Another Mother’s Day is here – a day where we supposedly celebrate the woman who brought us into this world, but where it’s significance can easily be lost amidst the stress of choosing the perfect gift. This scenario is the reality for the lucky-ones, those whose biggest concern on Mother’s Day is having forgotten to book a table at mum’s favourite restaurant.
Yet, Mother’s Day can be very painful for those whose loving mother is no longer present, and an awful reminder embedded with an entanglement of mixed emotions to the sons and daughters who were neglected, abused and unloved by the woman who gave them life. Those who have a turbulent or complicated relationship with their mother, find themselves on a guilt trip on this day. They want to conform with the rest of society and be a good progeny, yet the pretty perfect descriptions on Hallmark cards don’t resonate their true feelings. Some find themselves torn between feeling fake but doing the ‘right’ thing or pretending that they’ve been hit by a bus to avoid the day altogether.
This article, therefore, is an ode to motherhood. It’s a chance to explore what motherhood entails, in order to better appreciate the women who gave us the gift of life, regardless of their personalities and our relationships with them. This is an opportunity to detach ourselves from the perspectives and beliefs about our mothers to look at them from the lenses of women and human-beings.
The cultural idea of motherhood is a very romanticised one, almost fairy-tale like. The media portrays pregnancy and there-after as this joyride with a little morning sickness, some cute kicks in the tummy and a couple of sleepless nights. The most agonising part is depicted to be the time of labour, which in fact, is no joke. Yet few people speak openly about the roller-coaster of emotions and psychological troubles that often overwhelm a woman during this very delicate, life-changing period. The cultural spot-light mainly focuses on the physiological aspect (1) and on the image of the perfect mother; “absolute commitment, self-sacrificing and nurturing. She shows unconditional devotion to her family and is motivated by endless self-denial that will ultimately fortify her children’s emotional well-being” (2).
The motherhood journey begins at the moment of conception. A journey shaped by upbringing, social support, environment, mental health, physical health and circumstances at conception. Family background along with past and current unresolved issues may also influence the pregnancy (3). During these nine months, a woman has to adapt to a number of physical, psychological and social changes – some of which she is not prepared for or even aware of. This transition is a major developmental life event that involves moving from a known, current reality to an unknown, new reality (4). Her identity, physique and relationships start to alter, and she must adapt to the new role of “mother”. Besides from the hormonal rave going on, these changes can easily induce a crisis for a person who has to shift from being “just herself” to a responsible carer, with all of society’s expectations and pressures. The perinatal period is a very sensitive time. Indeed, during this period, 80% of women experience depression and anxiety (5).
In the 21st century, speaking about the psychological conflicts linked to motherhood seems to be a taboo. Women may decide not to share their true experience of motherhood out of fear of being looked down upon, because they feel guilty about complaining about their child and because they feel that they need to be grateful to be experiencing this beautiful life event. Yet, the truth is that there are times when mothers find themselves in a state of ambivalence towards the very child they birthed. What do you do when you find yourself feeling numb while looking at the baby you have carried for 9 months? You may feel torn between wanting to be the best mother possible, yet grieving the woman you were before. Do feelings of sadness, resentment and anger make someone a bad mother? Is being a mother all about sacrificing body, identity, self-esteem and life? Temptations to give up on it all may linger. Feeling happy, rested and fulfilled may take some work as mother’s may struggle with feelings of guilt and unworthiness.
Motherhood can be altogether messy, chaotic yet beautiful. The carrying and nurturing of your own child; your blood and your genes, sharing your body with a person for almost a year. Watching this little seed grow day by day, learning new skills and achieving new heights. Mothers tend to recount how the simple giggle of their child and the spark in their eyes, make all the problems and stressors feel worthwhile. The bliss and unconditional love experienced by mothers can be an indescribable experience, yet they still need emotional and psychological support from a partner, family or social connection. Going through so many life changes without adequate support can detrimentally change how a woman perceives herself, her pregnancy, her role and her child. Therefore, I want to address two populations.
Dear mothers, find solace in knowing that the dark side of motherhood is shared by many. Rather than bottling up all the doubts and uncertainties, find that one person with whom you feel comfortable dismantling your thoughts. Be it your partner, sibling, friend, mother or therapist – let it out! This will ultimately benefit your mental well-being, your role as a mother and the relationship with your child.
Dear sons/daughters of caring mothers, who nurtured and encouraged you through your childhood and beyond, use this commercially-driven day for a higher purpose than finding the “perfect gift”. On Mother’s Day, remember that being a mother is not an easy task and doing a good job requires immense strength and courage.
Dear sons/daughters who feel bitter resentment towards the negligence of your mothers, this is not meant to guilt you to walk back into a possible toxic relationship with your parent. Rather, this outlook is meant to help you find peace in acknowledging the humanness of a person with her own baggage, who also happened to birth you.
Therefore, this Mother’s Day, the best way to gift yourself and your mother is through acknowledgment, appreciation and acceptance.
Wishing a peaceful and guilt-free Mother’s Day to everyone.
- Symes, E. (2017). The transition to motherhood: Psychological factors associated with pregnancy, labour and birth. InPsyche,39(1). Retrieved from https://www.psychology.org.au/inpsych/2017/february/symes
- Kleiman, K., MSW, LCSW. (2013, December 30). Let’s Face it: Sometimes Being a Mother Doesn’t Feel Good. Retrieved from
- Perinatal Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.womenshealthmatters.ca/health-centres/mental-health/perinatal-mental-health/
- Mercer, R. T. (2004). Becoming a Mother Versus Maternal Role Attainment. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 36(3), 226-232. doi:10.1111/j.1547-5069.2004.04042.x
- Mares, S., Newman, L., & Warren, B. (2011). Clinical skills in infant mental health (2nd ed.). Victoria: ACER Press