When it comes to the depiction of motherhood, Hollywood has a lot to answer for. Think about it: even in the dope-smoking world of the movie ‘Knocked Up’, once baby’s born (via a massively cringe-inducing crowning scene, natch) even the jobless deadbeat dad and uncertain mum film are projected into the world of starry-eyed parenting perfection.
Then there’s a bumbling uncertain Hugh Grant, who manages to become father of the year in Nine Months, and just look at how Sex and the City’s baby Brady transforms cold-hearted Miranda into a mother.
Basically, if the film and TV industry were to be believed, parenthood is one dreamy journey of love and light and laughter and a million other ‘L’ words that I can’t think of right now because I’m too damn sleep-deprived. Which is what happens when you’re a parent.
In all the movies and TV shows I’ve watched since becoming a mum myself I’ve not seen a whisper of the eyebags, a sniff of the piles or a hint of the sheer terror you feel when you think you might, at some point, drop the baby (spoiler: we all do it).
Hollywood’s version of parenting is perfection. And that’s just not how it happens.
Recently I’ve been mulling over how I feel in my role as a mum, six years down the line. It was a revelation to realise that I don’t have too much stomach-churning anxiety over motherhood any more, I don’t fret about whether or not I’m doing things the correct way and I no longer compare myself to other parents (that’s a fun wormhole to go down at 2am via the staged perfect family homes of the mum-robots on Instagram: Courtney Babyccino I’m looking at you).
And I wanted to say something to all the new – or maybe not-so-new – mums out there.
It does get better.
When Elfie was put into my arms on 7th July 2010 I want to say it was the best feeling in the world ever. I would love to say it was the best day of my life, that nothing compares to the rush of love I felt in that moment as I held her and got to know her sweet little face and precious little fingers.
In reality, it was actually very scary. She was all gunky and grizzly and looked rather cross, and I remember thinking how much her screwed-up red face looked like an old man’s. I’d been sliced from hip-to-hip and stapled back together so wasn’t exactly feeling on top form, and with the multitude of drugs I’d been given to cope with the c-section I remember just wanting to take a massive nap. And then a shower. But I’d just had a baby and major abdominal surgery, so both of these things were off the table.
The love bit came later, of course it did. But in-between there were many fraught times of not really knowing what I was doing, of trying to work out what the hell baby-led weaning actually was, or wanting to cry with boredom at the hell of baby groups where you were expected to only talk about babies ALL. THE. SODDING. TIME. My life was my baby: I desperately wanted an escape back to a world where women were interested in something other than their own offspring.
Elfie was a poorly baby, which didn’t help, but man alive the world of motherhood can feel so very foreign. As women we are expected to go from our satisfying and exciting careers and plunge straight in to a world that revolves around pleasing a person who’s smaller than your old desk drawer. A person who doesn’t say please or thank you, a person who doesn’t even speak yet expects you to fulfil their every whim, a person who doesn’t give you positive quarterly appraisals and definitely doesn’t pay you a salary for keeping you up half the night with bleeding nipples.
It’s terrifying, it’s exhausting, and when you’re inside that baby whirlwind it can feel like you’re very much not living up to the entirely unreal expectations of perfect Hollywood parenting.
But I’ve come to realise there is no right or wrong way to do it. Some people are born to mother and nurture, and others are born to learn how to mother and nurture. I’m the latter, and one thing I can say for motherhood is that it’s taught me immense lessons on how to be a better, more empathetic, kinder person. As much as I wonder whether having children so young was the right path to take, I know my life is entirely more positive and happier because of these lessons in life and love.
So yes, if you’re struggling with the fact you’re not that perfect parent you think you should be, please know that it does get better. You’ll find your groove, learn the acronyms (BLW! BM! CC! TTC! WTF!), find the confidence to decide what’s right for you and your baby. IT DOES GET BETTER. I promise.
Know that everyone else is struggling just as much as you are, and maybe stay away from any movies involving parenthood for, ooh, the next six years.