balance and accept the fact that we cannot do it all, the better it will be for ourselves and our children. Stressing about doing everything, and doing it perfectly will not only have some wear and tear on you, but your kids will begin to feel some of that tension.
Some days, it won't all get done. You won't have all the housework completed and have dinner on the table at the normal time. You may not have showered all day. There might be some days when you let some cleaning go undone for a few moments of peace and quiet. Which takes me to the next myth...
5. Life Has to Be All About the Kids
Yes, when you have children, your priorities change - drastically. Life is about them and for awhile, it's only about their happiness (and general survival). But that doesn't mean we should let ourselves go untended to. In order to take care of your child to the best of your ability, you need to feel happy, healthy, and whole. When you ignore your own needs, resentment is sure to follow. You may resent your spouse for feeling like you lost yourself along the way. Your relationships will suffer if you don't take responsibility for your health and well-being. Moms sometimes feel guilty about taking time for themselves - we feel like we are neglecting our child if we take time to do something just for ourselves. But without that little bit of self-love, we are unable to offer a nurturing, authentic love to our child.
I love playing with my daughter all day, but I love the hour or two that I have at the end of the day after she goes to bed. It's time where I can rejuvenate, relax, or do something just for me. Sometimes that means I do absolutely nothing and watch TV, and other times that means I clean or bake or read or get the house situated for the next day. Whatever I do during that time is something that makes me feel good. I like starting a new day with a clean/straightened house. I love reading and getting lost in a whole world of characters and stories. I need a night out once in a while to let go and be out with friends. Take advantage of family to babysit or a hubby who doesn't want to join in on a girl's night. Don't feel guilty about taking that time to relax in a bath with a glass of wine. Taking care of yourself and taking advantage of that time is important for any mother, new or experienced.
There are days that fly by, and there are days where the minutes feel like hours. But I wouldn't trade motherhood for anything. It's a balancing act - working, mothering, tending to things around the house, and by no means do I have this down to a science. Everyday is a new struggle, and a new battle. As a mom, it can be hard to feel like I'm doing a good job when my child cries, or throws a tantrum. I feel like sometimes I am doing the bare minimum at work. I have days that I don't touch the overflowing laundry basket. And there are days that end in tears and stress and the sense of feeling completely overwhelmed. There are days where I feel like I am simply letting everyone down.
I am a good mother. I am learning everyday. I love my child more than life itself. And that is enough.
I am enough.