Recently, a post on FaceBook caught my eye and really resonated with me.
The post, made by a friend and colleague was a personal response to a Time magazine article entitled “The Problem of Celebrating the Selflessness of Mothers” by Anna Malika Tubbs. You can read it here.
The crux of the article is how Tubbs, the author, felt ignored after giving birth because everyone focused on the baby.
As the author points out, this also happens to adoptive parents and the sting is no less powerful.
She intimates that as a society we congratulate those mothers who step back and put other’s needs first.
Tubbs, who is well-travelled and self-aware, speaks of the fact that in [North] America there’s not enough support provided or offered to new moms whether it be through the medical system, our families, or our network of friends.
Here is what my friend wrote and posted after she’d read the article:
Sadly accurate. I’ll never forget the day, my birthday actually, 6 days after the birth of my first son, when my mother walked into my house with a gift for the baby and, looking me directly in the eyes, told me blankly, “Well, you don’t matter anymore.” Already suffering from the headaches and brain fog that preeclampsia causes even weeks after giving birth, exhaustion and fear from a lack of sleep and support, and postpartum depression, I still felt terribly guilty that what she’d said had hurt me.Nikolette Jones
My question is: Why do we expect women to give birth (or adopt) and then just step aside? Does the title Mommy automatically mean that you now come a distant second?
What happened to Nikolette breaks my heart. I sincerely hope her mom apologized for such harsh words, even if said in jest. That type of behavior is not only hurtful but sets up a lifetime of feeling inadequate and inferior.
In the Times article, the author speaks of her mother and auntie coming to help after the birth.
She was fortunate to have the support where she could sleep, adjust to the new reality, and feel special.
She also speaks to some traditions and cultural ceremonies performed by her doulas.
This is not the case for the majority of moms.
It’s all too common for young mothers to be left to their own devices after giving birth.
There’s supposed to be all those motherly vibes and instincts that kick in to make it all easy and natural, but it’s really a huge hormonal rollercoaster ride.
There’s this fantasy of the happy mommy glowing and smiling as though all is fine and dandy.
The most momentous event has just taken place but the job is done now and we’re somehow programmed to immediately go to the next step of selfless, nurturing, all-consumed/caring mommy… Sigh.
It’s true! All the attention is heaped on the baby. The pride of motherhood is supposed to sustain us through the rest of life, I guess.
I remember the days following the birth of my son (20 years ago) and how it was probably one of the loneliest times of my life. My family live away, my husband went back to work, and my friends said they’d give me alone time to bond with my baby.
What I really needed though was someone there to look after me, to tell me I was doing it right, and that stuff like laundry could wait… I just didn’t know it at the time.
It’s funny actually how those feelings got pushed aside and buried as life went forward.
I’m not sure really when it ceased to be a tangible thing in my life, but I did find it interesting how Nikolette’s comments on an article triggered me.
It was Mother’s Day just a couple of weeks ago–the flowers, the commercialism, the lies…fed to a population that fails to embrace the fact that mothers need help and support from day one–pre and post natal–not a bunch of crap foisted on them for one day in May.
It’s articles like this one by Tubbs that start the discussion. We, as mothers, can finally realize we’re not alone in what we’d call our selfish thoughts of wanting to feel special too.
In our society the desire to appear selfless in relation to our children and mothering is a trap.
The unspoken expectation exists–a mom is to be everything to everyone from conception through to death. The shaming of moms who reach out and need recognition, require help, who are not the perfect mom, who look at the baby and think what the hell did I just do….
You’re not alone. I know you’re not.
Are you pregnant? or About to give birth? or About to adopt? Show this article to all your friends and family. Let them know what you want.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help, support, and recognition. Give yourself the time and recognition you deserve.
Do you know someone who’s pregnant? or About to give birth? or About to adopt?
Don’t ignore the mom–
She doesn’t have to be selfless.
That’s not what being a good mom is about. She needs to heal both physically and emotionally. She needs support and a base in the reality of her physical and mental health.
Look at how your own biases towards new moms shapes your words and actions.
Don’t be like Nikolette’s mom who hurt her so deeply or like me, who 20 years later still hasn’t dealt with my own feelings that are obviously still there.
Don’t say that post partum is nonsense or pat someone on the hand and tell them it’ll pass… Being condescending and ignorant doesn’t help.
The discussion is open…
12 thoughts on “Is a Perfect Mommy a Selfless Mommy? Is it All a Lie? Do Things Need to Change? A Chat With Auntie. What do You Think?”
I don’t believe there are perfect mommies, just most of us doing the best we can
HI Beth. I so agree. The problem is these young mom who strive for perfection and end up falling short. It’s the same for too many.
and are so hard on themselves as a result
I can not help but think of Nicolette’s Mom when SHE delivered her precious baby into this world. I am sure , she received at least that much disregard –if not more. Blame misplaced.
Yes, it is done by women -without it our society would not have amounted to 8 billion + on this planet. Yes, way too many.
Yes. often these things are learned responses aren’t they.They break when a woman like Nicolette realizes that there really is a problem and something needs to change. Awareness and communications have come a long way in the last couple of decades.
And every Mom, new or not, is different. Some people do want to be left alone for the first few weeks. Some want and need someone to check on them daily.
Lossing the ability to be honest, and vulnerable as humans has hurt mothers a lot.
Mother’s so need suport well after a birth. I had great suport while.my babies where brand new. Then it faded away as they got to be 6 months old. It takes a village to raise children. I find everyone’s villages have been shrinking for the last 50 years.
Mary Grace! Boy you sure hit this one on the head. “Losing the ability to be honest and vulnerable…” so so true. Why do women in particular become such martyrs? Is it intrinsic within their being, is it taught, or is a foisted expectation? I think with the generations now there’s much more openness on the reality of the birth process, post partum, and ongoing support. Let’s hope it continues and changes as we learn to listen and also speak up.
I honestly feel a lot of it is survival mechanism. People in general don’t have as many close friends. We have somehow lost trust in our neighbors. Relationship is so important to women in all walks of life, and when we lose those ties, and friendships it hurts every aspect of our life. If I don’t have someone I trust, I won’t teach out for help after the birth of a child, or as they grow, for suport, for fear of being judged.
It’s very hard to build those kinds of relationships. It takes time, it takes tears. Maybe its fear of waiting our time?
If all the isolation we have ALL had to expirience this year teaches us nothing else, I hope we all learn how much we need each other again.
Thanks for letting me put my two cents out there. ❤
Hello, your questions are valid. I think woman have been slaves to their biology from the beginning. Thanks to the PILL we are able to question and dare to say: it is enough of enforcement in all shapes, from within womanhood, and mistreatment from the opposite sex. Time to redefine every Mother’s contributions to human life itself.
Marianna. You are so right there. A redefining is what’s needed. I hope it’s begun. With discussions like this and the referenced article that questions are now starting to be raised. xo