You knew motherhood would be filled with sleepless nights, dirty nappies, self-doubt and constant worry. What you might not have known about, however, was the aching loneliness that comes with motherhood. After years in the workforce, surrounded by colleagues, meetings and lunch breaks; having a baby can leave you feeling very, very alone.
Yes you’ll always have your gorgeous new baby by your side, but – spoiler alert – their small talk skills are even worse than Rodney in Accounts. In fact, they’ll barely give you a second glance for the first 6 weeks or so. Unlike Rodney. Dirty perve.In the middle of the night when your baby is performing an exorcism style scream sesh, you can’t peer over the partition and ask Trish from marketing if she can take a second look for you. When you’ve spent days practising tummy time with your baby and they’re finally lying there without bellowing at you, you won’t get a pat on the back from your supervisor Susan. Your work best friend Amanda can’t do the shit-day-debrief when you burst into tears because you burnt the toast. It’s just you. You and google. And social media.
In those first few mystifying weeks, we tentatively reach out to other mums. We try making connections based on nothing but a shared experience of giving birth. We trawl photos, blogs and status updates, trying to find where we fit in this new, strange, scarily opinionated community.
What we find is not just overwhelming, it’s often a heavily filtered view of reality. We see happy mums and well-dressed kids in House and Garden worthy homes eating freshly baked goods #cleaneating #madefromscratch while they play educational games designed to foster their imagination #livetolearn #soblessed.
For a mum who’s sitting in her pjs, eating nutella on toast while her baby stares out the window, every image can chip away at her self-confidence until she feels like not just a failure, but like something is wrong with her.
We are so afraid to admit when we’re not coping (or when we’re coping by watching a heap of TV and eating junk food) in case someone judges us for being a shit mum. We only show the highlight reel of our lives because we want people to tell us we’re doing a good job. And in 2018, we live for the approval of others.
What mums need is each other. We’re the only ones who know what it’s like to be us. We need to talk to each other and be open about what it’s like, the good AND the bad.
Most importantly we need to tell these mothers one thing: “SAME!” One message that gives instant comfort, camaraderie and connection: I feel the same as you.
Do you sometimes feel like walking out of your house and never coming back? Me too, sister!
Do you sometimes feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself and you’re grieving the person you once were? Oh darl, so do I!
Feel guilty for not being more grateful? Babe, I feel like that ALL THE TIME.
Feel like your heart could explode with all the love inside? Me too, me too!
Do you sometimes feel like you are mentally unstable with how fast you swing from that heart bursting love to pure volcanic rage? Haha, same here. On the daily.
Feel like every mofo out there is doing a better job than you and has better behaved kids? Don’t worry, I do too.
Do you feel like sometimes you just can’t cope and don’t know how you’ll get through another day? Me too. Me too. ME TOOOO.
After a day with a small child, the pressure builds and builds until your skin feels like it’s going to explode. Hearing those words is like someone reaching over and releasing the valve and letting that pressure out in one big gush of, “I thought I was the only one!”
We need to know that how we are feeling is normal and everyone else feels that way too. Because when we see those other people surviving it tells us that maybe we’ll survive too.
Opening up and admitting your struggles can be terrifying. It can also be the most liberating thing you’ve ever done. You might fear the judgement of other mums, but what you’re more likely to find is more love and support than you ever dreamed. People want to help – you just need to ask.
We are all in this together. We might all do things slightly differently but you’ll be surprised how much we have in common. Belonging is one of the fundamental needs of human existence. So, let another mum know she belongs by telling her, ‘I feel the same, I do the same, I AM the same as you’.
This article first appeared on Essential Baby