The Image of Motherhood

by Nicole Iacovoni, LCSW

Mother and Son

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”

as mothers.

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.

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