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Pressures of Motherhood

Did You Fall Into the "Good Mother" Trap?

Here's a post from our partners at BabyCenter! Every week, we bring you the best parenting and lifestyle stories from the experts at BabyCenter, including this post from Samantha Schoech about pressure placed on new moms.


By the time my twins were a week old I already knew I was a failed mother. First, I had failed to conceive them "naturally." Then, I had gone into labor too early and undergone a c-section instead of pushing them out my vagina like any good mother would. Nursing my tiny babies was proving to be very, very difficult and pumping was producing these sad little 2-ounce bottles of liquid failure. When I looked at my children in their incubators what I felt was not an overwhelming flood of love like I was supposed to, but a heart-pounding, skin prickling anxiety. I was doing it all wrong and I was deeply unhappy about it.

Related: When did your child stop sleeping with you?

What I can see now, with six years hindsight, is that I was actually doing it all right. I was doing the best I could with all the love and strength I could muster. The only person I was failing was myself and that was because my expectations were all screwed up.

In her new book, "Why Have Kids?" Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti takes on our notions about motherhood and decides they may just be the source of parental unhappiness.

In an interview in USA Today Ms. Valenti says:

I think that the ideal of parenting can make people unhappy. It's that this lie that they're being told by society that parenting is one thing — and when parenting is something completely different — that's what makes them unhappy. When you ask most American parents why they want to have kids, it's to bring more joy into their lives. So, when you don't feel that all-encompassing joy, it must be that something is wrong with you. I think it's dissatisfaction that the expectation was different than the reality.

I would add that along with the dissatisfaction is the guilt. If you are not being swept along on a giant wave of joy and fulfillment every waking second, then there is something deeply wrong with you. Add to this all the modern "supposed tos": breastfeeding, baby wearing, superfood making, sign language teaching, job quitting, cookie baking, PTA leading, and you've basically got a recipe for misery.

This is not to say that there isn't incredible joy to be found in raising children. Of course there is. Just that it's probably best to expect the bumps, the bad days and the failures along with the joy.

This holds true not just for parenting, but for almost everything in life: if you have expectations of perfection and unceasing happiness, you will be sorely disappointed. It goes for marriage, it goes for work, it goes for friendship and it goes for motherhood.

That's why I think the absolutely best thing we can do for our fellow and future moms is to tell the truth: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because the real joy in parenting does not come from being perfect, it comes from relaxing and giving yourself room to be human. It comes with the understanding that you will absolutely not be perfect and that this is just fine.

What about you? Did you suffer from unrealistic expectations the first time around?

More great reads from BabyCenter:
Parental involvement doesn't have to include bake sales
13 creepy children's rhymes
5 delicious apple desserts for Fall
7 personalized picks for back-to-school
7 cool hampers for keeping kids' rooms tidy

Source: Flickr User thejbird

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