Tennis super star Serena Williams has again been speaking out about her struggles with motherhood, postnatal emotions and how tough it is to balance work and being a mum. The fact that one of the most powerful, successful women in the world finds motherhood tough and more importantly talks about it is so important for other women.
Serena Williams said in an emotional Instagram post earlier this week;
“Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom.
I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with. I like communication best. Talking things through with my mom, my sisters, my friends let me know that my feelings are totally normal.
It’s totally normal to feel like I’m not doing enough for my baby.
We have all been there. I work a lot, I train, and I’m trying to be the best athlete I can be.
However, that means although I have been with her every day of her life, I’m not around as much as I would like to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes.
I’m here to say: if you are having a rough day or week–it’s ok–I am, too!!! There’s always tomm!”
I was interviewed on seven BBC radio stations about motherhood and mental health, following Serena’s post. One question they ALL asked was this; “do you think it’s a good thing that Serena is speaking out like this?”. My answer was a resounding “HELL TO THE YEAH!.” because in my opinion the more people that speak out the struggles we all face as mothers (and indeed parents in general), the better.
It doesn’t matter what your background is. You could be rich, poor, working parents, non-employed parents, young parents or older parents; every one of us, no matter what our background can – and no doubt does – feel that enormous burden of parenthood weighing down on us. And boy can it feel heavy.
Some people are under the impression that Serena should be exempt from the pressure of motherhood. After all, she’s an uber successful, mega-loaded athlete, and can afford all the childcare she wants, right? But this is a totally naive view. As Serena admits herself, she has felt at times “not a good mum”. Like many of us, she’s clearly had that “mum guilt” thing going on. Whilst training she must have felt she should be with her baby. Whilst spending time with her baby she no doubt felt like she should have been training. We can’t win and I have no doubt that this is a common affliction amongst us all.
I can so relate to that “feeling like a crap mom” sentiment. During my bleak period of late onset postnatal depression I felt like a total failure. My youngest daughter had some kind of severe reflux and was under 1. My eldest was around 18 months old and I was buckling under the strain and pressure of it all. I didn’t feel sad. I felt angry and frustrated. I felt guilty that I was (what I assumed to be) a “crap mum”. I couldn’t fulfil my one duty: to keep my babies comfortable and happy. The sleep deprivation was hideous and made me feel awful. I lashed out at those I loved. I lost my identity. I began to self-harm. I felt like I was losing myself more and more daily, and yet had lost all perspective on how I should feel.
I had thoughts that maybe motherhood had just turned me into a horrible person and that was the way it was. Or maybe I’d always been this horrible and just hadn’t noticed before. I had some really dark thoughts during that horrible time. Thank goodness I finally gained the courage to seek help by going to the GP.
Serena speaking out is amazing, but I still believe we have SO much further to go. That dangerous “enjoy every second, cherish every moment” narrative is still so often rammed down our throats as parents. On occasion I’ve seen fellow mums’ opinions squashed when they dare to speak out on social media of their battles, about the relentlessness of it all, the exhaustion, the fact we are always on duty.
The comments in response to this can be dangerous. The ones like ”remember how lucky you are. Many would kill to be in your situation, to (insert relevant situation) have a healthy child/have a healthy baby/be pregnant/have a roof over your head.” etc etc. Of course I don’t deny that is not the case. But I believe that the shushing of parents’ openness about the not-so-miraculous moments on the parenting journey is a risky business. I know there are times I kept quiet for fear of sounding ungrateful, incapable or selfish. We NEED to speak out more. Bottling it up is SO dangerous. We need to acknowledge the bad side of parenting as well as the good. It doesn’t make us ungrateful. It doesn’t mean we don’t adore our children. It just means we are human.