There are few roles in life that have as much mythic lore written about them, spoken about them, and imbued in them as motherhood. Strangely enough, however, there are some truths that no one ever mentions, a few key points that get left out of the established narrative on motherhood.
Everyone Is Pretty Much Doing It Right
Can you imagine this as a headline in a parenting magazine? All we ever hear or read about are tips on how to do things better, and the Hollywood narrative in movies and television suggests that all we do as mothers is sit around and compare or criticize other mothers. But in the grand scheme of things, the fact that our species, homo sapiens, has been around for 200,000 years suggest we are doing things pretty well.
World population doubled from 1959 to 1999 (6 billion). Crime rates are dropping (really). And while it is important to seek out new ways of doing and improving our lives and those of our children, the differences between mothers who use a sling more than a stroller, mothers who breastfeed or formula feed, mothers who give birth in a hospital or at home – those are small differences. Excepting those situations of abuse or mistreatment, most everyone is doing this motherhood thing well. Including you.
Motherhood Is Both Macro and Micro
What is hard about motherhood is that unlike almost any other job, it is extremely contradictory. You are the boss, and yet you are constantly challenged by your “subordinates” in ways that would get a person fired at work. You are bringing new people, new life!, into this world, and cleaning pureed peas off the floor. You are managing a large and complex budget, while digging for quarters in your purse to feed the parking meter next to the playground.
There are few jobs that require you to be both CEO and janitor at the same time, and on both physical, mental, and emotional levels. This is part of why motherhood has such a strange history: it is often dismissed as not being a “real” profession while revered as an almost holy role and responsibility. Remembering that motherhood operates at the opposite ends of these two extremes helps keep a healthy perspective on both bad days and good ones.
Science Is Not As Much Help Here As We Might Like
We have become accustomed to how much science has answered difficult questions about our minds and our bodies. Consider what scientists know about DNA, depression, and allergies. So it is strange to become pregnant or have a young child and find medicine somewhat falling down on the job. The reality is that the gold standard for medical discovery – double blind, clinical trials on human beings – runs up against some serious ethical problems when you are talking about pregnant women and young children.
An adult can consent to trying a radical new drug, but can an unborn baby or a 1 year old? Should their parents have the right to consent for them? This ethical and legal quagmire explains why medical science does not have as many answers about pregnancy and babies that we as mothers might like.
Even determining the effects of cold medicine on a fetus is fraught with difficulty. And yet at no other time in our lives do we want – and need – medicine to give us answers to make our babies and ourselves as healthy as possible. One of the best ways of coping with this odd truth is to go into pregnancy and the first year of parenting knowing that you will rely more on your instincts as a mother during this period than during any other time of your life.
Start listening to those instincts, taking notes early on of problems, and documenting your concerns. You will find that this vigilance pays off both in terms of peace of mind and, if something medically serious truly is wrong, a quick and accurate diagnosis.
What odd truths have you discovered about motherhood? Let us know! We want to hear and benefit from your lessons learned!