What deep-seeded core beliefs do you have about motherhood?
The ones that you are holding close to your chest and maybe don’t see the light of day? The good, the bad, and the ugly…
The truth is, we all have them. And they can sabotage our success as mothers if we don’t recognise their power and learn to let go of them!
As rewarding as motherhood is; it may be one of the most difficult jobs in existence!
Mothers are expected to be this superwoman – nurturing, soft yet strong and always full of joy despite fatigue, lack of support or isolation- but this notion sets up all sorts of unrealistic expectations on their shoulders.
Whilst it is becoming more accepted, many in society still fail to acknowledge how any woman could struggle with this transition into this whole new reality of motherhood, and if she does…then she must be suffering postnatal depression. Truth is, there is a whole spectrum of gray along that continuum, motherhood isn’t black or white!
The issue when we hold negative core beliefs or misconceptions around what it means to be a mother, is they become our guiding principles in which we approach this stage of life. And for this reason, it’s important that we build understanding on all sides of motherhood which will allow women to be honest about their struggles without judgment from others or themselves!
So where do these core beliefs originate?
Only once we understand this can we shed some light on and begin unravelling the common myths and misconceptions about motherhood.
What exactly is a deep rooted core belief?
This is a belief that has been held for a long time, and is important to our sense of self. It is our essence and who we are at our foundation as a person. It is firmly embedded in our thinking, guiding and shaping our behaviours, actions and reality.
Core beliefs are generally formed based on childhood assessments or interpretations of experiences or messaging, which may be either true or untrue. They are self-perpetuating and through the Reticular Activating System within our brain, they attract evidence which makes them stronger, and they repel anything that might disprove or challenge them. They become our truth because we believe it to be the absolute reality of who we are as a person or how things work in life.
These core beliefs can limit us from taking on new challenges if they are not updated to reflect new facts, experiences or realities. They can also have a negative impact on how we view ourselves and the world around us.
This is where it becomes important for us as mothers to understand our inner voice so that we don’t allow outdated rules about motherhood dictate our behaviours in ways that aren’t helpful to who we are now.
There is a lot of negative messaging around what it means to be a mother. Therefore, becoming aware of the messages that no longer serve us is important for self-care and self-preservation to ensure we don’t become overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations.
When we take a step back from the noise and really start to listen, you will begin to identify your own thoughts which have been driving certain behaviours.
Here are some common misconceptions:
Myth #1: Mothers are born the moment the baby is born
One of the biggest misconceptions is that mothers are born naturally with a set of maternal skills as soon as their baby lands in their arms. This couldn’t be further from reality for many women – especially those who have experienced infertility or pregnancy loss; a non-spontaneous, drug or medical intervention-filled labour; or a myriad of other reasons – and struggle to bond with their newborns immediately on delivery.
For some women going through this stage of transition into motherhood, there isn’t an immediate outpouring of love for their newborn. With the rising instance of medical intervention during birth, their hormones haven’t been supported to give them that surge of loving emotions right after birth. This can often lead to feelings of feeling disconnected and lacking that deep sense of love for their baby, which many women describe as ‘feeling empty’.
As a new mother, there aren’t any instinctual know-hows that occur during birth, but rather it becomes a big learning curve as we adjust to this new role of motherhood and what our babies need from us.
Which is often overwhelming for many women who are not able to feel their baby’s hunger cues initially, hold them close, breastfeed successfully or feel confident in their new role as mother.
It is all a big learning curve!
Myth #2: All women love their new identity as a ‘Mother’
Transitioning from maiden into mother involves a death of one identity and the birth of another; it’s our passage between identities. There is a process which involves a big transformation and period of grieving at this rupture.
During the transition, many women struggle with loss of independence and personal control… suddenly they are no longer in charge of their own body; they don’t know what to do or where to go next; everything seems overwhelming; there isn’t enough information out there; you can’t find your feet yet in your new role as mother either because it’s all too new for you still.
And if like me, you’ve always led an independent life before having children then having another little human dependent on you 24/7/365 can feel overwhelming. You can go from being in control of your own life to feeling like you have no control anymore.
The hardest part is often seeing life continue around you. Friends still go out and see each other. Your partner still goes to work and maintains his social life…you’re simply no longer part of these and you yearn for your old life back.
The pain of transitioning into motherhood is real and it hurts …
Myth #3: The ‘Perfect Mum’
There is a lot of pressure on women to be the ‘perfect mum’. This has become an ideology that many societies have adopted in their definition of what being a mother entails and therefore, this preconceived notion can also affect each individual woman’s identity if she fails to live up to these expectations.
Society’s expectation of mothers is typically very demeaning towards mothers who deviate from their mold – especially when they don’t fit into the cookie-cutter image. The ‘Perfect Mother’ lovingly prepares food from scratch, plays with her child endlessly with wooden (never plastic!) toys; and she only dresses them in hand-made natural fibre clothing. It’s no wonder mothers are often left them feeling inadequate for not meeting these seemingly impossible standards!
The perfect mum is almost always seen as someone happy with her life choices…whereas mothers who struggle feel guilty about talking openly about any struggles they are facing.
