How to cope with a the toughest of all new jobs — motherhood | Women's Agenda

How to cope with a the toughest of all new jobs — motherhood

Most new mothers find it extremely difficult to adjust to their new role.

There are numerous reasons for this, but often the underlying one is that expectations have proved to be very different from the experience. Surveys show that a majority of mothers agree that parenting is the most difficult job they have ever undertaken and that it requires skills for demanding work in which they have absolutely no experience.

As a consequence, you are likely to be feeling that you’re expected to do ‘everything’, often without much help, especially during the day while your partner is engaged in paid employment. On top of that, you might be feeling that you receive little appreciation for all the time, patience, mental effort, energy and devotion that it really takes. Like most other women, you have probably undertaken this willingly and given up much without complaint.

But the daily demands of parenting can take their toll, undermining your confidence, energy and enthusiasm. If this happens, you may well feel depleted and ‘unfulfilled’, isolated and even ‘a failure’.

Why do many women have difficulty coping with motherhood?

Motherhood involves constant work, both emotional and physical.

It is undervalued in our society.

Mothers often feel that they are expected to look after their child’s needs while setting aside their own.

It is the only commitment that never goes away!

Having the primary responsibility for another life can be very frightening.

Expectations are often far different from the experience.

Women are required to be skilled in a job for which they have received very little or no preparation.

It requires adjustment to many significant changes.

Motherhood can be very socially isolating.

Motherhood and personal losses.

While some mothers are well prepared for motherhood and enjoy every aspect of the arrival of their babies and children, many other new mothers also struggle to adjust to the significant changes required. They strongly feel certain losses in their lives and yearn for their pre-baby lifestyle.

You too may feel a longing for the life you had before you had children: for your independence and control over the pattern of your daily life and your own finances; for your job or career path and a busy social life; for time to yourself and intimacy with your partner; for your pre-baby body and your perception of yourself as an active and independent individual.

You may also feel that you cannot talk about these matters for a variety of reasons. Perhaps, like many women, you feel like a failure as a mother or you fear being labelled ‘a bad mother’. People around you might be shocked or critical and unsympathetic. Please be reassured that you are not alone.

Feelings many new mothers experience

Most mothers feel a few or many of a variety of negative feelings including sadness, anxiety, loneliness, guilt, mental and/or physical exhaustion, boredom, entrapment, disappointment and/or incompetence.

This is an edited extract of Chantal Kayem’s The Happy Toddler, published by Insight Publications and available here.

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