Through my journey of being a mama to my three beautiful little beings…there has been a significant aspect that has really stood out to me….both from the mind of a mama and the mind of a psychologist.
It has really led me to reflect many times over about how this impacts on me and my mothering belief’s, actions, choices, as well as the impact of these on the mental health and well being of myself and other mamas.
It has been something that I know has been present for me as I find my way through this mothering journey, as well as present for the mamas that I hold close and the mamas that have previously shared their journey with me.
I am calling this experience, this reflection, this barrier, this phenomena……The Spectrum of Mothering.
Spectrum…’a condition not limited to a specific set of values but can vary infinitely within a continuum’.
What I am talking about is the variety of parenting choices we have on offer, the range of parenting approaches presented to us each and every day (some welcome and others not) and the pressure that is often linked to confining ourselves to one of these approaches and ways of mothering.
I am envisaging a football field of multiple boxes each decorated with ‘different’ approaches to mothering……each with a mama trying so vey hard to contort and squeeze herself into one…..all whilst well meaning on lookers chant from the side lines trying to persuade mamas to choose a particular box!!!!!!
Isn’t variety meant to be the spice of life???? Change is a good as a holiday???? Or some other well meaning metaphor…So why when it comes to parenting….does difference often result in either self judgment, insecurity or judgment by others??
Differences…does this imply good or bad?? Better or worse?? Right or wrong??
If we as a society and a community of mamas were to expect and accept a range of mothering and parenting approaches, ways of adjusting and coping….what would this mean for the expectations we hold for ourselves, and the wellbeing and mental health of mamas.
What if we were to view differences exactly as they are, different but all in the spectrum of normal and how would this then effect our well being.
Never in any other area of my life, have I been faced with such difference in choice, and a sense of pressure to make the best choice possible. This pressure does not just stem from the societal view that there is right or wrong, but from an inner need and desire to provide the very best for my babies.
When I reflect back…. opinions about what choices we make as parents come as early as the positive mark on the pregnancy test!! With each choice often comes an opinion…often well meaning but an opinion non the less.
Find out the sex of baby or don’t find out the sex of baby?
Natural birth or assisted birth?
Pain relief or no pain relief during labour?
Breast feed or bottle feed?
Dummy or no dummy?
Self settle or assisted settle?
Back to work, not back to work?
Day care, no day care?
Just to name a few and the list goes on and on and on and on and on……….and on
What we know about mental health and well being of parents during pregnancy and beyond, is that the expectations we hold for ourselves have a significant impact on how we mentally and emotionally respond to the pressures of raising a tiny little being.
The messages we are given from the people close to us, the people far from us and societal messages sent through social media, magazines and more has a lot to answer for when it comes to the expectations we hold for ourselves and the parents around us.
These messages whether intentional or unintentional, obvious or subtle all play a part in whether the approach we take, and the choices we make are felt to be judged as right or wrong, better or worse, good or bad.
So I propose to all mothers…..what if instead we viewed these choices as what they are….different…but all in the range of normal. Not better than the other.
What if the first assumption we made, was that each mama was making the best decision that she could, with the resources she had, for her, her family and her baby.
What if we assumed that each mama made the choices she did based on the strengths that she had prior to becoming a mama, and that she is using all her might and power to transform these strengths into tools to assist her be the best mama she can be…….the organised mama who thrives on routines, the go with the flow mama who does exactly that goes with the flow. Different yes, but not better and not worse, all in the spectrum of normal.
Mama Being Frank……
Would it result in mamas feeling more accepting of themselves and one another??
Would it result in a more village like approach to mothering, rather than the westernized individualized approach we regularly see??
Would it result in less ‘what if questions’ and ‘should’ statements??
Would it result in mamas feeling more able and willing to seek help??
Would it have a positive impact on well being and mental health of mamas??
I propose yes….let us get rid of those boxes and embrace a spectrum of mothering. Accept and embrace difference and let us see where we then travel on this amazingly crazy journey of mamahood.
By Rachel Bridge
Originally Published via Wonderful Mama in Inspiring Stories, Life, Wellbeing
on June 1st, 2016