It’s one of life’s greatest taboos: admitting that you might not fully enjoy being a mother. But in an extraordinary act of bravery, one woman has done exactly that.
The struggling mum – who wanted to preserve her family’s anonymity – asked other parents for advice on parenting website Mumsnet.
In the honest and heartfelt post, she admitted feeling “resentful” of the life she has now – and sometimes feels her 11-month-old son would be better off without her. She described situations many parents will identify with: her son suffering from silent reflux, being “fussy and clingy”, teething and not sleeping well.
“I feel so resentful of the life I have right now,” she wrote. “I am disgusted with myself for feeling this way and not enjoying the time I have with my son.”
The mum also struggled with being away from work, adding: “I hate the fact I no longer feel like I fit in at work and I equally hate the fact that I’m jealous my maternity cover has essentially become me – I feel so overlooked and discarded.”
She ended, simply, with: “I don’t know how to fix how I’m feeling.”
Surprisingly, the responses weren’t judgmental at all, but quite the opposite.
One parent replied: “This could have been me, four years ago. I know exactly how you feel – the momentous change, the relentless work, the fact that you don’t feel like you’re good enough at anything anymore. I felt like I had died.”
But the mother had a message of hope: “Right now I’m heading out the door with my wonderful five-year-old, who is full of fascinating questions and conversation and independence. And I can honestly say I’ve never been so happy. Work and life are back on track – please know you’re not alone, it is so, so, so hard. But it will get better.”
Others gave her reassurance that actually, it’s okay not to enjoy certain stages of parenting. “Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to hate some stages/phases,” one person wrote. “It doesn’t make you a bad parent or a bad person at all. No one really loves every minute of having kids and some phases are not your forte or just objectively suck. But the good news is that they keep growing and changing and any one phase doesn’t last long in the grand scheme.”
Some suggested the mother might benefit from seeking help from a doctor. “You may be depressed,” one wrote. “Postnatal depression can occur any time in baby’s first year.”
“It will get better,” they added. “Your son is lucky to have you, you sound like you work hard and are trying your absolute best.”
Reacting to the mother’s post, a spokeswoman for PANDAS Foundation, a charity supporting women with pre and postnatal depression, said self care is “paramount” for new parents. “We encourage mothers to take the help they are offered, seek help and use the services that are available,” the charity said.
“Love and bonding will ensure the baby is happy and well looked after, but, equally, a mother needs to be looked after herself, to enjoy all the things that a new baby brings. We would also encourage parents not to judge themselves based on unrealistic images portrayed in the media of parents ‘doing it well!’”
For information and support:
Mind: A mental health charity there to make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone. Call: 0300 123 3393.
Pandas Foundation: Charity to support and advise any parent who is experiencing a perinatal mental illness. Call: 0843 28 98 401.
Mothers for Mothers: A postnatal depression support group with information and peer advice. Call: 0117 975 6006.
PNI: A website run by women who have suffered from postnatal illnesses to share personal experiences and offer support.