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Expectations vs Reality in Motherhood

By May 4, 2023August 16th, 2023Integrated Care Clinic

When it comes to transitioning into motherhood, it’s hard not to have certain expectations. Add in the fact that the true realities are not talked about enough and social media can glamorize aspects of motherhood and how it “should” look can make knowing what’s unrealistic versus realistic and common can be even more challenging. So I’m hoping to debunk a few (definitely not all) myths about motherhood for you today.

There’s only one right way to be a good mom.

So far from the truth. What is good for one family could end up being terrible for another family and that is because we are all different. Different individuals with different needs and different situations, so how could there possibly be one right way? That’s because there isn’t. Stay at home moms are good moms. Career moms are good moms. Moms that breastfeed are good moms. Moms that formula feed are good moms. Moms that sleep train are good moms. Moms that co-sleep are good moms. You get my point, right? 

You won’t miss the life you had before becoming a mom.

Oh boy, this one is tough and one I have personally struggled with myself. What helped me was remember that we can feel two things at the same time. You can mourn your old life without kids (aka not having someone constantly needing you) AND also love your child(ren) fiercely. There is room for both of these. 

Becoming a mom means your needs come last.

This is a biggie and couldn’t be further from the truth. You know how when you’re on the plane and the flight attendant is going over the safety procedures before take off. Well if you haven’t been on a flight yet with kids, then let me share that the flight attendant will personally come up to you and make sure that you know to put your own mask on first before helping your child(ren) with theirs. And if we think about that, it makes sense. If you try to help your child first and end up passing out because you don’t have your own mask on, you can’t help anyone. This also applies to life outside of being on a plane too. Your needs as a mom ARE important because if you’re taking care of yourself fully, you can give even more of yourself to the other people in your life.

The relationship with your partner will be better than ever / you’ll be closer than before.

As much as we want this to be true, the reality is quite different. That is not to say that this absolutely can’t be true, but the expectation that having a baby will automatically bring you closer together is rather unrealistic. Exhaustion, crying baby, trying to figure things out as you go, new financial responsibilities, etc. does not exactly lend itself to the most romantic of environments. It takes open communication, having hard conversations, compromise, and honestly time to help create the relationship you want after kids.

Parenting books will always be helpful / read the parenting books and you’ll know everything.

I learned this one the hard way. Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton of helpful information in parenting books but where they lack is emphasizing that every baby is different. There might be things in those books that apply to “most” babies but that doesn’t mean all. I’ll share a personal example. You hear almost everywhere that babies ‘should’ be swaddled. I mean that’s all they did in the hospital so why would I think to do anything differently. Well my daughter would not sleep unless someone was holding her while we were in the hospital and it was more of the same when we got home. I was exhausted, confused, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Well come to find out, she HATED being swaddled. As soon as we made that discovery, things changed. All that to say, your child might not fall under what “most” babies do and it’s okay to do things differently than what the parenting books are saying.

Good moms can do it all on their own / shouldn’t need help.

Actually, it takes a village. There are SO many changes happening in the transition to motherhood. From hormonal, emotional, physical, all the way to physiological. Add on top of that having to care for a tiny human … expecting to be able to do all of that by yourself and thinking that you’re a bad mom if you can’t, 100% untrue. This can be one of the most vulnerable times for moms which means they need all the support. So here is your permission slip … it’s okay to ask for help, it’s actually necessary

Good moms should have all the answers / I should know how to do __ because I’m a mom now.

To me this goes along with the myth that ‘being a mom should come naturally and be instinctual.’ If no one has said this to you yet, IT’S OKAY TO BE A BEGINNER. I know this is so hard to wrap our minds around because we are talking about caring for a tiny human being, our tiny human, who depends on us for everything. So the stakes are high and it can be so easy to fall into the trap that you should just know everything there is to know about being a mom and caring for this tiny human the moment they are put into your arms. That would be the equivalent of expecting yourself to know how to speak French fluently the first time you step foot into a class, not going to happen. So two things to remember: you probably know more than you think you do AND most importantly, it’s okay to figure things out as you go. Oh and again, because it’s worth mentioning more than once, it’s also okay to ask for help and support. 

You should be enjoying EVERY moment.

Listen, being a mom is hard. And for some reason, we start to think that because we wanted to have children that we should love every single aspect of motherhood or that if we complain about aspects of being a mom that somehow means we don’t love our children. Absolutely not. Becoming a mom also means experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions. Some are excitement, joy, and so much love. And others are ambivalence, guilt, shame, disappointment. None of these emotions are “wrong” and are in fact incredibly common yet not talked about enough.

Bonding with your baby will happen instantly and effortlessly.

There could be a lot of reasons that the bonding experience doesn’t happen right away. Birth trauma, exhaustion, baby blues, PMADs .. just to name a few. And if it doesn’t happen immediately, I promise you this, it does not mean that it will never happen and it absolutely does not say anything about what kind of mom you are / will be. 

PMADs only exist in the postpartum period.

False. 50% of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) develop during pregnancy. So if something feels off for you during pregnancy, trust yourself, and please seek support so you can get the help you deserve. You could see me for individual therapy or join the free virtual moms support group I facilitate on the first Friday of every month. You can register for the group here: 

You have to stop all medications while pregnant.

There is always a middle ground while also acknowledging that there is risk with every decision we make. You don’t have to stop all medications as soon as you find out you’re pregnant; however, that might be the decision you end up making. Having all the information by talking to a professional about your options and what would be best for you AND baby is crucial. You could contact Dr. Stacey Greeter if you need more support in making a decision around medications. You can find more information about Dr. Greeter here: 

There are no repercussions to untreated mental health issues.

Increase risk of preterm birth, more complicated birth, mental health = #1 complication of childbirth , more likely to have a c section , or more likely for baby to have a NICU stay [ these two are related ^^ — which is best for the baby AND also allows me to be a better person / mom and show up , better quality of life , enjoy more , etc. ]

Now what?

Being aware that these are in fact myths is half the battle and you might still feel like you need more support. So if you’re struggling with your reality being different than you expected or feeling as though you are “failing” at being a mom, please consider scheduling an appointment with us at Integrated Care Clinic. Working with a maternal mental health psychologist will help you develop new ways to view yourself, take the pressure of being “perfect” off your shoulders and even redefine what you consider to be a ‘good mom’.

Below are some other incredible resources that could be helpful during this transition into motherhood.

IG accounts: @drcassidy / @biglittlefeelings / @psychedmommy / / @themomroom / @thebreastfeedingmentor / @drbeckyatgoodinside / @its.kendrawilliams / @gozenlove / @cozybabysleep / @plusmommy / @biglifejournal / @mommy.labornurse

Podcasts: The Mom Room / Momwell / Blame It On Mom Brain / Holding Space / Good Inside

Breaking the Good Mom Myth: Every Mom’s Modern Guide to Getting Past Perfection, Regaining Sanity, and Raising Great Kids by Alyson Schafer
The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality by Christy Turlington Burns & Avital Nathman
The SuperMom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood by Becky Kopitzke

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