Okay, so sometimes we don’t like to talk about how truly gritty pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting can be. Especially as first time parents, we may not understand that what we are feeling (i.e. inadequacy, struggle, questioning…the list goes on) is common. We create these stories in our minds about how everyone else is doing this parenting gig better than we are, somehow. Well, I’m here to remind you that there is simply no right way to parent. Parenting strategies and approaches are completely unique to individual families, parents, and children. Let’s bust some of the myths we (or our culture) have created around parenting:
MYTH #1: Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding is “natural” (read: easy)
Who’s with me?! I remember being a first time mama and thinking, “breastfeeding is natural, so it must come naturally.” Ha! How naive I was. After Gremlin #1 was born, I quickly realized it was anything but easy.
It is not uncommon to face difficulties in the early days of nursing. It takes work, dedication, education, and support to have a successful breastfeeding/chestfeeding relationship, but it can be done! Educate yourself as much as possible prenatally, have some names of a couple IBCLCs in your back pocket for the day you need it, and find support in other mamas around you! It may never be perfect, but it does get easier.
And for those of you reading this and thinking “I educated myself, was SO determined, had the support of an IBCLC and others in my social group, and it still didn’t work out for me”…stay tuned. You are NOT alone!
MYTH #2: There’s only one “right” way to feed your baby
This is a topic steeped in stigma—no matter what side of the proverbial fence you’re on. People are shamed for breast/chestfeeding; people are also shamed for bottle-feeding and formula feeding. Why? It is my sincere belief that we—as parents and as people—make the best decisions possible for our children and families—including the decision on how/what to feed them.
Is breastmilk a superior infant food? Yes. Is education about the benefits and risks of different types of feeding important? Yes. But it is just as important to allow space for choice and compassion. There are people all over the world who are unable to, or choose not to breast/chestfeed for a WIDE VARIETY of reasons. I can assure you, these decision are not made lightly, and may even include buckets of tears and sleepless nights agonizing over the wellbeing of said child.
So, no! There is no one right way to feed your baby. Keep on keeping’ on. You got this!
MYTH #3: You will (or should) love every minute of it
This is a sentiment I hear often, especially among the loss community. When one loses a child—then has the opportunity to raise another child earthside—there can be a deep-rooted idea or feeling that one must simply find gratitude in the crying, feeding, sleepless nights, etc. that come with children, and stop “complaining”. But guess what?! It just doesn’t work that way. You can be grateful for your living child and find parenting difficult. And finding those in your circle with whom you can share these feelings is imperative.
When we minimize the challenges of parenting tiny humans in any circumstance, we inadvertently silence those who need extra love, compassion, and support to keep them physically and mentally healthy.
Let’s be real about what parenthood is, and what it isn’t. And build supportive communities where shame has no place.
MYTH #4: “Momming” is the most fulfilling thing you’ll ever do.
Y’all might call me crazy here, but bear with me. It is true that many women feel completely satisfied in their role as mother; but—dare I say it—this just simply isn’t true for everyone. Case in point: My eldest child, at a very young age, made it excruciatingly clear that he preferred his father. For example, anytime I walked into his room or approached him, he would put his chubby little hand up (in a stop sign), shake his head, and say “dada!” I went to bed crying many a night, shattered by the notion that my child didn’t want me. It was in these early years of his life that I realized I needed to find something outside of my children that brought me joy and satisfaction—to separate my identity from my child.
It goes without saying that I desperately love my children, but motherhood is not the only part of my life that brings fulfillment and satisfaction—and sometimes, it’s not even close to the top of the list. I may look back when my children are grown and say, “being their mama was the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done”, but it doesn’t always feel that way now. And I’d venture a guess that I’m not the only one…
MYTH #5: “Self-care is selfish” or “I don’t have time for self-care”
Look, I get it. You’ve heard this one a million times. But let me reiterate how important self care really is. You NEED it. We all NEED it. And I’m not just talking bubble baths and massages (though they are incredible...definitely do those things as you can/want); that’s just scratching the surface.
I’m talking about things that have solid, lasting impact on mental health, and directly address overwhelm. Things like setting boundaries (a big one for me) and saying no to things you don’t have time for (or things you simply don’t want to make time for).
MYTH #6: I should be able to do this on my own
None of us were meant to face anything alone. It is my humble belief that our greatest purpose in life is to form meaningful connections with those around us. Our ancestral mothers were not left alone in the care for their children. The idea of a “village” has been lost over the years, and it’s time we bring it back. We need each other. We need support in caring for children, in living in a fast-paced world, in grappling with what it means to be woman, mother, and human. It’s more than okay to ask for the support you need, and find those with whom you can share this journey of motherhood.
This is merely scratching the surface of the stories we tell ourselves as parents. It’s okay to let go of unrealistic expectations. Take heart, you are doing an AMAZING job raising your little ones!
What would you add to the list?