Editorial | Motherhood is more complex than you think

Motherhood is a difficult and bittersweet subject to write about. 

In writing this editorial, we felt that it was important to do justice to the struggles of mothers — praising them for the hard work they put in — while acknowledging that there isn’t a clear-cut definition of what motherhood is.

In our society, we’re conditioned into believing in a single notion of what motherhood is. Girls are expected to grow up and eventually become mothers. The archaic belief that girls should expect to become mothers — and the judgment that sometimes follows when this isn’t the case — is unfortunately still prevalent today.

When it comes to motherhood, there’s a perfectionist standard placed on mothers. This comes with the advent of social media, where all of our lives are carefully curated and moms are held to an impossibly high standard. Given the monumental task of raising a human being, women are expected to know everything and are judged when they make mistakes.

Christianity, the dominant religion in the United States, reveres the Virgin Mary: a mother so perfect she gave birth without having sex and having her hymen — her purity — miraculously restored. Even one of the strongest women in the Bible has been co-opted as a symbol of an impossible standard for women, let alone mothers.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

This needs to change. We cannot and should not expect perfection in motherhood. We cannot ignore the fact that parenting is, like all aspects of life, messy and imperfect.

Motherhood in the United States is grievously unsupported. We lag behind other countries when it comes to paid maternity leave, as there is currently no national mandate in place for paid leave. There are similar problems due to a lack of adequate universal childcare.

There are many different postpartum changes to a mother’s body after childbirth. The most well-known of these is postpartum depression, but there are also physical as well as mental changes. Motherhood isn’t seamless and pretty; it changes you fundamentally — and the toughest parts of it are often swept under the rug.

With child-rearing often comes a loss of identity as your priorities shift from focusing on oneself to focusing on raising a child. A survey from the Pew Research Center found that roughly a third of moms reported that being a parent was the most important aspect of who they are as a person.

When you have kids, “Mom” becomes your name. Your hobbies and aspirations go on the back burner.

Mothers and their children can have strenuous relationships — especially with adolescent daughters. According to The Wall Street Journal, mothers tend to see their daughters as extensions of themselves and act in ways that may be interpreted as controlling to prevent their daughter from making the same mistakes.

Children will incur a mental toll on their mothers regardless of age. With adolescence and beyond comes a different set of complex problems that moms have to deal with.

This Moms Weekend, we encourage you to acknowledge your mothers as human beings with lives that are separate from just being a mom.

Thus far, we’ve only covered one angle of what a mother could be. But motherhood — being the complex subject that it is — isn’t just when you’re a mother who is taking care of her child.

Sometimes mothers have to rely on their own children to take on some of the responsibilities of motherhood for their younger siblings, while the mother is preoccupied with working to support their family. This act of motherhood expands the definition of what motherhood can be.

Taking on a maternal role at an early age — and all of the responsibilities associated with it — is life-changing. All of the current “mom friend” big sisters should also be given some recognition for being impromptu moms in their own right.

All families are different, and sometimes the mom niche is filled by a different kind of mom. Nannies, grandparents and adoptive moms should also be honored this Moms Weekend for putting in the same work required of a biological mom.

As a society, it’s imperative that we reject the notion that motherhood has a uniform “look,” and acknowledge that our mother figures are human beings who are allowed to make mistakes as they clock in for the hardest job in the world.


[email protected]