We also absorb – often without even realising it – images and stories in popular culture, the media and advertising of happy mothers, smiling babies, soft lighting and fluffy pillows. This often results in an unrealistic picture throughout our community of women who are perfect mothers, dads who are hands on and always present, babies who are easy to manage and lives which are fulfilled and just about perfect.
Importantly, we know that many new parents come to parenting with certain expectations of themselves as parents, and how parenting will look in their new family. The reality is often quite different. And sometimes the shock of expectations not being met, and adjusting to the new reality, can contribute to postnatal anxiety or depression.
'My first two years of motherhood were extraordinarily hard, and completely different to what I imagined they would be like.'
Common myths of parenthood
- Mothers should be calm, grateful and confident.
- Mothering is intuitive and comes naturally.
- Childbirth is to be embraced and celebrated in its entirety.
- Mothers bond with their baby immediately.
- A mother is selfish if she expresses her own needs.
- A good mother is always available to her child.
- Couples always agree on approaches to parenting.
- Birthing a healthy baby brings closure to all prior pregnancy related losses.
'For me, the magic of motherhood didn't come the first time I held my baby or in those first few weeks when life as I knew it disappeared and my new life in my old body started'
Realities of parenthood
- Being a parent is a challenging and stressful job that involves long hours and little respite.
- It can take many weeks for a new mother or father to bond with their baby.
- Motherhood is not simply instinctive; a woman learns how to parent over time.
- Couples can often experience unexpected differences in core parenting values and approaches, and this can sometimes cause conflict and tension.
- The birth of a new baby can often reactivate past trauma and feelings of loss and grief.