Many women’s identities have been formed around their roles as ‘mother’, which can make them feel inadequate, ashamed or guilty for wanting to talk about the hardships of motherhood – especially when it goes against society’s expectations of what a good mum should be like! This is why many women suffer in silence because no one wants to hear that things aren’t always sunshine and rainbows. Instead, you’re supposed to put on your brave face and pretend everything is okay – even if deep down inside something isn’t right…and this results in so many mothers feeling isolated and alone with nobody understanding them (or believing their struggles exist) until we start talking more openly about it all instead!
Myth #4: There is only one best way to parent (listen to the experts, not your intuition)
This myth is predicated on the fear around not being a ‘good mother’.
As women, we are heavily influenced by society and other people around us. People tend to think they know best or try to tell you what they would do if they were in charge (which often comes from their lack of knowledge too)! This can stand between mothers finding their own way and finding the motherhood journey that works best for them.
People often feel threatened when we talk about being authentic to our own values, feelings & choices – parenting is one of those areas where women are expected to follow a certain code or set of rules which don’t suit every family’s needs. So many families have different approaches but society has made it so hard to speak out against this! We’re afraid of judgment from others who will think less of us as parents if we deviate too much from their expectations…as though there are right ways & wrong ways instead!!
It’s common for mothers to be guilted into following the ‘experts’ advice even though deep down it doesn’t feel right. Women are afraid of being seen as ‘putting your child in danger’ for not listening to the experts and don’t want to be labelled as the ‘bad mum’.
I get it! You will question things!
You will question things you never questioned before – old choices won’t feel right but the new choices you’ll be told by society, are also wrong.
Trust your gut. Your intuition knows best.
Myth #5: Being a ‘stay at home mum’ is the easy way out
There are many things that society tends to neglect when talking about mothers who stay at home – for example, how lonely it can get being surrounded by small children all day long! This is often why so many women have an identity crisis once they leave the workplace. As they depart from maternity leave, they are told to “enjoy their break” as though they are leaving for a year-long vacation!
Many people think of staying at home with your kids as a “day off” which leads mothers to feel guilty if they’re feel bored or want some time out themselves instead…and this can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness and even depression. These emotions are completely normal, yet shunned and not talked about enough within society.
Then there’s the alternate role of “the Supermum”. This is the mother who seemingly does it all. She is seen in society’s eyes as the woman to aspire to – juggling work, family, life, home and everything in between. At the same time, she is seen as passing off her responsibility onto someone else by putting the kids into daycare for so long – it’s no wonder mothers can’t win!
When these are viewed as the only two options that exist as a mother, it’s easy to see why stay at home mothers often describe themselves as “just a mum” and devalue the role they play.
Myth #6: Mothers are meant to be selfless, always putting the wellbeing of others before themselves.
Being a martyr never served anyone, yet it becomes a default role for so many mothers. This is part of the patriarchal wounding which is prevalent in society – we have been conditioned for so long to think that as a mum, you must make sacrifices. It’s no wonder so many woman feel guilty for wanting to go to the gym or yoga (or whatever your movement of choice is), without their kids. It’s seen as a non-crucial activity which is so often the first thing to fall by the wayside in favour of tending to their children.
Self-care? Well, that’s waaaaay down on the priority list according to society and again a ‘luxury’ that mothers should forgo.
But what happens when you forgo self-care (and I’m not necessarily talking about self-care as being an hour-long soak in a bubble bath – it is sometimes as simple as going for a walk outside and having some time alone with your thoughts)? Your cup is being drained and emptied… bit by bit, by bit.
You’re pouring love and energy and all of your being from your own cup, into the cup of others to keep theirs full…and yours is now depleted.
And when you’re trying to pour from an empty cup, instead of love and feelings of abundance and joy, your actions are coming from a place of resentment. You feel this and your kids feel this.
Putting yourself last means that you’re neglecting your own needs but it also means that when children grow older, there’s no healthy role model left behind because their mother never learned or practiced care of herself!
Myth #7: A women should be able to do it on their own – asking for help is a sign of weakness.
Just because your mother says she did it all on her own doesn’t mean you have to. This is a deep-rooted belief that women must tough it out on their own as it builds resilience. It’s as though it is a right of passage to become a self-made person.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – sometimes asking for help, whether it be emotional or logistical support, can make the world of difference (no matter how seemingly small). Just because you’re a strong woman who can do it on her own doesn’t mean that you have to.
I know there are so many women out there, just like myself, who have been conditioned since childhood to think they need to compete prove their strength by being in their masucline power. Anything less, than you are weak and a ‘damsel in distress… So the idea of asking for help is really daunting but I assure you – it’s okay!
Whether that means telling your partner or close friend what your next steps may be in finding some form of support/help with regards to childcare or even just having someone watch the kids while you go take yourself away for half an hour each week. Don’t underestimate how much of a difference this could make!!
What can you do to change your mindset and shift these beliefs?
When we take the time to really listen and identify our thoughts which are no longer helpful for us; it starts to break down and remove the misconceptions which have been creating a disconnect.
Having an awareness of our inner dialogue allows you to start making choices about what does work for you now – whether its parenting your baby using attachment style parenting techniques, or choosing to parent your child based on conscious choice rather than obligation. Then you can start to adopt your new belief and use it in place of the old.
So become aware of how you talk yourself through each situation so that instead of reacting automatically out of fear because something brings up past hurts/trauma you can be present with the actual situation.
Once you are aware, you can choose different words which create feelings of safety, abundance, love and joy!