Maternity: fulfilling for some, a duty for others

How can we explain that some women are fulfilled by their motherhood while others only see it as part of their "duty as a woman"?

How is it that some women who have always wanted to be mothers realize that being a mom is not enough for them? Or other women who had always put their career first suddenly see their ambition melt like snow on a hot summer day when they have a child? How is it that some mothers are delighted while others feel limited and sometimes frustrated in their role as moms?

Being fulfilled

This is what summarizes the image of several celebrities! How many times have I looked at the first paragraph of a magazine article and found this: "I am happy and fulfilled!" I can’t really judge their situation because I don’t personally know these people! However, what I do know is that this type of repeated statement and the lack of confidence that shows the other side of the coin affect the development of many moms who find their path to be a bit less comfortable.

I realize that many of us aspire to a state of pure bliss! A state that we covet and judge at the same time because we want that but don’t know what's missing to feel fulfilled! But what does it mean to be fulfilled by motherhood?

If we look in the dictionary, being fulfilled means to receive something in abundance. To have all our desires, our hopes, and our wishes fully and completely satisfied. Then, we feel delighted, proud and satisfied.

Here are the characteristics of mothers who claim to be fulfilled (note: each mother is unique and may have one or more of these features)

  • They are women with low expectations towards motherhood.
  • Their pregnancy and childbirth went well.
  • They have an ability to adapt and a fairly positive outlook on life.
  • In some cases, they forget themselves through motherhood and neglect some aspects of their lives. They are happy being just moms.
  • They can be accomplished and fulfilled women for whom motherhood is a plus.
  • Sometimes, they feel like they have solved a feeling of weakness, or a need and the arrival of a baby fulfills this need.
  • They are proud of having given life.
  • They are not aware of their emotions.
  • Some are caught in their image and reputation. They speak only of pleasant and positive aspects.

As you can see, "being fulfilled" varies from one mother to another and, given the complexity of the human being; there are several more variations! Those described above come from my observations and my meetings with mothers.

It’s important to note that no woman can predict how she will experience motherhood and there is no magic recipe! At the risk of repeating myself, being a mom is a journey on which we have very little control! However, we can work on ourselves to get to know ourselves better and understand our progress. We are not necessarily responsible for the way things happen, but we are responsible for how we deal with them.

Not being fulfilled

Many mothers who claim to be unfulfilled are hard on themselves or are disappointed with their reality. They want their role as moms to suffice to their happiness and to be a source of great satisfaction!

To better understand what contributes to this state of mind, we can say that not being fulfilled means that we are disappointed, dissatisfied, and unhappy and that our desires are unfulfilled.

Here are several characteristics of mothers who claim to be unfulfilled (note: each mother is unique and may have one or more of these features)

  • They have many expectations (often unconscious) related to maternity.
  • Their pregnancy or childbirth did not go well.
  • Some hoped that being moms would fill and soothe them.
  • They find it hard to experience changes and miss their previous life.
  • The commitment and tasks of being a mom are heavy to bear.
  • They are demanding and critical of themselves.
  • They see themselves as inadequate.
  • Often, they are very aware of their emotions.
Feeling good

Obviously, the mother who claims to be fulfilled won’t seek to improve her reality, but those who find maternity difficult will! This quest for total happiness can seem endless, which is why I propose a more realistic goal, which is to feel good as often as possible! How do you get there? Here are some suggestions:

  • Setting realistic goals like feeling good as often as possible
  • Acknowledging and naming our deceptions and delusions
  • Taking time to grieve for what we miss
  • Accepting that it can be difficult to be a mom!
  • Seeing maternity as a path to your best self
  • Drawing a list of expectations and removing two or three
  • Daring to talk about our reality and challenges
  • Embracing vulnerability and seeking support
  • Putting our well-being in priority.
Isabelle Dagenais
Lecturer on mother’s well-being

Since the birth of her first daughter, Isabelle Dagenais has chosen to use her knowledge as a sex therapist and social worker and put it to use to help mothers. She has created Lecture/Workshops “Être maman” to help mothers with their emotional, social and sexual well-being. For more information on her lectures and workshops, visit her website.

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