Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a weird phenomenon occurring. A lot of people when out in public, ask how I’m finding being a mum. When I answer truthfully – that I absolutely love it – their attitude seems to change towards me. Not out-and-out angry, but slightly put out. It’s like there’s a set answer I’m supposed to give – that I hate it, I hardly sleep, I haven’t bonded with the baby, all she does is cry. It’s seen as boastful, among mums, to say that your baby is calm and happy, that she sleeps pretty much through the night, and that you love your newfound motherhood.
Why is this? Why is it one of these unspoken social ‘rules’ that we must hate motherhood? Is it to maintain a semblance of the ‘sisterhood’? Surely it’s completely against the idea that we’re all in this together, that a proportion of mums have to pretend they hate being a mother, when really they feel it’s been the making of them? We’ve fought and fought to get away from the idea that a traumatic birth and difficult first few weeks are something to be ashamed of – so why are we going the other way? Why is it taboo, or automatically boasting, to say that you feel settled and happy?
I feel like being a mum suits me. I like it; I love the new routine (or lack of it!), I love all the little jobs that come as part and parcel of having a baby. I’ve never taken to anything as naturally as I have being a mum.
But that’s ok, right? Because I didn’t take naturally to being a uni student. I struggled at first with being away from home, with being thrown into living with people I didn’t really know. Other people settled right in and loved the independence from their families. It just took me a little longer to get there. I didn’t ask people to not enjoy freshers, because I was struggling to adjust. I let them get on with it, and within a couple of weeks I felt happy and settled too.
I know it’s different with uni, because there’s no emotional bond to being a student, whereas there is one involved in being a mum, but not feeling bonded doesn’t mean you love your baby less than women who’ve taken to motherhood like a duck to water. It doesn’t make you a bad mum. Maybe you need a little longer, or some help, for the two halves of your life – pre-baby and post-baby – to catch up to one another. It’s tough, going from being pregnant to being handed a little human and having to meet its every need. For all the difficulties of pregnancy, it’s nothing compared to the realities of raising a baby.
I found it difficult to bond with my bump. In fact, if you’ll remember, right at the beginning of this blog I wrote a lot about feeling uncertain, as to whether I would actually love my baby. I worried that with her being unplanned, I wouldn’t be able to look after her, and I wouldn’t be able to love her. Now I love her more than words can say, and I love being her mum.
My point is, we all encounter speed bumps. We all have moments where we wonder if we’re doing the right thing. For some, the moments are fleeting. For others, they can last for months. It doesn’t mean that people who find it easy should hide this fact. This whole ‘sisterhood’ idea means supporting each other, and being happy for each other too – not trying to bring everyone else down to the happiness level of the unhappiest member.
The most important thing is our happiness, and the happiness of our babies. It’s easy, when the bond isn’t quite there yet, to feel like the worst mum in the world, but take a look in your son or daughter’s eyes. You are their mother; they’ll never wish for anyone else. If you clothe them and feed them, they’ll take care of the bonding part until you’re ready to catch up. As far as your child is concerned, you are the best mother in the world – not because you’ve loved the baby since it was a bump, not because you have an amazing bond, not because you lavish it with gifts or breastfeed or had a pain-free birth, but because you are their mother. Nothing else matters.