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Opinion: The Supermum myth needs to be exposed

I can’t and won’t hide the fact that I find being Mum really tough, writes Geraldine Walsh

Geraldine Walsh Freelance writer

I KNEW OUR lives would have a new meaning the moment those fingers were covered in scratch mittens and those toes no longer kicked me in the ribs.

There was no denial that change was afoot, a transformation of lives, ideas, priorities and focus. I knew our days, our house, our minds would become cluttered and overgrown. It was an adventure I was excited about, but perhaps not as prepared for as I thought.

They say it’s the hardest job you’ll ever have but they never say why.

No one seems willing to forewarn a would-be parent of the reality. Not one single person enlightened me that being a parent would be a greater challenge than being ill-prepared for a marathon.

There were chuckles and giggles of “just you wait and see”. But no one said that it would be so hard that frustration, desperation and disappointment would have a habit of enveloping my mind as the days stretched on.

Not one friend who was already in the throes of nappies and tantrums warned us to prepare for a shift in our lives that would leave us beyond exhausted and worn out: mentally and physically. They said nothing about the days of incessant crying – ours not the children’s – and that the desperate need to escape would hit us harder than we imagined possible.

Women passed comment on baby blues but they did not explain that postnatal depression, anxiety or the incredible feeling of being overwhelmed can last for months – if not years.

The reality is that no matter how much I love and cherish our children there are hard days. Not every day, not every moment of a single day, but enough to leave my mind and body drained and worn out.

Enough to leave me wondering if it is supposed to be like this? What am I doing wrong? Why am I crying again? No one said it was going to be this hard.

Sometimes as I lie in bed at night with a pang in my chest, I wonder is it just me?

But the truth is, that no, it’s not just me, these feelings are normal. A recent survey, the Everymum’s Motherhood in Ireland study, showed that 86% of mums said they were happier since becoming a mum. But 73% also felt overwhelmed, 62% felt lonely, and 60% felt anxious.

There appears to be a silent understanding that we don’t talk about these hard days or moments of anxiety that wash over us as the day becomes more and more relentless. I wear my heart on my sleeve, the anxiety is often written on my face.

I can’t hide the fact – and I don’t want to hide it – that I find being Mum really tough.

The truth is, that yes, baby days, toddler days, preschool and school going days, every stage of parenting has its challenges, its difficulties and its heartache.

We do it because the love for our kids pushes us on, because they make our days very difficult but also incredibly amazing. It’s the ultimate paradox. One that is hard to explain to someone who has yet to experience this exasperating world of parenting.

It seems we restrain ourselves from letting the world see how challenging we’re finding it. We pull back and put on a brave face, laughing it off when we bump into friends, hiding the three-day old Weetabix caked into our coat.

The truth is, we haven’t slept in weeks and have cried hefty tears as we see no end in sight to whatever phase our kids are currently going through.

We feel a maddening creeping in and worry that we appear incapable, lost or broken when in truth we need to talk, we need to vent, we need to know we’re not the only ones struggling through these days (which we assumed would be the best of our lives).

But we’re not supposed to say its hard or admit that being a Mum is not what we expected. We’re supposed to praise and love, cherish and overtly beam with pride as our children dance, sing, run, and jump in muddy puddles.

We’re supposed to remember that they won’t be this small forever and that every stage is different, that the days are long but the years are short. We’re supposed to be ever grateful and ever happy. We’re not supposed to say how difficult we are finding the normal days, the after-school tantrums, the never-ending attempt at balancing more lives than simply our own.

But I for one, can raise my hand and say, I’ve had days when I’ve been metaphorically sucker punched as the endless hours tick on by, delivering anxiety and stress.

I often become overwhelmed by everything that is expected of me as Mum. After all I’m only human.

So there you go, the supermum myth is now officially exposed. I say forget about trying to be a supermum and don’t be afraid to vent occasionally. 

Geraldine Walsh is a freelance writer and blogger, writing about parenting, family, mental health and lifestyle issues. She’s permanently exhausted. 

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About the author:

Geraldine Walsh  / Freelance writer

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