WE ALL HAD EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT MOTHERHOOD WOULD BE LIKE AND OF OURSELVES AS A MOTHER.
From the moment that we find out that we are going to be a mother, our expectations start to take shape as we start forming a very clear image in our minds of the mother that want to be.
What will I be like? How will I look? How will I act?
Creating a ‘fantasy mother’ is how we psychologically prepare ourselves for the Big Unknown that is motherhood.
However, once our babies are born, the reality of motherhood often turns out to be a lot different from what we’ve expected.
Suddenly we find ourselves not cheerful, patient and happy ALL THE TIME like we thought we would be, and this leaves us feeling confused, guilt-ridden and can create a lot of unhappiness for us.
Instead of letting go of the ‘fantasy mother’, we let her hang around and use her as a barometer for how we are doing as a mother, by constantly comparing ourselves to her.
If you have ever felt like you are not good enough as a mother, feel like you’re failing, or felt disappointment or regret when you think of the mother you ‘turned out’ to be, it might be helpful to look more closely at your original expectations of yourself as a mother.
Revisiting our expectations and reframing them, is a way of practising emotional self care that will allow us to be more accepting and supportive of the mothers that we are.
IDENTIFYING YOUR ORIGINAL EXPECTATIONS AND REFRAMING THEM:
1. Bring to mind the memory of that perfect mother that you wanted to be. Make a list of every expectation you had around what she would be like, act like, look like.
E.g She will always be kind and loving
She will be slim and fit
She will always enjoy playing with her child.
2. Now, focusing on each of your expectations individually, complete the following sentences
a) I expected myself to be a mother who….
E.g is always kind and loving
b) The reality is that…
E.g I get angry and often snap at my child
c) This makes me feel….
E.g ashamed and like I’ve failed
d) Having these feelings makes complete sense, because…
E.g I love my child and want to be the best mum possible
e) A more realistic, compassionate way to think about this is…
E.g. I am a kind and loving mum a lot of the time, but I’m also human and sometimes my buttons get pushed. I can be a good mum who loves my kids and still be angry at times.
If you struggle with the last sentence, imagine what a close, supportive and empathetic friend would say.
It’s a good idea to refer back to this exercise (even if you just run through it mentally), anytime you might experience negative thoughts and feeling about yourself as a mother.