Perfection can be painful

Posted by: Nicki Dadic | Date: March 20, 2014 | 10 Comments

At dinner with two fellow mothers from my eldest son’s nursery school, we chatted about the issues we’d had with becoming mothers for the first and second time. These are two women who I know through my child’s friendship with their children. Our relationships are not (yet) deep. They’re not (yet) personal. But over a glass of wine and a good meal, we opened up about our imperfections. Our shortcomings. Our (personally perceived) failures. Why do women, specifically mothers, feel the need to be “perfect”? Whatever happened to “normal”?

I spoke of my high levels of neurosis after my eldest son’s birth, which resulted in a seriously trying time for my marriage. I admitted to the bumpy period of my marriage after my second child was born, during which time I was as diagnosed with and medicated for post-natal depression. These women revealed that they had been oblivious to my struggle at that time, not because I hadn’t told them, but because my outward appearance had been that of a happy second-time mother who was quietly savouring this experience, soaking up the time with her children at home while she was on her government-approved four months’ maternity leave. The reality was that, at the time, I was going through one of the most difficult, sad and depressing stages of my life. More so than when I lost my mother when I was just 18 years old. I wasn’t actively trying to cover it up, to make it appear perfect. In fact, there were a handful of people who knew exactly what I was going through, so I certainly wasn’t trying to hide my pain, my struggle. But I was, unbeknownst to me, portraying a life that was happy, balanced, organised and simple, when it was anything but.

And now, two years and a couple of months after the birth of my second child, I have to ask myself: WHY? Why did I feel that people didn’t need to know? Surely it would have been easier on me if more people had in fact known what I was going through?

Chatting to these two moms, who I only know on surface level, revealed that they too have had their silent struggles. They’ve confessed their woes to one or two close friends, but put their best (fake?) foot forward when it came to the rest of the world. And I have to ask, why? Why do we not talk to each other more openly about the hardships of motherhood? We know and feel the joys, but the lows are so rarely discussed as openly. Why? Is there a silent stigma attached to being open about how hard it is to be a mother? We’re so quick to tell moms-to-be how amazing and euphoric it will be to hold their newborn babies for the first time. But we don’t openly discuss how emotionally, physically and mentally draining it can also be.

I don’t want to scare anyone out of having children, but don’t you think that every new mother deserves to know that it doesn’t always have to be perfect?

Image – AFP


  • Cath Jenkin

    I wish that someone had come to me when I was heavily pregnant and said:

    “Everyone’s going to tell you how amazing parenting is when you pop that kid out a week before you turn 25. Everyone’s going to tell you how won’t be able to put them down or stop staring at your kid while they sleep (and you don’t). But nobody’s going to tell you that you’ll spend the first 2 years not knowing what the hell you are doing, it’s going to suck, and you are going to be convinced you’re mucking it up every single day. But I promise you, it’ll be okay”.

    Thank you for this

    • Nicki Dadic

      So true Cath. I look back on the first 9 months of Mika’s life and am grateful to modern medication for getting me through it, but also wondering why no one told me it could be THAT hard!

  • Sasha

    As always- lovely reading your work:)
    I felt the same way with my first- I was one of the first of my friends so really had no clue….It was all so overwhelming! So I made a point of telling everyone I could the truth of my experience, only to realise that actually everyone has their journey to take and it will be different to yours. So now I just say the top line : it’s wonderful and very hard at times- trust your gut and listen to those few that make sense to you.

    This may sounds strange- but whenever I type something on social media I always think first “would my kids like to read this when they are older” and then post accordingly.

    But in terms of showing your community how you are really feeling, I couldn’t agree more- because if you are struggling there should be a movement towards HELPING that mom. But there is definitely a feeling that we should have it all under control and “let’s just leave her to it”. I even do the same thing as you don’t want to make people feel like they are not doing a good job:( I wish I had a group of experienced moms or even just friends to come over and help me with my first baby- it would have made the experience less scary.

    • Nicki Dadic

      I will always admit to having issues after my kids, Sasha, but I will also ALWAYS explain to them that it was not their fault. Women’s hormones are all out of whack after having a baby – hell, I even had precancerous cells on my cervix after my second was born, that’s just how hormonally challenged we become. I won’t pretend that it was easy. I will always be honest. And that includes how much I LOVE them now, regardless of how tough it was back then :)

  • Natasha Clark

    So beautifully written with integrity and honesty! LOVED this. I was okay-ish after my eldest, but with the second I hit a low that I hadn’t imaged possible or read in any happy happy parenting magazines. I thought it was ME, that I was a bad mother, an incapable mother because all the other moms had it all figured out. I was ashamed of what I was going through but if more moms were honest, then I wouldn’t have gone through it all alone x

    • Nicki Dadic

      I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be sad, Natasha. Like I had it all going for me, so why should I be sad? How silly! Only people who struggle are sad. Little did I know, I WAS struggling.

      • Sasha

        Absolutely I felt the same way- like I had to be “perfect” and know exactly what to do and be happy all the time! When in reality it was so tough.

  • Joan Tindale

    Thanks Nicky for sharing your heart – not always easy to do but so necessary for young Moms to have a safe space to share!

  • Zali

    Being truly truthful about motherhood is difficult for most. Not only because we don’t want to be judged but also because every mother struggles with different aspects of motherhood. Especially in the beginning of each new addition to the family.

    When I listen to my friends complain about the hardships of motherhood (and it is not really ‘complaining’ but rather a ‘release of tension’), I realised that more and more fathers also go through these tough times. Yes, I know, sure they do not have the hormones to contend with but they seem to be much more involved these days. Much more than any generation before them.

    Parenthood is emotionally, and physically, very taxing. For everyone involved. The great body of knowledge available these days also adds to the pressure for perfection. That said though, because of the great body of knowledge available, ignorance is a choice and so is ‘struggling in silence’. I applaud you for speaking out and I also applaud ‘the modern father’ for his (much needed) support.

  • Sarah

    Thanks for sharing. I knew that having a second baby would be challenging but I assumed it would be about caring for the children. That part I can handle ok, not perfectly but we are doing fine, what I didn’t expect is the toll it has taken on my marriage and my relationship with my mother-in-law. I’ve been open with some friends but most don’t know what to say. Also some of my friends have their own challenges, I wouldn’t want to burden them. I guess no one has it all together but as long as you have 1 or 2 people you trust in whom you can confide, it helps.