I Love My Children, but Hate Motherhood
Speaking about motherhood negatively is still a taboo. Despite this fact, the sociologist Orna Donath wanted to investigate opinions about motherhood other than joy. She published her findings in “Regretting Motherhood: A Sociopolitical Analysis”. This is a study which turned many heads when it was published in countries such as Germany or France, where motherhood is venerated and supported institutionally with a great amount of institutional and economic aid.
Unfortunately, a study which delves into the fact of regretting motherhood tends to be criticized beforehand, regardless of how significant its analysis may be. Despite having a controversial title, the experiences told don’t seem to be very controversial. There was a great level of acceptance and understanding for the tales of some mothers. Tales which explain their experience and in which a great deal of women have seen themselves reflected.
In this study, they analyze how some mothers experience motherhood or part of it as a negative thing. They also point out the unexpected and undesired impact of this new role in their lives. The mothers love and take care of their children. Yet, due to diverse causes, motherhood or the experience of raising a child has turned out to be unsatisfactory and frustrating for many of them.
Regarding motherhood, all views are not the same
Before judging a woman on her experience as a mother, one should at least show interest in getting to know what she has to say. Show a true will to listen. They are the protagonists of their stories, in which they don’t want to be portrayed as heroines or supermoms. Instead, they simply want to be seen as women who have their own opinions about life.
Cases such as the one of the celebrated French actress Anemone, who declared on television about how she had identified with the controversial study. She loves her children, but feels that she would’ve been much happier if she hadn’t chosen to become a mother.
Sincerely and honestly, the actress told about how she had always been fascinated by the idea of independence. Yet, in a way, she had succumbed to the pressure of becoming a mother. Therefore, she decided to have kids “without really knowing why”.
The tales of unhappy mothers
Other anonymous mothers tell about how they have experienced the most profound loneliness in some cases. They have felt that their decision wasn’t the correct one when they experienced the reality of raising a child. Despite this fact, the participants in the study emphasized the distinction between their children and the experience (motherhood itself). Most of them pointed out their love for their children and their hatred for the experience surrounding their care.
The women spoke of loneliness and an intense amount of stress due to the incompatibility of their various roles. These roles include woman, mother and worker. But they also disclosed more intimate details, such as the sensation of having lost part of their freedom. Or also, of not enjoying their sexuality in the same way and of feeling like strangers in their own lives.
In these tales, you can sense the bitterness and distrust towards certain social sectors. Because, at first, motherhood is demanded on one hand, almost like an obligation. But later, the mothers don’t feel supported in their labor. They become a type of slave to what is supposed to be “the best experience any woman can have”.
The possible causes of this disenchantment
These experiences have surely taken place throughout history. Nowadays, they have simply become more visible to the world. The demand for offspring, the pressure of the biological clock, the enormous social and moral demands around female sexuality and the high expectations created have always caused frustration in a great number of women. Women who have either succumbed under the pressure or have decided on their own to become mothers.
However, nowadays we find ourselves with new realities. Such as the incorporation of women into the workforce, which most people celebrate and defend. Thus, women now postpone the decision to procreate and also the denaturalization of the process on social media.
If motherhood used to be divinized as an almost mystical act, now that idea has been mixed with other concepts. One such concept: the supermom. A supermom gives herself over completely to motherhood, but is still able to recover her figure almost immediately. Also, she manages to lead the same life she did before having kids.
We constantly see women in the spotlight show off on Instagram, magazines or social networks an idealized version of the processes of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and postpartum recovery. It’s not that women can’t show their happiness throughout this process. The problem resides in the fact that they only show a process free of difficulties and demands.
Immediately, a great number of women are seduced by this image of pregnancy. What they don’t realize is that their economic possibilities and support group don’t resemble the image they idealize.
Stop idealizing and truly help
Currently, there are many social movements which advocate for true family conciliation and for free motherhood. But, one that is much more protected and socially accepted. Each woman has their own story and their own psychological characteristics. This leads to a subjective and unique experience of motherhood.
Some may regret it while still loving their children, others might not regret it and feel full bliss. Others (in most cases) harbor contradicting feelings, and others might feel overwhelmed by specific aspects of the upbringing and temperament of their children.
In any case, each and every one of them should feel supported and backed up by society. A society which truly integrates a social and work model conducive to experiencing a satisfying motherhood.
An exhausted woman will find it quite difficult to bear the weight of raising a child in the long term. Especially if there is no division of the tasks within the home and institutional support. This could includes things such as daycare, part time schedules and fair wages. Not only because we are raising a generation, but because the current generation of moms need this support. They need it in order to guide us towards a not so idealized image of motherhood. Furthermore, one that is much more respected and supported by society.