Award-winning blogger, vlogger and bestselling author, Vicki, aka Honest Mum, takes over the iCandy Life Blog to offer a frank outlook on parenthood...
Parental pressures start the minute you’re handed your beautiful bundle of joy aka the screaming, purple alien you’ve just birthed: your newborn baby. From that second on, the fear you’ll never be a good enough mum grips you, a voice chastises you won’t match up, who I now call, FAKE MEDIA MUM. This is the mum figure you were miss-sold by the mainstream media, especially the movies that lied through their back-teeth to get you into this position in the first place with their promises of one push and it’s out. The media paint motherhood as easy, convince us we’ll be back in our jeans asap, of course breastfeeding is a breeze. Fake news.
My first son Oliver, was born abruptly back in 2010 and I distinctly remember right before the birth, daydreaming how easy my new baby would fit into my current lifestyle, like some sort of stylish accessory: a human Gucci handbag if you like. Stylish, cute, and something people would stop me on the streets of London to coo at. Ha- how wrong I was!
I was a TV Director on maternity leave then so should have believed the media but society lied to me too, the images of mums in coffee shops laughing, the ease in which women took to raising a baby be it on Friends or Corrie, everything was made to look so breezy.
These narratives are dangerous, though. The ‘mum myths’ I’d absorbed, contributed to the depression and anxiety I felt post traumatic birth, I felt the most isolated and alone I ever had.
I emphatically believed I was failing at motherhood, the one thing I’d been pretty much informed from birth by society and beyond, that I was born to do.
Why did the most seemingly natural thing in the world seem so hard and why was no one else talking about it?
Not only had my birth not gone to plan but I didn’t look a thing like the other new mums staring back at me in magazines and on TV. My tummy was a saggy, empty mess, held together with a line of red and angry stitches, and I still looked pregnant for months and years after. To be honest, 6 years on from my second and I still look pregnant in some lights. A new mum asked me the other day, “how long does baby-weight take to lose?” to which I replied, “any day now”.
I mean, I questioned why I didn’t resemble Victoria Beckham post c-section, strutting out of hospital in skinny jeans and Louboutins? Strut? It took me three weeks to learn to walk again in Ugg boots after my son was delivered from my sunroof which two sons later, I’ve renamed my son-roof.
I know what you’re thinking, that was almost a decade ago now, surely things have changed and representation is more diverse and candid? Yes, and no. Thank goodness for honest bloggers like myself telling it-and showing it-like it is (a photo of my stretch marked tummy went viral years before anyone else was baring all) but the dominant narrative dedicated to ‘snapping back’ after baby and praising women who do so-remains. Although these super human genetically blessed mums are in the tiniest minority, they appear to receive the greatest media time and space. Don’t obliterate them, they deserve airtime too, just don’t make them the default, show diverse shapes and bodies, most utterly and irreversibly changed by motherhood. We mamas created life in that rounded belly of ours, for most it will take time to readjust and for every single one of us, whatever our exterior, the emotional and physical impact of pregnancy and birth will take time to recover from.
No one needs the insurmountable pressures on both your body and baby in that ‘tougher than anything you’ll ever do in your life’ first year of parenthood, yet the pressures keep on coming and at a time you’re sleep deprived and mega hormonal.
There’s even a social media obsession with looking slim while pregnant?!! I’m all for being healthy but pregnancy is a time when you have little control over how your body will react to pregnancy (I was sick non-stop for 9 months with my first) or how your bump will look. I remember seeing papers pitting the bumps of Kate Middleton and Kim Kardashian against one another. Bump contests?! A new low for the media.
Every woman’s body and bump will differ- even the same woman’s body and bump from one pregnancy to the next.
Take my first birth, I used to do 300 sit-ups a day for fun (who even was I?!) so my bump wasn’t visible for 7 long months, to the point where no one offered me a seat on the tube (the ‘bump on board’ badges have since come into play).
It was right at that point that I gained stretch marks overnight too having smugly forgone the Bio Oil because, ‘they surely wouldn’t turn up this late-SURELY?’
I was desperate to have a bump and look pregnant but alas only got to rock a bump-albeit an eventually big one-for just 7 weeks before my son made an early appearance.
Second pregnancy and the bump popped out at just 4 months.
See. Can we stop with this madness now please? Please?
So, you see what I mean about the pressures and they don’t end there. Oh no, they’ve only just begun.
Once you’ve recovered from the exhausting comparison between other mums, celebrity mums and royal mums (forgetting that they have teams who work around the clock to support them!) and you’re done trying to measure up against them (literally) when it comes to your body, during and post baby, the motherhood Olympics proceeds with abandon. This relay of worries ranges from whether you can/will breastfeed or not, how many hours you sleep on average a night and how quickly your baby sleeps through the night (FYI the latter achievement is the ACTUAL equivalent to Usain Bolt winning Gold on the 100m relay). Then there’s how much your baby weighs at weigh-ins with handy, worrisome percentile graphs to keep you on edge before weaning sets in-puree or baby led?! Of course there’s plenty more milestones to fret over between the first smile, first word and first wee in a potty and then you blink, and you’re pregnant again and wonder why you forgot all the crap bits (literally) you’ve had to endure, and want to do it all again.
Love, that’s why, because that sweet unconditional love for your mini-me is what makes the war wounds of stretch marks and your ‘still looking pregnant 6 years later mum tums’ worth it all.
Good news alert though, the parental pressures in subsequent pregnancies and babies subsides A LOT as you become less backstreet driver and more Formula 1 mum…most of the time!
Of course, we all want to be good parents and that pressure never goes away, but the fact we worry about it, that sometimes it keeps us up at night as we make decisions and guide those babies into humans, means we’re already the best mum we can be, right?!
Vicki blogs at multi-award winning honestmum.com and is the author of the bestselling book MUMBOSS https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mumboss-Honest-Guide-Surviving-Thriving/dp/0349416699.