April 19, 2024

Busting Out of Societal Expectations for Motherhood

As a licensed mental health therapist, I’ve witnessed firsthand the immense pressure mamas face in today’s society. In an era where social media often presses certain norms and expectations, the concept of motherhood has been glamorized, yet portrayed in an incredibly unrealistic way for the vast majority of moms out there. This blog post aims to explore these societal pressures, while giving some strategies for mamas to reclaim their own individuality and well-being.

Understanding Societal Expectations for Moms

Societal expectations of motherhood often paint a picture of perfection – a mother who can effortlessly balance work, home, children, and personal life, all while maintaining a constant state of happiness and fulfillment. 

New moms are often expected to “bounce back,” never feel annoyed or frustrated by their kiddos, and function at the same level as before—despite the sleep deprivation, lack of personal space, and cognitive overload that comes with raising a tiny, beautiful human being.

Moms of all kinds are expected to be gentle and kind, yet firm and able to discipline their kiddos when necessary. Many mamas feel like “the bad parent” or “the boring one” because they’re given the lion’s share of the emotional and mental labor in parenting. This means managing schedules, keeping folks on track, following-up on homework and extracurriculars, keeping track of appointments and important dates, remembering teacher’s and best friend’s names, helping kiddos regulate their big feelings, and so much more. All of this, while also being expected to excel at homemaking, their careers, or both!

Moms are often blamed for their kiddo’s behaviors when things aren’t going well, but can feel invisible when their kids are excelling or behaving well. Moms can be seen as the “de-facto” parent, which hurts both mom and dad (or mom, or caregiver). 

This idealized image of motherhood is not only unrealistic but also harmful, to mamas and kiddos alike. It creates an unattainable standard that leaves many mothers feeling inadequate and overwhelmed, unable to enjoy the very humans they’re so deeply in love with and to whom they want to give the world.

The Impact on Mental Health

The pressure to conform to these societal norms can have a significant impact on a mother’s mental health. Feelings of guilt, anxiety, and inadequacy are common when they perceive themselves as falling short of these unrealistic standards. This emotional strain can lead to burnout, depression, and a sense of lost identity.

This is where challenging these norms and creating a personal definition of “success” in motherhood can be so, so helpful.

Challenging the Norms of Motherhood

1. Acknowledge Some Standards at Toxic and Unrealistic: The first step in overcoming these societal expectations is to recognize their unrealistic—and even toxic—nature. Understand that the “perfect mother” is a myth. Every mother has her unique challenges and strengths, and comparing yourself to an idealized standard is not only unfair but also totally unnecessary.

2. Prioritize You: Self-care is crucial. Focusing on who you are—as both a mama and as a whole, unique individual—is a vital aspect of learning what standards you want to hold, and which you can let go. It’s important for mothers to take time for themselves, whether it’s engaging in a hobby, exercising, or simply resting. Self-care is not selfish; it’s essential for maintaining mental and emotional well-being and helps you be the best mama you can possibly be.

3. Get Clear on Personal Boundaries: Setting boundaries is key to managing the demands of motherhood. This might mean saying no to additional responsibilities, delegating tasks, or taking time off from work or family duties. Boundaries help in preserving energy and maintaining a sense of self.

4. Find your People: Whether it’s from family, friends, or a professional therapist, having a support system is invaluable when you’re navigating motherhood. Sharing experiences and challenges with others who understand can be incredibly relieving and empowering. It can also be so helpful to see that there are so many different ways to be a mom, and that no two children are going to need the same exact thing—yours included!

5. Redefine Success in Motherhood: Redefine what success in motherhood means to you. It’s not about living up to societal standards, but about what makes you and your family happy and healthy. Success can be a peaceful home, a loving relationship with your children, or simply making it through a tough day.

The Role of Therapy in Busting Harmful Norms

Therapy can play a crucial role in navigating the challenges of motherhood. As a therapist, I help mamas of all stripes explore their feelings, identify their strengths, and develop coping strategies to manage the stress and anxiety that comes with being a mom. Therapy offers a safe space to discuss fears and frustrations, and to work on building self-esteem and confidence in one’s parenting abilities.

Embracing Individuality in Motherhood

Every mama’s journey is her own. Embracing your individuality as mom means accepting that there’s no one right way to be a parent. It’s about finding what works for you and your babies, and being confident in your choices, even if they differ from what everyone else is doing.

Mama, take a moment to appreciate yourself for the incredible job you are doing. Being a mother is one of the toughest roles in the world, and it’s important to acknowledge your strength and resilience. If you find yourself struggling with societal pressures or any aspect of motherhood, remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. As a licensed mental health therapist in Seattle, I am here and ready to support you in the beautiful chaos of motherhood.

Comments +

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Dive In

the Blog

follow along



Schedule a consult