Myths of Motherhood
Associated with the role of mother come myths that have created false ideas or misconceptions about what it is to be a mother. And on top of the 'myth list' should be the celebrities promoting mothering as being carefree, as they are photographed in magazines looking 'buffed and polished' and sporting the perfect figure only days after giving birth. It doesn't help all other mums who are adapting and coping with the reality of life with a baby ... and who, realistically, are doing just fine as mums!
- Mothering is instinctive and comes naturally
This myth implies that as women we are 'born' to be mothers ... and therefore it is instinctive for us to know how to meet our baby's needs and be at ease with mothering!!! Well, this may be so for some new mothers but for the majority, adapting to the role of the mother takes time. Unfortunately, what this social myth does is set up unrealistic expectations of what it is to be a mother and with this can come a feeling of failure.
- Mothers who seek help are a 'failure'
This myth crosses over with that of 'mothering comes naturally and so we just get on with it'! With the diminishing tradition of having an extended support network of family to help out and relieve the pressures of parenting, a mother's caregiving load is now 'heavier'. Our society needs to re-think how the changes in family structures impact on parenting and that women seeking support is NOT failure but a sign of strength in being open about parenting pressures. Such openness may bring about a better awareness and change the ignorance associated with this myth.
- When my baby is born I will instantly feel a rush of love for him/her
For many mothers and not just first-time mothers, this 'rush' can be more associated with the overwhelming feeling of giving birth, which includes feeling exhausted, tearful, confronted ... and possibly a sense of fear. It is a very individual experience. Your love is about you cherishing a growing relationship with your baby.
- Finally, after years of trying to become pregnant, you must now feel happy having a baby
Many women go through much stress trying to cope with infertility and intervention procedures. For some mums this stress does not miraculously disappear when Baby is born. Research is showing some evidence that as well as the normal anxiety and stress associated with first-time parenting, those who have experienced infertility may feel extra 'pressure' in their parenting role because of how much they wanted to become parents.
- Mothers are 'better' at the caregiving tasks than fathers
It seems to be a common myth that mothers are 'better' at the caregiving tasks than fathers. While mothers may be more practised at the tasks because of spending more time with the baby in the early months it cannot be said that a mother is 'better' than a father as a caregiver. Let's say that men may have a different way of caring for the baby ... as long as it is a sensitive and caring manner your baby is adaptable and able to enjoy both mum and dad's love and care, developing an emotional connection and secure attachment.
- Mothers who breastfeed bond better with their baby than those who bottle feed
While breastfeeding can certainly be a bonding experience for you and Baby it is not the core to 'bonding with baby'. As you progress through Bond With Baby the information reinforces that your emotional attachment (bond) to Baby develops from the countless sensitive interactions that you have together throughout each day. Therefore bottle-feeding is equally a time for bonding with Baby as breastfeeding is. Baby is nestled into your body feeling secure in your arms as you encourage her by softly talking, using soothing touch and looking into her eyes.
In saying this however, recent research on babies aged from 3 to 14 months has shown that those who are breastfed spend more time being held or cuddled and being read to than non-breast fed babies. It appears that when babies become able to hold their bottle and successfully feed themselves parents may be less likely to spend time holding and interacting with them.
Importantly you need to read about babies' safety concerning feeding in Babies' Safety → During Caregiving Routines.