“I’m Not Ashamed,” Says a Bright Side Writer Who Gave up on Trying to Be the Perfect Mother
Hello! My name is Juliana and I’m raising an 11-year-old son. Since the very first days of motherhood, I have been dealing with the confusing behavior of other people. Everyone seemed to know better about how I should feed, bathe, swaddle, and most importantly, raise my child. And then I realized that it wasn’t about me — today, almost every woman who has a child is criticized by other people.
Today, I want to tell Bright Side readers my story of overcoming imposed fears and how I finally started to feel like a real mother.
My son was born in a small regional maternity home. Right away, he was carried to the children’s ward and was given to me only according to a strict schedule. The nurse came to our ward with a long trolly containing a row of small crying babies. After you get your baby, you’re supposed to feed it hastily then return it.
My baby had an angry, swollen face and he couldn’t open one of his eyes.
I was looking at him and thinking about how glamorous magazines often described how future mothers would feel after giving birth with warm, tender, unconditional love for their child. But instead, I felt pains in my stitches and in my arms that were pierced with drips. And on top of all that, I just wanted to have a good night’s sleep.
All my discomfort was hidden by feelings of curiosity. My neighbors in the ward and I didn’t even think about kissing and hugging our babies, we were just looking at them like, “Wow, I made a person with fingers, eyelashes, and everything else.”
But that “promised love” didn’t rush in right away.
I was ashamed.
It seems to me that almost every woman knows this feeling: “She should be forever ashamed.” This is probably supposed to motivate you for big things in your child’s future.
You’re supposed to give birth yourself (a C-section is not considered giving birth) and then, for as long as possible, you should breastfeed (artificial feeding is for lazy people). You’re supposed to start your child’s development from the very first days of their life, then help them get through kindergarten, grade school, and eventually college.
If you don’t do these things, you will be judged and criticized by people with sadistic fire in their eyes.
Sometimes, I’d start explaining myself to people who were complete strangers — to a nurse, a local doctor, a nurse in a kindergarten, or an angry lady in a hospital. Sometimes I’d explain myself to a neighbor who wanted to play with my child or to an old lady in a store who tried to give my child some candy he shouldn’t eat. I’d even explain my actions to a different mother whose baby could already walk, talk, and play with toys.
But at some point, I started to relax.
This year, my baby is turning 11. And only recently have I realized that my son and I are terribly tired of the constant pressure from everyone and I can finally admit to myself that I am not a perfect mother.
I don’t feel ashamed of having a C-section. Again, I gave birth, I didn’t hide from the contractions. And I don’t know what is better: having a few hours of torture or barely being able to walk for a couple of days postpartum (they made me walk in the corridor 12 hours after the surgery even with a huge stitch on my belly).
Yes, when my son was 6 months old, he started eating artificial food. Mostly because of the hysterical attitude toward breastfeeding. They look at you as if you’re a lazy mother in clinics, and your mother-in-law says, “Skinny women like you don’t have enough milk.”
I didn’t make my son listen to classical music and I didn’t put letters on the walls. But he had a shelf with cool toys that he could play with however he wanted.
About 3 months after giving birth, I stopped heating his bottles and ironing the sheets. It didn’t affect my son’s health but my life became much easier right away.
When he was 4 years old, I got divorced. I realized that I couldn’t live in this crazy rhythm any more as the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect housewife, and the breadwinner. But yes, I am ashamed that my son has to grow up without his father.
Mothers are also human.
I stopped feeling ashamed when I realized that my child and I didn’t have to look exactly like the perfect families from motherhood magazines. We’re not robots, we’re human, and all of us have the right to feel our own emotions and deserve to be given space.
I’m not ashamed that I have never done homework with my son. I’ve only ever been able to oversee a difficult task or try to explain some grammar rules to him. I’m not ashamed that I never got up earlier in the morning to “edit” his picture he spent the entire evening drawing for the art class he hates so much. I think this is what true caring is.
I don’t get up at 6 a.m. to make pancakes, and I don’t do all the house chores myself. I am not ashamed of pointing out to my son that I am busy and that he can make pasta himself.
I’m not part of any parenting committees simply because I’m just not interested. I visited his school’s opening ceremony once during his first year. I’ll visit it again when he finishes school.
I can leave a store without dozens of pieces of children’s clothes. If I want a new dress, I buy it. I don’t feel ashamed or tell to myself something like, “You’re a mother, you don’t need it.”
I have the right to be alone. I can go to the movies for a couple of hours, I can just scroll my feed in a cafe, or stay in the bathroom with a face mask. This is sort of a mini-vacation that all of us need to change modes from “mom” to “I’m only human”.
And the love appeared naturally.
My love for my son appeared as a true, conscious feeling. I’m interested in watching my child grow up, change, and learn to deal with the difficulties in life, finding common ground with other people.
When we have time, we play ping-pong and ride bicycles. We like playing with the world map — looking for towns with funny names and thinking about how people would travel during the age of discovery. I got my son hooked on reading fantasy books and explained to him that computers don’t only have games but are also useful tools.
And I always kiss him goodnight and I never say, “I’m ashamed of you.”
This is all because I really don’t care about other people’s opinions.
Have you ever felt ashamed of being a “bad” mother? Tell us your stories, we’d love to hear them.