Research has found that on average, women's self-esteem declines during pregnancy. For some, their self-esteem never sees an increase afterwards while some will see an increase after six months of motherhood.
Mothers can feel overwhelmed: you suddenly have a life that is dependent on you and you're afraid you'll mess it all up! Although many women experience a lack of confidence, it is important for mothers to work on their self-esteem so they feel whole and happy and be the best versions of themselves they can be for their families and for themselves.
Between Facebook and the beautiful Instagram pictures of pregnant mothers and cute babies, sometimes, one may think that motherhood is all rainbows and daisies. Let's be honest, the media often paints mothers as these fantastical beings who can do no wrong and can do it all.
But this is not the case, moms are human too. What Instagram and the advertisement with the mother who manages to make elaborate lunchboxes with a fully contoured face forget to tell you about motherhood, is this: becoming a mother does not only mean giving birth to someone but giving birth to a new identity.
Up until you've had a child, you've been in charge of your own life, knowing that the decisions you make will mostly affect you. Once you're a mom, that changes. Some women stress about what kind of mother they'll be. Will you have enough money to support your child? Will the child be healthy? How will the child turn out? WILL THE CHILD LIKE YOU?? It can all be too much, this series of self-doubt can take a toll on your self-esteem.
After a few months or years, you suddenly find yourself only identifying as one thing: a mom. You start putting yourself last, thinking it's what a mom is supposed to do and you beat yourself up about not being this perfect illusion of what a mother is. Most women will compare themselves to their own mothers, forgetting that society tends to see motherhood through rose-coloured glasses.
Also read: Perceptions and role models
Another fact about motherhood is that mothers will re-experience childhood through their children. Mothers who do not look back at their childhood with fondness could find themselves feeling pressured to live up to the unattainable image of what motherhood should be.
Research also shows that for first-time moms, pregnancy is filled with intimacy and strong relationships but once the baby comes, those relationships start to falter. Many mothers may feel unloved and start questioning their self-worth.
So what do you do when you start feeling overwhelmed, your body doesn't look the way it used to and you think you're doing badly at this motherhood thing?
Here are a few tips that we hope will help you bounce back and start loving yourself all over again:
1. Stop comparing yourself to other moms
This includes your own mom. Chances are, those 'perfect moms are also going through their own struggles. What worked for your mom years ago may not work in 2018. Find your own groove, and stick to that. It's okay to get some friendly advice from friends and family and even parenting websites, but be a mother on your own terms. Your children will thank you for it.
2. Stop worrying about your post-baby body
Guess what? Your body carried a human being for months, of course it's not going to be the same as it was when you were in your teens. Everyone's body is different, so embrace your curves, your lumps and bumps and stretchmarks. They're part of the package but they're not negatives, they're battle scars and you're winning!
3. Ask for help
Moms may know best, but they don't have to know everything. Ask for help if you're unsure about something or if you're feeling like the walls are caving in. No one will judge you. Your loved ones are there to support you, so let them know when you need them.
Also read: The worst things to say to a parent
4. Be a little bit selfish
Ask your partner or a close family member to look after the children and spend a day doing the stuff you liked doing before you were a mom. It could be spending some time with your friends, going to the movies or just reading a book. Consider it as a form of recharging your batteries.
5. Remind yourself that you're doing your best
The perfect mom does exist – it's the one that admits that they're not perfect. So, you're doing great! It's okay to not have all the answers about ringworm or which breakfast is the best for healthy bones (the internet is there after all).
6. Enjoy it
Children grow up in the blink of an eye, enjoy every moment with them. Laugh with them, watch them grow their own opinions and personalities and nurture them. The plus side is that you'll have a Rolodex of embarrassing stories to tell about them when they grow up.
Keep affirming to yourself that it's okay and it will be okay. After all, you're a mom now and moms absolutely do know best!
If you continue to feel overwhelmed and depressed, seek professional help, there is nothing to feel ashamed about.
- SA Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG) 0800 20 50 26, www.sadag.org
- Families South Africa (Famsa) 011 975 7106/7 (phone for an office near you), www.famsaorg.mzansiitsolutions.co.za
- Mental Health Information/Suicide Crisis 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393
- The SA Federation for Mental Health 011 781 1852 or email email@example.com
- Find a therapist near you: TherapyRoute
What advice would you give mothers struggling with their confidence and self-esteem? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your comments.
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