When I first had Becky and I was on maternity leave, I joined pretty much every mother & baby group going: breastfeeding group, baby massage, baby swimming, baby sign language, baby sensory, the local mother & baby meet up and more.
If I'm honest, they were as much for my as for Becky’s benefit, so huge was my desire for support from other Mums (and an adult conversation!), as I felt isolated and out of my depth quite a lot.
When I had Alex, I didn't join any. Actually, that’s not true, I went to one; it was run by my local midwife and was for all mums in the community who had had a baby in the last few months, and it was just useful in jogging my memory about baby care etc. But that was it, I didn’t do any of the other groups.
The reason? Because after my experience first time round, I realised that as much as these groups are meant to support and help, they are also full of competitive and hyper critical Mums, and that more often than not, they didn’t offer support, but lots of judgment on the apparent rights and wrongs of motherhood, making me feel even more insecure than I already was.
*Maybe I need to insert a little disclaimer here – I’m not saying all groups are like that, and if you’ve had a positive experience, then that’s brilliant. That’s how it should be. But for me, a lot of these groups didn’t work. Maybe it was me, maybe I just didn’t fit in.*
That said, I did make some amazing friends, both times, but these were with women who, like me, didn’t shy away from sometimes just saying out loud that motherhood was hard. Is hard. That sometimes, as much as you love your kids, you really hate aspects of having them. That not everything is always rosy, and that sometimes you struggle.
I said it on here before, I found motherhood particularly hard first time round. I had just left a job behind - for a while at least - that I loved and that I knew I was good at, and swapped for a life swamped in nappies, a 24 / 7 crying baby with colic that would not sleep, breastfeed or put on weight, and I felt clueless, useless and scared. Very, very scared. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a model mum (does that even exist?), so much so that I could only fail. This was supposed to be the most magical time of my life, and I spent most of the time in tears! Then there was the added element of post-natal depression (which was only diagnosed retrospectively during my pregnancy with Alex), and things were really tough, to say the least.
It took a good few months until I came out the other side of it, until things started to settle down and Becky grew into a more manageable routine and I into my Mummy role.
I think far too few mums admit that motherhood isn’t always perfect. That the amazing gift that are your kids also comes with some rough moments. That, whilst you love your little cherubs beyond anything in the world, you don’t always enjoy everything, and there are times when you just want to run away from it all.
And in those moments, all you want is someone who admits that they, too, find it hard. That they, too, are at the end of their tether sometimes. And that sometimes they would also rather watch Made in Chelsea hidden under a duvet than read The Tiger Who Came to Tea for the umpteenth time. Sometimes you need solidarity from other mothers rather than judgment on whether you’re breast or bottle feeding, co-sleeping or control crying, attachment parenting or Gina Ford-ing, baby-led weaning or puree feeding, and so forth. Sometimes you just need a fellow Mum to say that they had a crap, tough day, too, where they sucked at motherhood and motherhood sucked for them. And that that’s ok.
Last week Adele made headlines with the admission that at some point she was questioning whether she had made the right decision having a kid, that she found it so hard, and admitted that she had suffered from PND. This was so refreshing, and it's exactly something we need more of; more mothers – celebrities and role models at that - need to speak up that whilst we love our kids and would die for them, there are also moments when we feel overwhelmed.
Thankfully I have a great network of Mummy friends who I can do exactly that with. Who I can chat about the shitty side of motherhood and those days when we just feed our kids junk just for some peace and quiet and when they spend far too much time on the iPad and so on.
There is so much pressure on mothers – mostly from other mothers. And most of it is unnecessary. I'm sure there are mothers who have it all, win at everything and are the image of maternal perfection. But for the rest of us, we have ups and downs. And that does not make us bad mothers. Just honest ones who are trying really hard and sometimes just need a break.