The Stress of Motherhood
Becoming a mother is one of the most beautiful and life changing stages that exists, and probably one of the most challenging jobs for any woman. But let’s all agree that despite all the warm fuzzy feelings that motherhood brings, being a mother, and needing to have the light switch in your heart and in your head ‘turned on’ at every moment, is damn difficult and can be emotionally exhausting.
When you think about motherhood several generations ago, women were giving birth in the fields and back at work the next day. They were walking hoards of kids to school, no matter the weather conditions. They were washing clothes by hand for a family of 6 without batting an eyelash. This list can go on.
So do mothers of our generation really have a right to complain? Why is it that being a parent now feels so draining to so many people? And why is it that women in particular are feeling so ‘down’ on themselves when it comes to their children?
Both in my practice as well as in my personal life, women describe feeling as if their parenting skills are lacking, or that they are incompetent as parents. These feelings are not derived from any one or two incidences, but rather are a general feeling of ‘never doing enough’ by your children. It is unbelievable how common this feeling is. I suspect that dads too feel it but are more hesitant to admit it out loud.
For starters we do live in a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ type of society, where we want our children to fit in and feel like part of a community. This desire, at least for most, is not derived by materialism, but more so by our desire to see our children happy, successful and comfortable within their own skin. And to be accepted by their peers. Unfortunately, this adds tremendous financial and emotional pressure to parents, not to mention a HUGE time commitment, resulting in kids being enrolled in too many extra curricular activities and parents who are running themselves ragged trying to fit it all into a day.
Unlike generations ago, our economy is such that the pressure is also on most families to have a double income. Often two full-time incomes. Mothers are not as easily able to stay home with her children, and give them that ‘extra mommy time’, without it seriously affecting their quality of life. And by quality of life, I am not referring to giving up fancy vacations or expensive items for the house. I am referring to being able to adequately put food on the table, keep your kids clothed and clean, and make sure at the end of all that there is enough left to pay your mortgage and heating bills.
There is also tremendous pressure on woman in particular, to do it all - run the house, manage a career, and always be available to her children with patience, nurturing and understanding…OK let’s get back to reality. The truth is, kids are terrific, but they are draining. And it is unrealistic for any woman to work 8 hours a day, make dinner every night, do all the household chores and greet her kids with a smile every moment of every day. I have yet to meet that woman.
So what’s the moral of the story?
Mothers need not be too hard on themselves. They are often their own worst critics. Children are resilient. If they have love and nurturing and the basic necessities, we need to have faith that they will be alright. The truth is, we are all doing the best we can. Some days are better than others. Some days run smoother than others. I consider the day a success if my kids are fed, have been bathed, completed their responsibilities and if I have not lost one of them or my mind.
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