There’s the version of motherhood the media would have us believe: Instagram parenting, looking glamorous with picture perfect, happy children. And then there’s the reality: the sleepless nights, the endless planning, the worry, the exhaustion, the skivvying. And if you’ve got a job, add the stress of getting out the door on time to make the morning meeting, and running to pick up the kids from nursery or school at the end of the day.
The pressures of being a mum are phenomenal and that feeling of not being or doing enough is never far away. If you work, you feel guilty that someone else is looking after your kids, if you’re a stay at home mum, there’s the guilt of giving up your career.
In fact, recent studies show that almost 90 percent of mothers feel guilty at some point, while 21 percent feel guilty most or all of the time.
Somehow we have this idea that mothers should be completely selfless – giving to everyone else before themselves. But striving to do so can not only leave you feeling exhausted, it can also have you wondering who you really are outside of this important – and most challenging – of jobs.
All this means that most mums end up catering to everyone else, while putting their own needs on the back-burner. We find it difficult to describe exactly what mothers do right but we have a multitude of language to describe all they do wrong: they’re “neurotic”, a “tiger mum,” a “slummy mummy,” a “martyred mum” and the list goes on.
There’s an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child but mothers too need their village. Studies and research show that just as children need to receive unconditional acceptance, so too, do mothers.
There’s also a saying from the English psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott of the “good enough” mother. He acknowledges a split between the mother’s and child’s needs and sees the tussle as necessary for the child to grow and understand the frustrations of life.
Taking a cue from Winnicott, mothers need acknowledgement, understanding and kindness. In short, mothers need mothering too. Susan Tomlinson runs workshops for mums called MotherSpace. Find out more here.
Did you know that HealthUnlocked has a friendly and supportive parenting community for tips and advice that is run by NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents. Join the community for online support and connect with parents in your local area.
Written by Susan Tomlinson of Welldoing.org
Susan Tomlinson is a psychotherapist in Fulham and runs workshops for mums called MotherSpace.