Perfection can be painful

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