Motherhood and Mental Health: The Dual Battle of Losing Self and Idealism

Through the course of time, motherhood is something which is often linked with womanhood. It is sort of an implied obligation by the Indian society that women should carry children. Motherhood could be a blessing but does it really have to be a duty too?

The Indian society has always been glorifying the concept of an ideal mother. It is believed that every mother should live up to its standards of being self-sacrificing and always be there for their child. Of course, every mother wants the best for her child but why does she have to completely abandon herself to do so? Motherhood might have the potential of being a beautiful journey and we as a society ought to realise that it does not have to turn into a curse for women.

There is no denying that looking after a child is a strenuous task, but what society fails to understand is that the mother needs the same amount of rest and care as the child. More often than not, heteronormative families direct all their love and care towards the baby and the father, neglecting the health of the mother. Rarely do we ask how is that even remotely fair when it’s the mother who ends up making all the sacrifices? She cannot eat her favourite spicy food, gets almost no sleep, has to breastfeed, dispose off dirty diapers and even disregards her own well-being. Despite doing all this without much help from their husbands, mothers are still criticised for not satisfying society’s unreasonable expectations of being the “Ideal Indian Mother”.

This could be easily traced back to the rigid heteronormative gender codes and biases that run deep in our society to this date. They are so deeply embedded in our Indian society that they even taint what should be an honest practice such as parenting! Each parent is expected to take up the unspoken societal roles; the father should only concerned with the financial stability and mother, with everything else. There is a need to accept that parenting requires both the parents. Certainly, it is not just the duty of the mother to look after the child.

It’s an unfair expectation from the mothers who had and still going through a tremendous biological and mental transformation post-childbirth. Giving a birth obviously affects their body shape and leave them with quite evident stretch marks as well as scars of stitches. A lot of mothers get conscious of their body shape and tend to lose self-confidence, which further results in self-loathing tendencies.

Along with questioning their appearance, considerable number of mothers simultaneously experience mood swings, sleeping troubles, fatigue, detachment from loved ones and sometimes even suffer from postpartum depression. The lack of awareness about postpartum depression is astonishing, especially when a decent number of women suffer from it. The women suffering, often assess themselves as incompetent mothers and doubt themselves. They can be seen struggling to cope with this situation, especially without much familial support, given the existing mental health stigma in our country.

One can often find new mother to be drained of their energy, leading to persistent mental and physical exhaustion. In many cases, mothers can be noticed to be too tired to hang out with their friends or go to the mall or to even listen to some of music of their choice (which does not include nursery rhymes). Being forced to function in a sleep-deprived state can easily take a toll on their mental state, resulting in frustration and resentment.

All the not-so-subtle societal pressure disrupts the mental health of the mothers as it forces them to feel guilty for caring for their own selves. Society has brainwashed them into believing that all “good mothers” are supposed to lose themselves for the betterment of their child.

Under the burden of care-giving and mom-guilt, it is very much likely for mothers to experience anxiety, panic attacks, self-loathing, stress and many other mental health issues. I have observed this personally in the instance of my own mother. She stopped living for herself and believed that all she needs to focus on is me; which is immensely toxic for her and for me!

Society idolises mothers as these sacrosanct Godly figures and often objects to their need of individual freedom and just life, in general. Mothers and fathers are equally responsible for taking care of their little ones, irrespective of what the society expects them to do. Let’s not do wrong by the mothers by subjecting them to such preposterous expectations of becoming the ideal mothers single-handedly.  

A mother is her own person who should be simply allowed to do whatever she wants to do. She has the right to ask for help with motherhood and be the person she was before becoming a mother. It is time we as a society realise that mothers are entitled to care for themselves as they’re humans too!


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