Friday 19 December 2014

Mums, listen up: It's time you gave yourself a break

The supermum myth has left Irish mothers feeling more stressed out than ever before, says Kathy Donaghy

Too high a standard: Images like this one, of supermodel Gisele Bündchen breastfeeding while getting her makeup done, only serve to fuel the myth of the supermum
Too high a standard: Images like this one, of supermodel Gisele Bündchen breastfeeding while getting her makeup done, only serve to fuel the myth of the supermum
Family affair: TG4 presenter and mum of four Róisín O’Hara says nobody puts pressure on her except herself. Photo: Martin Maher

As women living in a First World country in 2014, we have more choices than ever before. Yet so many Irish mothers spend so much of that time beating themselves up. Whether they have chosen to stay at home, work full-time or juggle a part-time job with childcare, mums today are a stressed-out bunch who find themselves trying desperately to live up to the supermum myth.

The era of hothouse parenting means that many parents, particularly mothers, are getting stressed out that they are not doing it "perfectly".

The parenting website rollercoaster.ie offers a snapshot of the state of mind of mothers today. There, several new mums poured out their feelings at the expectations currently being heaped upon them.

One mother wrote: "I think we put ourselves under pressure to have a good baby, have the house spotless and snap back into shape and make it all look effortless"

Another said: "I'm not sure where the pressure comes from; partly from ourselves, celebrities, the in-laws. I know that I have had to take a step back and say 'I can't do it all'.

A third mother said she felt more pressure since she returned to work. "It's probably more from me than anyone else. I have to work but also try to be a supermum at home to compensate being away from them. This means I never rest at the weekend as I'm trying to do things with the kids as well as the housework. I'm my own worst enemy."

Tric Kearney, a mother of four from Carrigaline, Co Cork, says that after years of experience she realises this pressure mothers feel is mostly coming from themselves.

Mum to Aoife (22), Tiarnán (19), Naoise (16) and Caoimhe (12), Tric believes that some of this pressure stems from the way motherhood has changed in the last 50 years.

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Family affair: TG4 presenter and mum of four Róisín O’Hara says nobody puts pressure on her except herself. Photo: Martin Maher

"If you look at the evolution of motherhood from my mother's time to mine there's a big difference. It was very easy years ago. Society recognised that being a mother was what you did. Mothers didn't need to justify themselves," she says.

However, Tric did find it very difficult when she first became a mother over two decades ago and gave up her job in nursing to stay at home.

"I tried to be the perfect mother, and I found it incredibly isolating. I spent the first six months after my daughter was born at home with no car and there was no bus, with three channels on the TV. I felt like I was 92 years old instead of 24," she says.

However Tric, who writes a blog about her parenting experiences, 'My thoughts on a page', says now she can look back on that time and smile.

For Róisín O'Hara, a journalist and mum to four children Ríona (7), Fionán (4) and twins Éanna and Marcus (3), being happy in yourself as a mother is paramount.

But she is all too aware of the pressure she puts on herself. While it requires a lot of juggling with four kids, she says that stopping work was never an option for her.

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Irish Independent

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