Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why Do Women Lie About Motherhood?

Here is a question for my readers:

When you read the dozens of posts by regretful mothers that I have linked to on this blog , what kinds of questions do you come up with?

I have a few, but the question that is in the forefront of my mind is: 

Why do women lie to each other about motherhood?


Many mothers enjoy parenting and are happy to be moms, but it is clear that there are also many who are unhappy.  Some desperately so.  Some even suicidal.  As we have seen, these mothers are coming out of the woodwork to express their displeasure on the internet where they can hide behind their computer screens in a shroud of anonymity and commiserate with the many other similarly miserable moms.  Most claim that while they love their child(ren), they hate being a mom.  Many say they wish they never had kids and that if they could do it all over again, they wouldn't have children.  Some advise others who are contemplating having children NOT to do it.  Many say motherhood has stripped them of their identities - that they are shells of their former selves and they would do anything to get their former childfree lives back.  Many say motherhood is a scam and they are angry about how they were lied to and hoodwinked into a life that is nothing as promised.

So who is doing the scamming?

I would argue that many of the women who are miserable being moms, regret it with their entire being and would do anything to go back to their life before children, are the very same women who are scornful of the childfree, lie to other women and continue to promote the "scam"  that having children is the one true path to happiness and fulfillment.

How do I know this is true?  It's simple math.  While many, many women are catharting all over the internet about the hell that is motherhood, in our day-to-day lives we hear virtually NOTHING but glowing reviews from women about motherhood.  So somebody is lying, or at the minimum withholding the truth.

As always, I have my theories.  I think there are many reasons a woman lies to other women about motherhood:

1.  She feels she can't be honest and admit how much she hates it because to do so would immediately label her as a "bad mom".  And that is a really painful label to wear.

2.  She is afraid that if she admits she hates being a mom, people will think she doesn't love her child(ren).  Again - this would label her a bad mom and a horrible person.

3.  She is worried that there is something wrong with her.  Since everyone else claims motherhood is the pinacle of existence, a woman's "most important role", and "so worth it", they must be right.  There must be something wrong with her and she must be defective in some way.  This is a hard thing to accept so she pretends it isn't so and deludes herself and everyone else into believing that she too is happy and fulfilled by her role as mother.

4.  She wants to appear happy and successful, and one way to accomplish this is to claim that she is happy with the choices she has made and the path she has taken with her life.  To say she is unhappy and regretful would result in her being perceived as a loser, and that hurts too much.

5. It is simply too painful to admit that she royally fucked up her life, because unlike other life choices, she can't undo this mistake.  Having kids is for life.  So it's better to pretend and lie to herself and others that motherhood is her greatest joy than to face the fact that she is facing a lifetime prison sentence.

6.  She is jealous of her childfree friends, and it kills her to constantly be reminded of the great life she once had.  Perhaps "misery loves company" comes into play here. By lying about motherhood and converting others to the awful motherhood role, she reduces her exposure to happy, unencumbered women - women who are a constant stream of salt in her wounds and reminder of what she lost.

Would anyone else like to add their theories as to why women lie to each other about motherhood?  I hope my mom readers will chime in on this one.

28 comments:

Christy said...

I think they do have a few highs, but unlike drugs, they are very few and far between. Even if a child (or drug) made you high a lot, but it drove all your friends and spouse away, it would still be a bane. I don't get it. I see so much bad and very little good. I think it is mostly a 'join our club so I won't have to be alone in this world of suck' thing. Nobody feels as bad when they find out other people are as bad off as they are, and that goes for finances and health, too, so it's not always malicious. Nobody can make you have a baby, either. I think that even if the whole truth came out and spread to everyone, a lot of people would still want to have children, believing their experience would turn out better.

Trying to Figure it Out said...

I totally agree with Christy (above) and think your #6 is the reason most people tell you having a kid is great. If I had a kid, I would try convince ALL my friends to have kids...especially if child-rearing really is the hell it appears to be. And I'd be so jealous of the childfree. Jealous and bitter.

Lindsay (Happy Herbivore) said...

This brings up an interesting point. I have one friend who is always after me to have kids. I mean almost every day it comes up. BUT her facebook statuses sound like she is absolutely miserable 80% of the time. Almost nothing she blogs, tweets or notes of Facebook "sells" motherhood and yet day in and day out she's telling me its so great and i will be so happy and i need to become a mother...

Leah said...

Maybe it's because of the rift that forms between new parents and their former friends. If you could only get the cool people to join the parenthood prison, then you could have cool friend again, instead of exhausted husks?

Zazzu said...

Why do women lie about motherhood?

They desperately hope that, if they keep lying, they'll eventually believe it.

