Unfair Expectations of Motherhood

Before I became a mom, there were so many things about parenthood that I expected to be a certain way. Maybe these will be silly to some of you or maybe you can relate, here’s my list: (Try not to laugh)

  1.  I will feel beautiful while being pregnant.
  2. I can totally control how much weight I gain in pregnancy.
  3. Birth will be hard but I’ll surely be ok with doing it again (and again).
  4. Stretch marks won’t bother me because I’ll just see them as “love lines.”
  5. Breastfeeding will come easily and naturally.
  6.  My baby will sleep through the night at 5 months and continue to do so forever.
  7.  Staying at home with my baby will be so fun and I’ll be able to get a lot done around the house.
  8.  I’ll be back in my pre-pregnancy clothes by 5 months.
  9. I won’t care about being my pre-pregnancy size because I’ll just be so thankful to have a baby.
  10. Life won’t really change that much until my baby is older because we can just bring our baby with us as we go about our lives.

Wow. I obviously had very high expectations for myself as a mom. Sure, people warned me that it would be hard… but what does that really mean until you’ve experienced it? I didn’t get how hard it would be until I was in it. Then, when it was hard and I responded differently than I thought I would, I was disappointed in myself. That’s why I say these were “unfair” expectations. It was unfair of me to have such high expectations for myself. Instead, I think it’s important for new moms to have a “come what may” attitude. Of course we all have hopes, but those are different than expectations. An expectation says that if it doesn’t go how I expect it to, then something must be wrong with either myself or my baby. In reality, nothing is wrong with me other than being imperfect and insecure. News flash: we’re all imperfect and insecure. Some of us are more so than others and it manifests in different ways, but it’s something we all have in common.

One of the hardest parts of new parenthood has been to grieve the death of my expectations. This started with my pregnancy. I hated being pregnant. Well, that’s not really fair. I didn’t hate the whole pregnancy, but most of it was pretty miserable. Then child-birth came and that was another difficult thing for me because I had expected myself to be very calm and quiet instead of the roaring woman that I was. Honestly, it was more painful than I had expected it to be. Now enter: little bundle of joy. With a child comes the price of your former identity, your freedom, and your selfishness. A price I would pay over and over again for Luca, but it was a price I didn’t expect to pay.

I’m learning to allow myself to grieve the expectations I had for motherhood. Many people think of grieving as a process used solely for mourning death but grief also occurs during the loss of anything we have held dear to our hearts. Including expectations. The stages of grief are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I have to allow myself to feel all of those feelings if I ever want to come to a place of acceptance. In therapy, we use the phrase “trust the process.” The process of grief may sound scary (like, you want me to willingly feel depression?) but my experience has proven that if grief is not resolved, it doesn’t go away. Grief can morph into bitterness and resentment which manifests itself in the form of extramarital affairs, eating disorders, addictions, and more. It may be painful but it’s temporary. Better to deal with it now than later.

One more thing: If you are a new Dad and you’ve noticed your wife mention some bitterness or disillusionment about motherhood, don’t be alarmed. It’s normal and it will pass. The worst thing you can do is deny her emotions. They’re there whether you like it or not, just know that she doesn’t like them either. The best thing you can do is empathize with her and allow her to grieve. Again, it will pass. Most likely, it will pass quickly if you allow her to feel it and share her emotions with you. In fact, it probably wouldn’t hurt for you to be honest about any disillusionment about fatherhood that you may have too. If you’ve done these things and it doesn’t seem to help, seek marital therapy. This is a rough transition for all couples but some more than others. Don’t try to ignore it.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

I am Birthing Hear Me Roar

The Loneliness of Motherhood

More On Reality (Or Moron Reality)

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9 thoughts on “Unfair Expectations of Motherhood

  1. Slam dunk! I love this post. It rings so true in my ears and though I have realized that I need to let go of those expectations I hadn’t thought about going through the process of dealing with grief. I’m gonna work on that! Also, I LOVE these next two lines: “With a child comes the price of your former identity, your freedom, and your selfishness. A price I would pay over and over again for Luca, but it was a price I didn’t expect to pay.” I feel exactly the same. Abby is an amazing little girl and I would give up (and will continue to give up) these things over and over but it’s not always easy. Thanks, J!

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