Today I am taking on the "Motherhood Challenge". And by taking on, I do NOT mean taking part. I'm not on Facebook, so I've only heard about this new fad through other people and my husband has shown me what it entails. For those of you who don't know, the Motherhood Challenge consists of picking the pictures of you and/or your children that you feel best sum up why you love being a mother. Cute, right? But then you're supposed to tag a bunch of your mummy friends who you think are doing an awesome job at motherhood, and that's a little less cute.
So, let's break this down. First of all, there's a good chance you'll forget to tag one of your mummy friends (or maybe you won't tag her on purpose because you think she's doing a shitty job), and when she sees your Motherhood Challenge and realises that you left her out of your "awesome mummy" list, she's probably going to feel really bad. I mean, she might not care at all. But if she's having a fucking awful day and feeling really emotionally fragile, seeing that you left her out might just make her feel a whole lot worse.
Then there's this: Some mothers out there are struggling. I don't mean that they're just having a difficult day and maybe the kids were late to school this morning. We all have those days. I'm talking about the mums out there who are battling mental health issues, like post-natal depression, and feeling really fucking alone and inadequate. Maybe it takes a mother who has experienced that mental struggle to identify this seemingly harmless "challenge" as potentially triggering, but surely then that further underlines the distinct lack of education around the issue. Surely things like the Motherhood Challenge only serve to widen the chasm and perpetuate the shame culture even more.
Last January, I was struggling. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I wanted to run away, and do you know what made it worse? Breastfeeding selfies, because the #brelfie was a huge thing at the time and it wasn't happening for us (which is not the only reason I was having a hard time; that story can be found here). I felt like such a failure and, worse than that, I felt totally isolated by my catastrophic lack of success because everywhere I looked I saw calm, beautiful pictures of mothers breastfeeding their little babies. It wasn't that I couldn't be happy for those women and their babies, it was that I was in such a dark, horrible little place that I just couldn't cope. I compared myself to those mothers and found myself entirely lacking, so much so that I was convinced my children would be better off without me.
I'm not telling you that you shouldn't post breastfeeding selfies or take part in the Motherhood Challenge, I'm just reaching out to you in the hope that you might take a moment to consider if any of your mummy friends might be struggling before you post your pictures. Right now, the odds are that you know someone who thinks she's a crap mother and that every single other woman in the world is doing a better job of motherhood than she is. And the worst part is that she probably isn't talking about it because she feels ashamed. So, maybe instead of posting photos of your most perfect moments, perhaps you need to let your friends know that you're there for them and that they have your support and not your judgement. Which is not to say that I think you are judging them, but mental health issues can change our perceptions, and depression is the darkest, coldest, loneliest little mountaintop in the world and the view is of everyone else doing better and being happier than you ever could.
I'm not trying to preach to you. That's not why I'm here. I'm here because motherhood is fucking hard sometimes, and I feel like we need to make sure that we don't alienate the mums who are struggling by pushing them further into the mental confines of their own shame. Most of all, I want you to know that if you're struggling, you are not alone.