Friday, February 29, 2008

Motherhood: Fact vs. Fantasy

Nobody said it was easy.
No one ever said it would be so hard

Coldplay, “The Scientist”

On February 28th I caught a National Public Radio show, “World Have Your Say,” a call-in show produced by the BBC. The topic was “Does your society gives you an idyllic version of what motherhood will be and if that is the case, is there a taboo about women speaking out honestly about the downside of being a parent?" The show was a follow-up to a Women’s Hour radio show on BBC that morning that elicited literally thousands of calls and e-mails that “opened a Pandora’s box of maternal ambivalence.” These moms admitted that although they love their children their often find mothering boring, exhausting and lonely but find that speaking out about their reservations was “not done.”

The show featured a panel of women from various parts of the world who talked about their motherhood challenges, and the importance of family and friendship support networks to find relief from non-stop parenting. Moms and dads called in from around the world to say that parenting is more isolating and difficult than they imagined, but they were reluctant to admit that to others. Two bloggers from the United States were also called and they gave some great examples of the pressures women in the United States feel to comply with “perfect mother” expectations. One mom gave the example of the attachment parenting movement and how it creates onerous expectations for mothers – to carry their children constantly and to shun the use of lifesavers [in my mind anyway] such as strollers and cribs.

Let’s say that Mothers of special needs children constitute their own country. If the BBC gent called me as a spokeswoman I certainly would have boatloads to say!! I think that parents of children with disabilities are expected to be saints of sorts. We may be a bit more off the hook for raising academic or sports superstars, but we have share the expectation that we should always but our children first.

I think we also feel unique pressure, especially when our children are young, to involve our children in a whirlwind of therapies and interventions. We don’t’ often even get the luxury of complaining that our children are watching too much TV or are on the computer too much. Instead they are being shuttled to therapies or engaged in play therapy at home.

Expectations in our “special needs country” are also different because society posits that we – as mothers or fathers - must be special since we are parenting such special children. I have heard more than once that Sayer was meant to be my child because I am so well-equipped to be his mother. Well, I always appreciate positive feed-back on my parenting but Jeez, that does create a bit of pressure, don'tcha think? ”

We all have our rough days and our rough moments and it is helpful to admit this and talk about these times to others. We should not feel we must hide any evidence that we fall short of society’s ideals of special needs mothering.

To listen to the Podcast (audio copy) of the World Have Your Say Show click on this link: Listen to the Interview Be patient with the link -- it takes a few minutes to connect to the Podcast.

This is the World Have Your Say podcast home page

There are the bloggers that participated in the show:
Motherhood Uncensored
Bad Mother Chronicles


Anonymous said...

Boy Carol,
You have hit the nail on the head. Parenting children is an exhausting job. Parenting a special needs child or as we say at home a high maintenance child is like running a marathon in high heels. The early years are sort of a blur. Does it get easier? I think the problems are just different. However, some of my exhaustion is due to my own expectations. I guess what I found most isolating was, parents of typically developing children did not really understand how hard and heartbreaking it can be to have a child that is different.
Thanks for your blog!

Pam said...

Dear Dawn, I am the mom of a 20 year old with severe autism. Even though he has made little progress, I have found that life does get easier. I have a tougher skin now and I feel like the accomplishments I make in this life will not be measured in tradtional standards. I do have to admit that I had a nap this morning, which always makes everything seem a bit better. Hang in there, Pam
PS you are welcome to get on the Special Education PTSA e-mail list in Vancouver, Washington area. Coolest moms around. Write back if interested.................

Davida said...

Good words.