They've (possibly)already wrecked everything else - their marriages, their bodies, their friendships, and their career potential by becoming mothers. They must convince themselves that the mommy experience is worth more than all those other things since they're stuck with that choice for the rest of their lives. How could they possibly go on otherwise?

The party doesn't stop when you become a parent. It just goes on without you. And you can never come back. Ever.

critter said...

All of the above. Especially 1 & 2.

babycakes51089 said...

As you said, some women think something is wrong with them for not liking motherhood. I think when they lie they aren't necessarily trying to delude themselves; they've only experienced their parents enjoying parenting and other parents saying how wonderful it is. I think sometimes we are too hard on these people who say it is great. What's possible is that they don't want to deprive other people from being parents because maybe they think they would actually enjoy it. we have to remember how strongly society says that motherhood/parenthood is rewarding.

Clever Elsie said...

New here and don't want to seem like a troll because I love what I've read so far, but I have to play the devil's advocate in the service of what (I think) may be the truth: I think some women genuinely love motherhood. I'm child-free, but I'm close with some of those women, and they really do seem to enjoy it. I think, though, that the women who love it are the women who had no other major goals in life, the women who knew they wanted to be mommies since they were kids and always felt like that was their raison d'etre. I think what's important is for each of us to figure out whether or not we're that kind of person before having kids because anyone who has personal ambitions is going to be at least somewhat dissatisfied with motherhood.

Barsola said...

I've always commented on my mommy friends Facebook walls that really, truly seem to enjoy being a mother because the majority of mommies post stuff like, "Kid sick, again, got no sleep" or "kid had a melt down and i almost did as well." I hate when mommies only post stuff about their kids. But, to agree with Christy, it's the same mentality, "Oh, this tastes horrible; try it!" As in, you won't believe how bad this is until you try and me just telling you about it isn't enough.

oceangirl36 said...

Have been reading this blog for a while(and love it!)but first time posting.
Our society still pushes motherhood as the end goal for all women and in reality I think only a small percentage really have the disposition or want for it. Instead of acknowledging this,women lie to each other and keep pushing the myth that parenthood is for everyone and it doesn't matter if you want to go back to school, travel the world, or whatever you want to do with your life, it all pales to being a mommy. Then when women fall for it, they feel betrayed b/c for some people it's not worth it.

firefly said...

I agree with Christy too. People do things not just for themselves but within a social context -- and parenthood, at least on the dead end street where I live, is like a big country club. Parents socialize with other parents according to their kids' friends (generally in age groups) and all together just because they have kids.

On this street, there are several neighborhood holiday events tacitly organized around children: an Easter egg hunt, a block party in June, Halloween in October. "Everybody" is invited but we learned early on that the childfree neighbors (even the empty nesters who had kids) pretty much don't bother. It's mostly candy, screaming children, and parents reinforcing the club mentality in the name of "community building."

Not once is there an "all adult" neighborhood event even though the houses here are split 50-50 with kids/no kids, and it's the adult neighbors who do good deeds for each other and really constitute the community.

So when we first moved here, I felt quite left out. I can see the influence of wanting to belong on people: it's not easy to stand up and be an individual who goes against the flow.

Feragoh said...

The reasons:
1) Buyer's Remorse

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buyer%27s_remorse

2) Post Purchase Rationalization

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-purchase_rationalization

3) Cognitive Dissonance
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

4) Misery loves company

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/misery_loves_company

Enjoy, fellow unencumbered travellers.

Spectra said...

Within my circle of friends and family, it seems that a lot of people have kids simply because "that's what you do after you marry someone". Many of my friends and family members are very religious and don't use birth control (something about it being a sin). So yeah, they get pregnant right after they get married and figure you are SUPPOSED to deal with all that stuff that comes with raising little hellions. My mom got pregnant before she got married, had a shotgun wedding with my dad, and then had 2 more after me. She hated being a mom. She took it out on us by basically not doing anything with us whatsoever. She disciplined us and made us do chores, but rarely did anything fun with us or told us that she was glad we were born. She didn't even attend my college graduation because it was "too much stress". Yet, now that my sister has three kids, she says "Oh, they're such a blessing!" She actually does love babies; she just hated them when they grew into children. I think a lot of women fall into the same trap: They want a BABY. They do not want a screaming, almost-but-not-quite potty trained 3 year old who breaks everything in sight. They do not want an 8 year old who talks back all the time. They do not want a 16 year old who wrecks the car or eats them out of house and home. Get what I mean?

Phonaesthetica said...

I think you covered it very well. I worked as a nanny for years, and saw all these dynamics over and over again.

Temujin said...

