Often on social media, we capture the beautiful stuff – maybe because we want to remember the beautiful stuff or we are trying to maintain a positive outlook. Maybe, because there is so much crappy stuff on in the world that we need space to look at nice stuff and happy faces as an escape from the misery. However maybe sometimes it’s healthy to discuss and share the reality of our lives as that might just make others feel better too, reassuring them that they are normal, that it is natural to have ups and downs in life.
Take motherhood for instance. We would be mistaken by the images that we share that it’s pure joy and delight, waking up to the blissful pitter patter of tiny feet and the mutual love extending right to the moment they peacefully drift off to sleep. Perhaps portraying these types of images undermines the incredibly hard role mothers have, the toll it takes on our mind, bodies, soul and relationships with others. Mothers, and fathers are raising the next generation. Whilst fathers are integral to this picture of generation raising, research tells us that mothers are still doing the majority of changing wet beds when their bodies need to sleep, they are comforting a child who slipped and hit their head for the umpteenth time and they are wiping food off the floor, day in and day out. Mothers are raising little people to become decent big people, often while juggling work or study and all too often, on their own or with very limited support. The isolation and lack of support for mothers is keenly felt and can have detrimental effects on the health of mothers with a flow on effect to their children. Disability and illness within the family can further compound the workload and feelings of isolation.
“..we (mothers) are not asking for sympathy. We are asking for greater recognition of this role, it’s value to society and more support”
Mothering is really such hard work that it’s hard to put into words, yet it’s so very important. While I chose this role, and most other mothers do too, I’d like to clarify that we are not asking for sympathy. We are asking for greater recognition of this role, it’s value to society and more support. So next time you see a mother picking up a screaming child off the floor, give her a hug (or some chocolate) and tell her she’s doing a sterling job and if you are that mother, know that you are not alone in these challenges. Let’s embrace the reality of motherhood, the precious times and the painfully exhausting and dark times. Let’s embrace that picture of the three year old that is erupting on the floor over her sandwich that was cut into squares rather that triangles and in that way, we, as fellow women and men can provide more support to mothers in this mammoth task of raising little people into decent big people.
Going forward – how can you support mothers?
- Tell them regularly that they are doing a brilliant job. You would be surprised how little they are told this.
- It’s OK to talk about hard days, the more we talk to each other the more we can support each other and raise awareness of this challenging and important role. Saying you are having a tough time or day doesn’t mean you love your children any less.
- Be aware of your own attitudes to mothers, if you find you are being judgmental, think about how you can offer support instead.
- Offer to look after the children so she can go for a walk or catch up with a friend.
- Offer to pick up her child from school so that she can care for her other child who is sick.
- Make her a meal, this would be appreciated at ANY time! No need to wait for a crisis!
- Get together with friends if you need to, to care for her children so she can have a weekend away.
- Advocate for policies that promote family friendly workplaces. This enables all parents to work in flexible ways to better share the family responsibilities and take the pressure off mothers.
- Become a ‘friend’ through a foster care agency. Reading to a mother’s child one hour a week might make a difference and helps mothers to feel supported.
- Become a respite foster carer. You would be surprised how many mothers and full-time grandmothers are desperately seeking a regular break.