A mum with her hands over her, pressure from work and kids

The unseen pressures on the modern day mum

I’ve been pondering which topic we should cover for our first blog post over here at Bronwyn’s Baby. I was thinking maybe a little introduction, but no, you can access that over on the About Me section. So instead I’ve plumped for a little post all about the pressures on modern day mums. I hope you find it useful.

I keep seeing a popular meme keep popping up on my social media feed about the unseen pressure on mums, especially during this Covid pandemic. I’d like to explore that a little with you here. If you identify with any of the points discussed then please share your experiences. The more we share and talk with each other, the less hidden and taboo everyday life is.

Expectation from society

I am based in the South of the UK. My comments are based on my experience and observations as a White British woman living in a relatively middle class area of the UK. This will be different for each of us. 

I keep hearing the phrase 'women are expected to work like they don't have children, and parent like they don't work'. This feels so true to me, especially during the Covid lockdowns we have experienced here in the past 2 years. The majority of the mums I know and have spoken to took on the additional childcare when the nurseries and schools shut. They also were the main teachers when delivering the home school requirements for their children during this same time, whilst still holding down a job, juggling the children and their work and probably the household chores too. 

Why as a society do we expect mum's to do it all? This can be hugely damaging, putting pressure on mums to be something and do everything, that is so unattainable in reality. Here is a list of just some of the expectations that come to mind about being the 'perfect mother':

  • Enjoy every minute of being a mum
  • Have a paid income of some kind and 'succeed' at that job
  • Be a support to her partner
  • Prepare healthy meals for a set time
  • Have a clean and tidy house
  • Be at all the school events
  • Have one to one quality time with each child and partner every day
  • Keep her cool all the time
  • Be the primary caregiver for her children day and night
  • Ensure each child is meeting their milestones
  • Take/ enrol children to groups and clubs
  • Teach children right from wrong
  • Make all the fancy-dress costumes from scratch
  • Throw the perfect birthday party
  • Ensure all homework is completed on time
  • Exercise
  • Always look her best
  • Never look at her phone but still capture all the memories on photo
  • Not need help with all of the above!

I'm sure there are many more.

Expectation from family

My eldest daughter discovered the new Disney film, Encanto, recently. It's a sweet little film, do try and watch it if you get the chance. One of the characters in the film, Luisa is 'the strong one' carries all the physical burdens for her family and village. One day her sister, starts to ask questions and in true Disney style they break out into song resulting in her sharing how she is starting to buckle under the pressure and expectations everyone puts on her. I could totally identify with this character! I wonder how many of you do too? Although I know physically I can't and don't carry donkeys and churches, I do carry the majority of the invisible burdens for my family. A lot of mother's do. 

Disney Encanto Luisa

A lot of these burdens and pressures are completely unseen but make up internal conversations inside our head; 

  • Do the children need their sports kit today?
  • Which music instrument do they need to practice tonight?
  • Have the children done their homework?
  • Who needs to be where? 
  • Did I remember to lock the front door?
  • What colour wash needs to be done tonight?
  • Does the baby have enough cloth nappies to get through another day?
  • Is the toilet clean? 
  • What shall we have for dinner?
  • When shall I do the groceries? 
  • What do I need to pack for our upcoming holiday?
  • Is there fuel in the car?
  • Can we afford to put fuel in the car this month?
  • So on and so on....

Mum will do it! When we carry everything for our families all by ourselves we will eventually buckle and break. This will look different for each of us as we all have different capacities and tolerances for pressure, but we were never meant to do it all, alone. 

Which burden could you share this week? What could you pass over to another member of your family or a friend? Which of the plates that you're spinning could you afford to put down for a season? Have a think and a ponder and action something this week. Remember it's the small steps that add up to big change over time. 

Expectations from ourselves

Some of the pressure and burdens comes from a lifetime of inherent self-talk. Some of this has been passed down through the generations and is so ingrained we don't even notice anymore. Things that were spoken over us as children. How we saw our own mothers and grandmothers interact with the world. All of this contributes to our own self-talk and expectations we have as to how we should mother, what we should be doing. 

Be kind to yourself. Start to notice the expectations you are putting on yourself, comparing yourself to others and what you think you should be doing.

Have you ever heard the saying 'comparison is the thief of joy?' it is true! You don't know the whole truth of what others are doing or experiencing. You can only ever see through your own lens and filter. 

Notice where you are at, focus on the bigger picture, and remember there are many seasons, easy ones and hard ones, short ones and long ones. All are valid but all are different. For example if you have multiple small children (like I do) then things will probably take longer for you to do and look a whole lot messier than someone else who lives alone. Exercise for you right now might be choosing to walk to school and not the half marathon training your single neighbour is undertaking. Shake off those internal, unspoken pressures and embrace where you are at today. Life is sweeter when you go with the flow of the season you are in and not against it.  

The truth is we were never designed to 'do it all'. We are all human. We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses. And quite frankly life is so much better in community with others. We were never meant to be the best at everything. As long as we keep trying to get one up on one another and keep presenting a front instead of the truth then no-one wins! We were always meant to support each other, share life, share experiences, share expertise, share possessions and share the good and the bad, together. 

Here's a challenge for you; next time someone asks how you, instead of saying "yeah good, yea fine thanks" (insert your default equivalent), be a little vulnerable and share a little more truth. Even if you really are feeling on top of the world today, share a little of why. Maybe you'll be able to support someone else who is carrying a bit too much of the load today. 


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1 comment

Hi, I see this every day at work with the mothers I work with and feel this every day myself! Even though I know it’s ridiculous to try and be ‘perfect’ at everything – being a mum, my career, cleaning, ironing, gardening etc, exercising and looking like I’ve got my shit together for school drop off / pick ups!!! Some days the load is too heavy and I’m too exhausted and I end up crying, feeling overwhelmed and having a migraine! Wow! All because of the pressure of being a single parent, having to work and with no family here for support (my sisters live 300 miles away) so it’s just me!! My son does go to his dads so I do get a break but then I miss him and feel bad that we’re not all together like a perfect family! I feel like I can’t win!!
The reality is that is so hard being a mum. When my son was little I took a few years out from work to look after him full time and I still remember the cutting remarks of, oh, you’re ‘just a mum!’ I could have screamed that it’s exhausting, lonely and much harder than actually being out at work! I loved being able to be there for my son in the early years but I was incredibly lonely and unhappy. But I didn’t admit that as that’s not what you say or how you ‘should’ feel.
Your post has really made me think about how as mums we let this happen to us, we need to stop and support each other and be kind to ourselves and others. Stop pretending to be perfect, share our truth and go with our ‘seasons’ – I’m going to share that with my colleagues at work and with the mothers I work with as I think it’s a great way of describing our journey as parents. Thank you for your fab post 🧡

Leanne Tilling

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