For some people who decide to be parents, it's not so much a question of lies versus reality and which they choose to believe. More like they think that their experience will be exceptional. THEIR kids won't be like that those bad kids they know. THEY will know how to balance their lives, unlike those other people. I think many parents know how difficult parenthood can be for other people but believe that their experience will be different.

What is seldom mentioned is the big X Factor of the children themselves. When you get pregnant, you're rolling the dice. You will never really know what personality that kid is going to have before he/she is born. There is only so much you can do as a parent to have a healthy, well-adjusted, well-behaved kid. How difficult it will be to raise that kid is in part outside of your control. I think it's common for would-be parents to overestimate how much control they will really have over the parenting experience.

So, in some cases, it's more like ignorance of probabilities and not ignorance of how bad parenting can be. It's the ignorance of buying lottery tickets as your retirement plan. Of course you know people waste money on the lottery, but you think that your experience will be different.

bikegirl said...

I think it's probably a combination of all the things you mentioned, but also a couple of other ones.
I think that once a woman has a baby, everything becomes about the baby. All they talk about is the baby, and they can't relate to people who don't also have babies, because they're living their own lives, and the mommy's life revolves around the baby. Because of that, they don't see their friends as much anymore. (That, and not being able to go out on the spur of the moment anymore). I think they think that if their friends all had babies, they would be able to do mommy stuff together, their friends would all have baby stuff to talk about, and they would get to see their friends more often.
Another thing is that when someone has a baby and everything changes, they look at their friends' lives who don't have children, they remember all the fun things they used to do, and it makes them depressed to think that they can't do those things anymore, so in order to not feel so depressed about it, they don't keep in contact with their childfree/childless friends as much as they used to, which also makes them feel lonely.

Childfreeeee said...

This is a comment from my friend, "J" who emailed it to me.

"Here's my theory -- and I cringe a little that it sounds like a
diatribe: family is different than it used to be, but our cultural
stories about family have not changed. Our lives in the US have become more and more fractured, as families move apart to find jobs, and as we've started to work more, our lives have become more
compartmentalized. We feel some is wrong and, we're told to go buy
things on tv and on billboards, we're told to be thin, we're told that family is where it's at, so we try all of them. But raising children
with little community support (we're no longer in tribes -- I don't
mean tribes as in friends -- I mean tribes where we had to directly
depend on each others cooperation for survival), with little support
or flexibility at work, without less if any extended family, is very
hard. It's doesn't even seem entirely natural to raise children in
this environment, to me. This lack of support also means it's harder
to share the truth -- we are already suffering from disconnection,
confusion, and cultural stories that are lies and that have empty
meaning for us. I don't blame women
who lie about this; it makes me sad."

Sea_creature said...

The above makes a lot of sense. Not only has the concept of family changed a lot in the past 20 years or so, there is a whole new level of change when you compare it to how it was during the times 100 years or more in past. Family equaled survival. Now it is just 'the thing to do' and we don't even remember WHY. Very sad, indeed.

sara star said...

I think motherhood may have once been more enjoyable. Very few women worked outside the home, so first, they had no comparison, you can't miss what you have never had. If you helped with the younger brothers and sisters since you were old enough to walk, if you married and conceived in your late teens, if all your friends were mothers, except for the single old maids who never got married and lived with family helping raise their kids.

If women rare;u knew the joys of career growth, educational growth, etc. How could they miss it? Sure they might be jealous of the men, but that was standard on about everything since men had freedom and women didn't. The love they had for their children was probably the only major perk in their lives.

The women who did have careers in the Victorian era who then had children wrote about how it screwed them and they could barely continue their careers.

Now that most women have an opportunity to taste freedom, watched the mothers go off to work and enjoy it, even dressed in their mom's work clothes and such. Mom's today know what they are missing, most moms of yesteryear did not. (or only knew in an abstract way of seeing how their husbands lived).

Leah said...

@sara star - Excellent point, Sara! I'd add that women also had more support raising their kids back then. More community and connection with kin and neighbors, more people to help shoulder the load, and more expectations of help/work from older children.

Dark Mother said...

As a mother to an only child I have always been honest about motherhood to my friends, family and even women I don't know who ask me questions. I walk the walk and talk the talk. I ain't all fucking rainbows and unicorns and I would never put it out there that it is. I don't bitch 24/7 in an attempt to get attention, I don't compete to be "#1 mom" and have held onto "myself" more as a woman than any other woman I know who has become a mother. This "child free vs. breeder" thang is just as bad as the mommy wars. Everyone should be able to make their own choice and not shove their shit down everyone's throat. I don't shove my life choices down anyone's throat and I appreciate the same respect back. Basically, I'm of the "I'm ok. you're ok" philosophy. You want a kid, have at it. You don't have at it. Neither person is better. There are women who regret having children and there are women who regret not having children. Who the hell is anyone to judge someone over such a personal choice. Do I love being a mother all the time? Fuck no! Did I love not having a kid all the time? Well obviously not because I chose to have one. Howz about we all go about our bizniz and leave everyone to theirs. Mothers, shut the fuck up and shoving your choice down the throat of the childless by choice and childless by choice do the same.

seltzermint said...

