Emma Rosen, writer, mother, singer and breastfeeding advocate. shares her views about the realities of becoming a parent and why honesty in motherhood is so important.
Hands up if you’ve heard phrases like, ‘You’ll forget it all soon enough,’ ‘At least you got a healthy baby,’ ‘You’ll miss these years – the best of your life.’ Did it make you want to kick those people in the shins for brushing you aside?
People do have a tendency to rose-tint parenthood.
The wonderful little bundle, the hours gazing at them, the fulfilment of raising this little human… These things are of course true – I’m not trying to say that parenthood is a constant thankless slog – but it’s important to remember the other side: the difficulty of growing and birthing a tiny human, the mum guilt, the ‘so tired I might die’, or the isolation. None of these things make parenthood bad – rather, they make it real. Human relationships aren’t easy, they’re complex. I’m sure every one of you could tell me the most annoying things about the person you love most or the hard things about a job you love. Everything is multi-layered.
It’s normal to want to put a positive spin on experiences; the issue is that when we sugarcoat our experiences we influence the expectation of others. If pregnancy or parenthood are set up as perfect and beautiful, when our personal experiences are different we feel cheated, or worse, responsible. That doesn’t mean we should be spreading horror stories either, we just need to be honest.
Humans communicate and learn through social stories.
If we were in hunter-gatherer communities we’d be sitting round the fire sharing tales, but we don’t do that any more. We are increasingly isolated and living in filtered online communities. The implications of this are that our personal interactions become so much more important in establishing what constitutes an ordinary experience.
I wrote my book Milk as an honest story of my pregnancies, birth and breastfeeding. It’s a complex story with cultural, social and historical context. My experience was good, bad and every shade in between. I wanted make sure my telling of it was honest in order to help other parents feel less alone or for birth workers to have more empathy. My story is my own and of course everyone’s experience is different. Whilst not everyone is going to write a book about their experiences, you will most likely be talking about them in some form. Be real – we owe each other the benefits of our shared stories.
Emma Rosen loves all things breastfeeding and volunteers as a peer supporter at a local breastfeeding support group. When she’s not writing or chasing her children, Emma makes YouTube videos, stares at the sea and sings in a band.