Written by: Nicky Barker, Founder of Little Ones & Paediatric Sleep Specialist
Motherhood has changed dramatically in the last few decades. The big rise in female equality has meant that woman are now used to being in charge, we're used to being independent and being able to do things on our own and we've got this mentality now that we can do anything, and, we can, but... we're so used to being capable, we don't know how to ask for help.
There has been a massive shift and a move away from more of a traditional model of motherhood where we would have been relying heavily on the guidance and advice of the other woman around us who had done it, who were infinitely more experienced because they'd already been through it. Now, we find ourselves in these tiny isolated family units where we are trying to become an expert in something we've never done before and something that is a massive physical and emotional change from anything we've ever experienced in our whole lives.
Suddenly we're drowning.
It's no surprise that post-natal depression statistics just continue to go up and up and up, that mothers are feeling like failures from the parenting get-go because, as woman, these days, we're so used to being successful, so used to being independent and in control and being able to do anything and we're told this too - that women can do anything. We've conditioned our society towards that belief and then motherhood comes along, which arguably is one of the most "instinctive" roles and we just assume that we can do it, because, why wouldn't we be able to do it? We can do anything remember.
Except that it's hard and it's different and it's exhausting.
We're set up to fail, I think, by the expectations we set ourselves and it's not socially acceptable or seen as being a "strong woman" to ask for help. We see it all the time, you will have seen it too - a woman is asked how her baby is or how she is doing and she's grinning through clenched teeth saying "we're fine, I'm totally fine", almost like it's seen as a weakness to admit that she's not coping or that she doesn't know what to do next. It's seen as a failure if her baby isn't sleeping and if she's unsure about motherhood. She's smiling to all her friends, probably to her family, maybe even to her husband and she then goes home and cries on her own.
It's not sustainable to live like this.
There needs to be a shift - we need to stand up and go "YEAH, parenting is bloody tough and we're all doing it, it's tough for all of us and no one expects you to do it on your own". We need to have a move back to some kind of model where it's socially acceptable to help each other. Where we can let the guard down and admit we don't know what the heck we're doing. You don't have to pretend or assume you know everything about feeding and sleep and behaviour the second your baby is born; that is unrealistic and if you've never done it before, everything is new to you - every stage, every sleep regression, every blip, every period of development or nap transition. You don't have to be an expert in something you've never done before.
But we think that's what the world expects of us. Maybe we expect it of ourselves?
You wouldn't be thrown into an operating room and expected to perform surgery never having done it. Never knowing anything about it! No one in a million years would expect that of you. There is training, a lot of training, for a role like that because it's complicated and just because motherhood is perceived as being "natural" for a woman, doesn't make it uncomplicated.
The other day my 6 year old asked me randomly, "how do grown-ups know how to look after babies?" A very good question! I didn't really know what to tell her. I thought about it and gingerly said "because other grown-ups show us how to"... But then I realised that doesn't happen, not these days. How do we learn to look after babies?
In generations gone by and in more traditional cultures there is pretty much the equivalent of a training regime for motherhood. These people knew how to do it! You had the real village model which means children from a very very young age are around babies and mothers, they're seeing, they're helping. That's a massive apprenticeship for them! They're spending a large chunk of their lives learning how to become a mother and by the time they have their own children, not only have they been witnessing motherhood for years, but they also have the support and guidance of all those experienced mothers around them, every day.
Today's society could learn a lot from this. Because yes it absolutely takes a village to raise a child... but it also takes a village to raise a mother. And that's where we're letting mothers down today, every day; we removed the village because we don't need any help. Remember? We're women.
We are women.
So lets start behaving like women and talk, share, cry, lean, help, love, guide, support.
Over here, we are. We built a village. The Little Ones Village is a place where thousands and thousands of mothers from all over the world are doing just that - helping one another, supporting one another. All day, every day, through everything. We're all good at something, but no one is good at everything, and so we share our strength and expertise with others. We have #strengthinnumbers. We've #totallygotthis.