Being a mum can be exhausting. Not only from the motherly responsibilities we have at home, but trying to keep up with what society expects from us. The world of motherhood has blown my mind, there is so much that I had never even given a thought before having James. Motherhood is tough – the competitiveness, the comparing, the pressures, the stress. I never thought it would be a walk in the park but I hadn’t realised how frequently I would feel judged for doing things that feel right to me. I can talk to people and walk away afterwards thinking they have just judged me for doing this or that, but as James is getting older I am starting to not care as much. I will do what I think works best for James and our family.
Mum expectations are often unrealistic. We can never please everyone and we will always be doing something that someone won’t agree with. We feel the pressure to be perfect mums; to have children that are perfect eaters, sleepers and speakers and exhibit perfect behaviour. It can sometimes feel like a competition for your child to meet these desirable attributes, but as James has got older, and clearly isn’t perfect at any of these things, I have grown to care less. I have realised that he will develop in his own time and that comparing him to others isn’t going to do either of us any good. When his speech did start improving was probably when I started to worry about it less. I can see that he is coming along, it just took him a little longer to get started, and he has his own set of wonderful attributes.
We are expected to feed our children well balanced healthy meals, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. We are constantly hearing how more and more children are becoming obese. We are meant to avoid processed meats, too much sugar, too much salt and too much fat. It’s a minefield of what we are meant to do, and for some of us we can’t feed our children what we want to through fussy eating, or even allergies anyway. I am very open about what James eats and I know some people will judge me because I won’t let him go to bed hungry, and they probably think that he is a fussy eater because I am. My husband and I know James best and it is for us to decide how we approach the issues James has with food. He has a genuine fear of trying new foods and the last thing I need to be told is “He will eat when he is hungry”. We don’t want to pressurise or force him into eating foods he is not comfortable with.
Then there are the expectations on how many children you should have. I am frequently asked when I will have a second and told that I can’t just have one child. Why not? Society expects you to have children and then when you have had one there is the expectation for you to have a second. The pressure mounts and you are repeatedly asked when you are going to have a second, and if you say no, or not yet, you are met with responses like the time is ticking and don’t leave it too long. What gives other people the right to expect you to even have children in the first place and then enforce their opinion of how many children you should have? Having a child is a big responsibility and a very personal decision to the individual couple.
There is the feeling of being judged as a stay at home mum, feeling like people think you are lazy and should be earning money, rather than relying on your partners income. Have you seen the cost of childcare in the UK? Then if you go to work people think you are not spending enough time with your children or you are missing out on them growing up. It’s a no win situation, but people need to realise that different things suit different people and families do what works best for them.
I love being a mum. The unrealistic expectations are there and just something we have to learn to ride through. We need to give ourselves a break! We have a hard enough job to do as it is. We need to be supportive and understanding of each others decisions, and most importantly lets not judge each other, we are all in this together.