Smack the mother

“How are you finding being a mum?” I get this question a lot. Understandably. It’s totally meant as a polite something to say.

I should respond, in kind, with a depthless: “It’s lovely, thank you.” Sleep deprivation seems to have stripped me of my manners. Baby brain has made me too honest.

Someone asked me this on Saturday at a wedding in Suffolk. I paused. “I think I better answer that in a couple of months,” I replied.

Then I decided that sounded too ominous so expanded: “It’s good but difficult and frustrating.” That last word seemed to surprise her.

Actually, the intensity of the frustration I feel surprises me. I so looked forward to having this baby as you’d know from listening to me yack on here.

And I love her, utterly, completely, so clearly. I even like her. She’s cute, funny and looks at the world with such focus.

I also knew that these first few months were going to hard work. In many ways, it’s not as hard as I expected. Though demanding, she’s not really a fussy baby. My relationship with Laurence seems to be in tact and I get far more sleep than I could have anticipated.

So it’s a bit of a mystery to me as to why I feel so much of the time like I’m barely coping. But it’s even more of a mystery as to why this doesn’t seem true for the other new mums I’m meeting.

Are they putting a brave face on it? Are they genuinely finding life with baby thoroughly doable? Should I smack the next mother who exults in how easy her baby is as if it’s a personal accomplishment?

Image: Annie Wong

[she/her] • writer • unschooler • team Soul Farm • Revillaging podcast • breastfeeding counsellor • Trinidadian in Cornwall

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  • Sadly what few people articulate is just how dull babies can be – they don’t really do much and they demand so much in return

    But they do get much more interesting and interactive rapidly – this will pass and you’ll be playing peekaboo and hide the bear for hours before you know it

    Be kind to yourself and remember this is normal and natural

    • So true. I guess there’s guilt attached to admitting that caring for a baby can be boring. But each day she’s starting to look around more, make sounds and smile more and it feels less like she’s a parasite attached to me.

  • I’m glad you’re being honest, because there really is no point in not being honest. If someone asks you ‘how it is being a mum’ give them the truth, hard work. But definately rewarding it seems, and i can’t wait! 🙂

  • I think most of them are putting a brave face on it, being polite and saying the ‘expected’ thing. My babies have been easy in some ways and hard in others, but I think the emotional aspect, the reassessing yourself, is the really hard, but also very tricky to articulate, aspect. Keep being as honest as you can – if everyone did this, I think we’d all feel better.

  • I found the first couple of months incredibly difficult. It was so hard! I had mummy friends who would just say “yes, everything’s great” and I found that so depressing. Lucky for me I also had a couple of mummy friends who would tell it exactly like it was – bloody hard! It’s not like you can put a finger on why it is so hard, it just is, but it’s a total life adjustment and it takes some getting used to. You’ll be flying before you know it x

  • This is a really interesting and honest post adele. I work in mental health now (after having problems myself) and one of my areas of interest is the level of secrecy around post natal struggle. It is apparent that many women are having a hard time but don’t want to talk about it because the expectation is that everything should be wonderful.  And of course our society here in the uk is one which doesn’t really allow for openness and honesty, when someone asks how you are it’s not the done thing here to say, ‘i feel shit actually’. 
    If research is anything to go by I’d say that many more women have feelings of helplessness, frustration, low mood, high anxiety and such, than actually let on for fear of being judged. It’s not very encouraging I know but in time I hope this changes. You are doing your bit to break down those barriers through your writing, so thank you for having the strength to be so honest. Feeling as you do is entirely normal xx lisa xx

    • Actually my midwife told me if I wasn’t enjoying being a mum by four weeks, she’d be concerned. I wonder if statements like that feed into the secrecy. I definitely think it’s a cultural thing though I can’t speak for what it’s like being a mum in Trinidad.

  • Oh my goodness, so normal. I was still having complete meltdowns until A was about 10 weeks old and was sure I should have stopped by then – just couldn’t stop crying, found it all so hard. Totally normal and awesome you are open about it. PND is a horrible thing – luckily for me it went away soon after, but just keep smiling, and make plans to see other Mums – new mothers aren’t supposed to be on their own! xxxxx

  • Your blog is sooo refreshing :0) Leo is 12 months old now and i still get majorly frustrated :0) And i love him more than life itself … he is my heart on two sturdy brown legs :0)

  • the first few months post baby are wierd and wonderful and I really think you remember them better than they were.  babies are adorable but they dont do much… but yet they are also demanding!

    stay honest poppet, enjoy it and dont expect too much from yourself just live for the moment and yes, most mothers finding it marvellous and easy are probably fibbing a little x

  • They’re lying! I remember those early days at mum and baby groups, other new mums would gush about how “good” their baby was and I would panic, thinking I was doing something wrong. The first few months are hard, but also wonderful. But they change so quickly it’s scary. I honestly feel like it was yesterday that I was feeling the way you are now.

    Oh – and if anyone asks you the dreaded question “is she good” – read this before responding:

    P.S. “Frustrating” is exactly the word I would use to describe Motherhood on a regular basis! x

  • I was so lucky – I had an NCT group of friends (still do) who were completely honest about how batshit boring the days can feel, when you’re used to using your brain and doing interesting things. Becoming a mother is much more difficult than it looks from the outside, because it doesn’t happen the minute they hand you your baby.

    I would recommend going to the pub for lunch (much more troublesome when they’re weaning/moving) and finding mum and baby screeenings at the cinema. Especially the cinema.

    (Also hope you sort the feeding thing out – go with your gut. If it doesn’t seem right, then your instincts are probably spot on. Also, if you do ever have to supplement, yes you will feel terrific guilt, but this is far better than your child not thriving.)

    • Started going to the cinema last week. I couldn’t believe how much I’d missed doing stuff like that. Yes, if supplementing ends up being the way we have to go, I’m going to try not to beat myself up about it. 

  • In hindsight, it fascinates me just how utterly we can buy into the more than over the top notion of just how joyous the whole experience is going to be. When it isn’t, we feel somewhat abnormal and out of step. So begins the veil of secrecy and why, probably, the myth continues to perpetuate. Then again, what expectant mother really wants to hear the sometimes VERY grim reality? I favour the optimistic approach, but would have liked to have been informed about the potential downsides which would then have been less shocking when and if it did occur. 

    I wish you joy in each other.

  • LOL, hmmm reading this entry makes realise now often I got that question myself. I’m pretty much still in autopilot so I jus answer honestly ‘ it has its ups and downs’ to be honest I don’t really notice peoples reaction. Then again, I must look so tired they don’t dare, lol. I have to say I did/do sometimes feel I am betraying by boy by every time I say how challenging I find it. Ah well, at the end of the day its all new to us maybe in a year or two we’ll look back at now see it wasn’t so bad, time will tell.