Written by: Mommy Matters CEO & Founder Dr. Taraneh Shirazian
In my 20s, I used to think that pregnancy and postpartum were the greatest challenges of being a mother. After all, it is the culminating experience of motherhood. Glorified as a beautiful, perfect experience where you walk onto the labor floor as a couple and you exit as a family with a beautiful, new addition. Yet, the truth is that even as an obgyn I didn't feel prepared. No one talks about becoming indoctrinated into motherhood and yet it forever changes the identity of who you are.
In the United States, we set this beautiful ideal of pregnancy and delivery- it’s in all the commercials and pictures of motherhood. It’s glorified as a perfect, beautiful experience. Yet, it’s called labor for a reason. It’s hard work, that will push and challenge you. I think they have it right in some other countries, where pregnancy and birth isn’t held up to some unattainable ideal but rather is recognized for its medical complexity, where women are given adequate work leave to recover and adapt to their new role, and the government often supports resources for new mothers.
But what happens next? Motherhood is the biggest challenge we face as women, but not only because of pregnancy and delivery. In many ways that becomes the easy part. Motherhood is challenging because our children are ALWAYS changing. That’s the beauty of life and growth, as we are growing and understanding our role, they are growing and changing the rules. For many of us who have professional careers, it’s difficult not to master a new role or task. But that is the beauty of motherhood, it’s not a role to master, it’s a journey often not within our control, that’s why labor sets us up so brilliantly.
Refuse the guilt
So, if we acknowledge that motherhood is a constantly evolving journey, then we should shed the guilt that society places on its mothers. Everything is not OUR fault, although our older kids will tell us so. You will not get everything right every time. But the good news is that you will constantly have opportunities to make different choices. Some of the common areas of guilt for new moms is breastfeeding and diet. I’m here to tell you that breastfeeding is not a prerequisite of being a great mother, if it’s too difficult and too stressful to do, it’s ok. Your child will be fine. I was never breastfed- my mother said it wasn’t in fashion at the time. I don’t feel I missed out, and I love my mother anyway.
Don't compare yourself to others
I can’t tell you how many hand pureed commercials for baby food I have seen. How many women can hand puree their toddlers meals? For those who can, that’s great, but for those who can’t don’t get discouraged. You may not have time in your busy workday to source all ingredients and prepare your infant’s meals. Baby food in the market is quite good now, low in preservatives and additives. More importantly, all the babies grow up to demand mac and cheese and pizza anyway! It’s the truth.
So, let’s sum up the facts here. We need to go easier on ourselves and remember the big picture- we want kind, compassionate, happy children, who have mothers that are supportive and present in their lives. Motherhood is a lifelong, constantly evolving journey- nothing will ever be as challenging or as rewarding.