Mama Myth Series: Mothers Should Always Be Grateful
There is pressure to smile, keep it together, be GRATEFUL for this transformative event of motherhood. While there are many things we gain by becoming a parent, we also experience many losses. Not only is there grief, but there is an expectation that you shouldn't feel it. The grief gets locked away, only to be expressed in private in closet meltdowns and masked by forced smiles. To make way for true gratitude, we have to create space for grief, too.
My daughter came into the world 6 weeks early and stayed in the NICU for 8 days. She is a mighty little thing so we got to go home earlier than most babies born at that gestational age. While I am grateful for her health and fierce spirit, I also grieved the unexpected loss of the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. I grieved that my birth experience was hard, long, and full of intervention; and I was also grateful that I was able to catch my baby girl with my hands as she came out. Post-partum depression and anxiety took away the sacred time I wanted to spend with my new baby and instead started me down a road of despair that I thought I was not going to get out of. I am grateful for my strength and determination to get healthy and stable, but grieving the loss of time and presence I wanted so much.
It is Okay to Grieve
Contrary to popular belief, not everything in motherhood is rainbows and kittens. It is hard work! Blood, sweat, and tears go into the daily happenings of your life, and it is often more like a battlefield or an intricate air traffic control map than it is a beautiful leave-it-to-beaver landscape. Most moms grieve the loss of their ideal image of what pregnancy, birth, and motherhood was going to be like. Maybe you experienced fertility issues, a traumatic birth, post-partum depression, or a child with medical complexities. Maybe you expected some of those of experiences, but most likely you didn't.
Many mothers grieve the loss of their old life. The freedom, the independence, the friends, the cute little car you used to drive (oh, maybe that one is just me). Yes, as much as we gain by becoming mothers, we also experience tremendous losses.
We often feel the pressure and pull to "just be grateful your child is here/healthy" or "at least you have a child" or "be thankful for getting to stay home with your little one." But what about your experience? Did anyone tell you how much motherhood would change your life? Did you ever grieve the losses you had? Have you shed tears over all the changes you have faced, and so very quickly?
To go along with the "not everything is rainbows and kittens" comment, we also need to be realistic with expectations and face real problems. Problems that repeat themselves don't go away by just being grateful for them. Sure, being grateful for the lesson they are teaching you is incredibly important. However, if you bypass the inner and outer changes that are needed to correct the issue, it unfortunately doesn't help you. Being realistic and honest with yourself about how you are showing up, how others are showing up for you, and the expectations you are applying to your life, is a personal responsibility. Are you expecting too much from yourself? Others? Do you take responsibility for yourself? By responsibility, I don't mean being responsible to do all the things. I mean do you SHOW up for yourself? DO you take care of your mental, emotional, and physical well being?
Gratitude comes with the Sunset, Not the Sunrise
Gratitude is a deep internal process vs a superficial band aid. When you have faced your problems and felt your feelings, then you are ready to move on to making meaning of your experience. If you are treating gratitude as a spiritual bypass, you will continue to experience the same issue over and over. You will smile through gritted teeth and white knuckles and say, "I am fine." True gratitude comes when you have honored your experiences with compassion and acceptance. It comes when you have made peace with what didn't go well and celebrated what did go well. Gratitude does not come at the beginning of healing, it comes during and at the end. Taking the pressure of being grateful off your shoulders, you are providing yourself the opportunity to deepen your healing, only to return to gratitude with a wholistic and genuine stance.
About the Writer
Danielle is a mother, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a writer, a woman's empowerment advocate, and dedicated soul seeker. Writing has been a natural form of expression that originates deep within each of her experiences. Her purpose is to provide validation, encouragement, and support for every mom through her blog, the Motherhood Empowered Facebook Group, and in the therapy room.