29 Mar The Myth of Motherhood: The Way Unrealistic Social Expectations of Mothers Shape Their Experience
It is usually a very happy occasion when a baby is born. but with the baby, come many expectations of the parents and, especially, the mother. aside from the obvious basic care such as feeding, changing diapers and bathing, there are many other expectations. for example, a mother should be strong and protective. She should be able to predict all the baby’s needs and provide them in an instant. She should know what kind of activities are appropriate in any stage of development, should be able to always soothe her baby, etc. The list goes on and on. On top of that, a mother is expected to feel happy and fulfilled at all times, thanks to the mere fact that she is a mom. The expectation that a mother should always feel joy and fulfillment is a part of The Myth of Motherhood.
The Myth of Motherhood is our society’s notion that a woman achieves her uttermost fulfillment as a woman by being a mother and, as such, should always be happy and strong. It places an unrealistic expectation on mothers to be fully functional and happy, to be a Super Mom, if you like, despite exhaustion, lack of support or isolation, let alone depressed mood. In fact, many people cannot understand how a mother could be depressed; after all, she has achieved her ultimate calling in life…
The truth is, however, that while many mothers ARE happy and thrilled with their baby and new role, some struggle with those unrealistic expectation that they internalize. New mothers may not always be happy, fresh and strong. They may be exhausted, yearn for a break or simply be bored. Others are anxious about their ability to be perfect mothers. Many times women who have been doing extremely well in school or work are overwhelmed with their role as mothers because it is like no other role they have ever performed and it is a very different and sometimes unpredictably and intensely challenging role.
Because of society’s expectations of mothers and their own expectations as a result, mothers often feel guilty for not being perfect. Many mothers have expressed to me a worry about harming their child in some way by not being perfectly cheery or enthusiastic at all times, by not singing or smiling enough or simply by not wanting to be with the baby every minute of every day and night. They fear that if anything goes wrong with their child, they are going to be blamed and held responsible for it.
Whereas many new moms struggle in the first few months postpartum, most of them eventually sail through the transition to parenthood successfully. Others struggle more and for a longer time. About 15% of new mothers develop postpartum depression. A seriously debilitating mental health problem that robs the woman of her good quality of life and sense of joy and affects everyone in the family.
Mothers who become clinically depressed need professional help. Without treatment, these women may be depressed for a very long time and may even develop chronic depression. When a mother is depressed, her ability to care for her baby and others in her family is compromised. The good news is that, with the appropriate treatment, recovery from postpartum depression is very likely. For more information please contact Dr. Regev.