parent opinion

OPINION: 'Let’s just tell it like it is. Mothering is boring.'

Let’s just tell it like it is. 

Mothering can be extremely boring and routine – especially in those early days of endless sleepless nights, constant feeding and the feeling that your baby’s screaming will never, ever stop. 

It’s like groundhog day.

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Yes, you love your baby to bits – who will ever forget that first intense tug of love you felt as you gazed at your newborn for the first time? But the reality of mothering is very, very different from the perfect families portrayed on television or littered throughout our social media feeds.

But how many women are ready to admit this because of the pressure to be the perfect mother? A "yummy mummy" or the organised career mum who can seemingly handle everything? 

Over coffee one day, my friend Lisa (a graphic designer and a first time mum with 15-month-old Melinda) tearfully blurted out that her life had become "full of yawns." 

"Melinda is up at 5.30am every day ready to go. I love her more than anything, but by midday I’m exhausted after doing the same thing over and over again – clearing up dirty dishes, reading the same children’s book five times over, playing Lego and watching that annoying kids' singing show for the umpteenth time!" she said.

"And she gets into so much trouble I can’t take my eyes off her for a second – yesterday she went up and down the stairs 10 times. I had to follow her and yes, it’s good exercise but I’m so tired! And I know the next day will be exactly the same. And the next. And the next."

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Lisa, who was always totally in control of her life, is now run ragged by a 15-month-old. Gone are the stimulating chats at work, the cheeky flirtation with the bearded coffee guy and those quiet minutes alone to read a magazine.

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Her feelings are compounded by what she sees around her – most of her friends appear to be managing their offspring perfectly, judging from the happy snaps all over Facebook. Everyone keeps telling her having a baby is the best thing that will ever happen to her. 

No wonder Lisa thought it would all be so different, admitting: "When I was first pregnant I imagined running through the fields with my little girl, discovering flowers together, snuggling at night and being perfectly in tune with my mini-me. But, in reality, at times I actually feel resentful of Melinda, and feel so bad when I feel that way."

"Once I felt a flash of actual hate when she wouldn’t stop screaming – am I the worst mother ever?" she added.

Lisa is far from it – she loves her child and what she feels is very, very normal. 

Dr Margo Lowy studies maternal ambivalence and says these complex feelings are completely normal. Image: Getty.

I have studied the area of maternal ambivalence for more than 10 years – something I describe as a mother’s fleeting feelings of hate for a child which, in turn, actually strengthens her love. 

It’s a forbidden and silenced, but a daily part of mothering. 

Lisa feels isolated from her friends, because who, after all, admits to sometimes hating their child? 

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No-one wants to talk about having these momentary feelings, but I can assure you, they are very real and they do exist. 

As a society, we need to respect the complicated and difficult feelings of everyday mothering.

There is real danger in repressing or hiding our feelings, as they teach us so much about ourselves – and by admitting them we can stay present and connected to our children, as opposed to being held down by our own self-judgement and frustrations. 

There’s nothing wrong with feeling bored by the Groundhog Day of constant routine, or at times feeling resentful of our own children.

They are just feelings – something we all have – and they don’t take anything away from our intense love for our kids.

I feel we need to honestly examine and talk about mothering and recognise our feelings – not just constantly highlight the good things, but admit to the bad things as well. 

Because there is no such thing as the perfect mother or perfect child, and there never will be.

Dr Margo Lowy, a psychotherapist and author, has three children. She recently released her first book, "Maternal Experience: Encounters with Ambivalence and Love".

Feature Image: Supplied.

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