I shared an article from The Guardian recently that provoked me to write about something that has long bothered me as a new mum.
The article, (read it here), talks about Peaches Geldof’s death, and the link that it perhaps has to her throwing herself into the ideal of motherhood. If a heroin overdose was the cause, we will likely never know why Peaches chose to take drugs in the presence of her baby, and more to the point, why she chose to go down this dangerous path of drug taking having thrown herself into this new life as a mummy, and having openly stated that motherhood had made her feel complete.
The article links her death to Peaches’ need to connect in someway to her own mother, and suggests that perhaps she struggled with the ideals of being the ‘perfect mum’, but was too afraid to admit it. Whatever the reasons, the article sparked some thoughts in my head that I have had for a while about the definitions of being a mum, and the pure pressures there are in today’s society surrounding mums and their babies.
When I found out I was pregnant, I had just under 9 months to prepare. My house was going to be the tidiest and cleanest it’s ever been. We’d save lots of money so I could have a full year off with our baby. I’d spend hours wondering what I’d be like as a mum, smugly thinking to myself that I’d be brilliant, and nurturing, and patient, and be able to survive on zero hours sleep, and wear my newborn in a sling whilst cooking and cleaning, like in that picture I saw of Kourtney Kardashian on Instagram.
And therein lies the problem. We set ourselves up to fail. Society sets us up to fail. The media and celebrities set us up to fail. And then we feel like failures, even though, really WE’RE NOT!
Lylah is now 16 months old, and every day brings something new that I worry about. The sleep situation is much better now, but for months on end I was constantly tired. I rarely get my hair done and it needs a good trim. And as for my house, well…
The truth is, I want other people to think that I am doing fine, and that I cope brilliantly, and that Lylah is the perfect baby, and that I am the perfect mummy to her. Social media is great for this. A few pictures of Lylah looking smiley, and me wearing a full face of makeup (a rarity these days), and you’d think that my house is full of smiles and giggles, and Lylah is the perfectly behaved child.
However, there are no photos of the grumpy days, the days when the toys are everywhere and the washing up hasn’t been done since the night before. There is no evidence of the constant struggle we’ve had with Lylah’s eczema, and the days that I’ve been in tears because she won’t stop scratching and she’s covered in sore patches. There are certainly no videos of my screaming, tantrumming baby, sprawled on the floor, crying and kicking because I’ve taken the biro off her (I’d rather you didn’t tattoo yourself Lylah). It’s unlikely that you’d find evidence of anything that was in anyway a little bit rubbish!
Scrolling through anyone with a baby’s newsfeed, and it’s likely to be the same story. Lots of lovely pics, no rubbish pics. And that’s fine, I get it, I’m fully with you. But the problem is, it sets us up to fail.
Every new mum says “no-one tells you what it’s really like”. BECAUSE IF THEY DID, YOU’D PROBABLY THINK REALLY REALLY HARD BEFORE HAVING CHILDREN AND CHANGING YOUR WHOLE LIFE FOREVER!
But it’s okay not to be perfect. I’m so lucky to have a group of friends, all with babies around Lylah’s age, who I can be really honest with. We’re all different mummies, with very different babies, but we’re all fundamentally the same, all struggling on with our little human beings, who are testing our patience and pushing us to our wits end, every single day.
I was recently chatting to a complete stranger in the hair salon (the one occasion I’ve been in there in the past 6 months). She also has a baby daughter, and we started chatting about baby things, as new mummies so love to do. It was refreshing to hear her say “I hope I don’t offend you if you are one of these mums, but I really don’t like the whole, going to every single mother and baby group, taking them to baby yoga, and hanging out with baby friends all day. Me and my baby are fine, she travels around with us, as we have to work away a lot, and she loves it”. Now, each to their own, and I do happen to LOVE hanging around with my baby friends, and taking her to play groups, but equally, I don’t think your a bad mother if you don’t do this!
if you are a mum, and you are feeling tired, drained, exhausted, impatient, ugly, chubby…then that’s good, because I do too!
Let’s stick together mummies, and pave the way for the new mummies of tomorrow. It is the hardest thing we will ever do, and we’re all amazing for doing it, no matter how we go about it. Let’s support anyone who is amazing enough to make the decision to become a mum, and most of all, let’s not judge them on how they do it.