The Image of Motherhood
by Nicole Iacovoni, LCSW
Before I had my daughter, I fantasized about what it would be like to have a baby and be a
mother. I envisioned snuggling in the rocking chair together for hours on end, napping together
in the middle of the day, giggling and smiling with each other, and long stroller walks in the park
on sunny days. I couldn't wait for the day to come. For me, the reality of motherhood was very
different from my fantasy. My daughter cried late into the night and nothing would console her
expect constant pacing, bouncing, and singing. She would only sleep if I was holding her, which
meant I didn't sleep at all. I didn't do ANYTHING at all. I didn't leave the house because she
was always nursing or crying or pooping and needing my constant, undivided attention. I felt like
my life had ended. I used to be an independent, go-getter type of person, but after I became a
mother, I became a boring recluse who was a slave and servant to an infant. I hated motherhood
and I felt so guilty for it. I felt alone and weird and like I was the worst mother in the world,
because I didn't want to be a mother anymore. Looking back, I wish I had been more honest
with other mothers about what I was going through, because I would have learned I wasn't the
only one. If only I had spoken up and made myself vulnerable, I would have found the support
and camaraderie I craved.
Why didn’t I speak up and admit how I felt? Why aren’t other mothers being honest about
the challenges and obstacles we face on this journey of raising children? The answer lies in a
double-headed monster that lives deep within us and shows it’s ugly traits when we least want it
to; FEAR and GUILT. Fear and guilt are part of the same beast, but it seems that when one is
awoken, the other comes more alive too. Fear comes in many forms, but often stems from a
strong desire for approval . Mothers fear what other mothers will think of them if they openly
admit to insecurity, self doubt, frustration, anger, or extreme overwhelm. When we hear the
stories that other mothers tell about how awesome their kids are, how much they adore them,
how “being a mom is the best job in the world”, we shrink down and button our lips if our thoughts aren’t completely congruent with theirs. We worry to ourselves, “What would she think of me if I told her my kids are being complete jerks, I wish I could run away for a few weeks?”. Fear of the judgement keeps us from admitting that the image of motherhood is often far
different than the reality of motherhood. We lie by omission. We casually nod our heads and
agree because it’s safer than spilling our guts.
However, it isn’t always black and white. With motherhood come times of anger despair,
exhaustion, frustration, and boredom, but there are also wonderful times of joy, happiness, love,
laughter, excitement, and beauty. One of the most difficult aspects of motherhood is that the
mood of the moment can change instantly, without warning, for no reason whatsoever. Perhaps
what we fear most is the appearance of being ungrateful for the amazing times if we complain
about the shitty times. Perhaps we inflate our stories of the good times so we can feel like we’re
living in gratitude despite the daily challenges we face, or maybe we use these stories to
overcompensate for the times when we just want to quit.
When we feel like quitting, guilt wakes up, slithers up to us, and settles into our hearts. It
whispers in our ear, “How dare you want to quit? You chose this life. You brought these children
into the world and you need to do right by them. These are beautiful children. How could you
ever be angry with them? What kind of person are you? What kind of MOTHER are you to
want a break from these precious souls? Some people would give anything to have children.
You’re so ungrateful”. Mother’s guilt is an epidemic that plagues our society and keeps women
from taking good care of themselves. Guilt is an excellent motivator for pushing ourselves past
our limits, sacrificing our own needs for too long, and being unsatisfied with our “performance”
Yet, we judge ourselves by unrealistic standards. We hold ourselves up and compare
ourselves to this image of motherhood, this idea of what it means to be a mother, that we have
created in our own minds. My idea of what it means to be a “good” mother is far different from
what your idea looks like, but guilt is the result of us failing to live up to our own ideals. How are
we ever supposed to feel confident, worthy, and exceptional at this mothering business if all we do
is set ridiculously high expectations and undefined goals for ourselves?
My challenge to all mothers everywhere is to change the image of motherhood you carry
around in your mind. Shift it to include everything you are; your spirit, personality, character, and
soul. Motherhood isn’t about being perfect, the best, or even outstanding. It’s not a competition,
and we all would benefit from not comparing ourselves to anyone else. Rather than comparing
ourselves to each other, we need to support each other, rally around each other, and encourage
each other to get up everyday and do the hard work of parenting. You are unique. Your children
are unique. Let your one-of-a-kind, exceptional, extraordinary, true self shine. Let all your flaws,
imperfections, insecurities, and doubts be revealed. Allow authenticity, genuineness, honesty,
candor, and integrity to pour forth. All of these things shape you, your life, and your children.
Shake off the image of motherhood and just give yourself permission to be a mom; whatever
that looks like for you.
Nicole Iacovoni, Founder & Executive Clinician, received her master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from The University of Denver. Utilizing scientific based techniques, she is masterful at helping clients navigate and address family transitions, mood management, relationship issues, life trajectory, and general self care concerns. She also has expertise in cultivating emotional resilience and healthy identity development in young adults. Nicole has dedicated her career to building a wellness center where clients generate positive change, enhance esteem, overcome obstacles, and create a peaceful, well-balanced life course. Her vision has resulted in a multifaceted therapeutic setting that provides complete mental health services, yoga and meditation classes, massage therapy, nutritional counseling and health coaching, educational workshops, and community building groups and events.
Nicole has a new Afterglow Post-Natal Support Group forming now! Meetings will begin April 22nd. Click here for details!
You can get more information about our counseling services with Nicole here.