It puts me in such an awkward position when I have mom friends who choose to unload on me about the downside of motherhood, but don't express that to others. In a way, I understand it...but it still bugs me because they're presenting nothing but great Kodak moments to the rest of the world. Meanwhile I'm sitting in a corner of Starbucks with someone who is crying about the sheer hopelessness of diaper-changing and losing her identity. Maybe it's a bit selfish of me but I hate the fact that these scenes can't aid in my "justification" of remaining childfree.

Dawn said...

The entire 2nd wave of feminism was borne out of this lie. The "feminine mystique"—the idea that women were naturally fulfilled by devoting their lives to being housewives and mothers, still exists today. Especially in the entire middle of the country, where people will think there is something really wrong with you for not having children. In such places, you will lose status enormously in your community without having children.

The Feminist Mystique by Betty Friedan mobilized an entire generation of women to get honest about "the problem that has no name" also known as the isolation and loss of self that comes with being a stay at home mom. Before that there was "The Yellow Wallpaper," a very old feminist look at the toll of isolation and lack of rewarding adult mental activity on women.

But in 2012, the feminist mystique and the problem that has no name have a modern twist: Now women are expected to "make something of themselves" AND be these perfect nurturing, self-sacrificing martyrs. Seldom are men held to such a standard.

In the history of humanity, never before the American modern industrial age have mothers been expected to "do it all" and to give up all identity, their dreams and their passion/purpose in this world for their children. No where else are parents doing it all alone at the expense of their mental health. Most of the rest of the world does NOT do it this way.

Parenting sucks mostly just in America, where children are seen as the sole responsibility of just one or two people (so suck it up!), rather than as the wealth of the nation.

diariku123 said...

I totally agree. If it is so painful and stressful, why convince others?

I have personally witnessed how stressful parenting can be when I stayed at my mother in law's house for almost a year ( I'm out of there now, luckily. Can't stand their pressure on me procreating).My sister in law works 8:30 am to pm mon-sat and her two kids are with her mom and a maid. Kids are taken care of by she and her mom on weekends.. Everyone is completely knackered and stressed with all the crying and screaming( both the adults and children), preparing food etc. My mom in law complained almost everyday and always lost her cool. I told myself I would never ever want any children. It's just not for me, not because I want my career, but I just don't want to live on constant chaos, stress, and high noise level.

What I don't understand is, despite all these, my mother in law and sister in law still try to convince me that I should have children soon and said that parenting is a joy?!!Sis in law also explained (to me) how painful labour was, but still said "when it's your turn...."! Goodness gracious, I wanted so badly to ask them in return " Look at yourselves. How can parenting be a joy?" Isn't it so obvious your lives are ruined? The kids can be very cute at times, but compared to the mess you have to go through, I would say it is NOT worth it.

Claire Marshall said...

Let me start by saying I am totally jealous of anyone who is childfree. Being a regretful mother, my biggest fear is that if I admit it to others they call me bitter. I am NOT bitter. I just can't believe how selfish kids are. I know they're little and don't fully understand but it's like you want to give them the best so you do spend your money, time, and effort to try and give them an awesome something, they either destroy it in five minutes or want something else within the same amount of time. Example: We took the kids to the county fair. My old man helped her win those fish at the booths, you know? We get home and the first thing he tells her is that we would go to the store the next day to get proper equipment to care for the fish and to leave them in the bag because improper change of their water would kill them. What's the first thing she does? Puts tap water in the bag an kills them all. We had to spend the rest of the day comforting her because she couldn't wait to care for the fish with help. It really did a number on my nerves to listen to her cry ALL DAY.

I have tons more, and that's a mild one, but you all seem to get the idea. Congratulations on not ruining your lives!

dessima st.clair said...

women lie about motherhood because i think its a learnt behavior to believe its joyous.its what they're supposed to say,so they say it.i believe ppl should be given a trial run on parenting,before going in permanently.too many parents are miserable.my friend,a mom of 3 babies below 5,calls me crying now and again.her kids wont behave.and everytime i call her,there is always,always noise in the back.i thank the universe that i had the wisdom to dodge this bullet.what if i didnt!my god.

Tiana Jemmott said...

Some woman just dont have that maternal bone. I AM ONE OF THEM. My entire pregnancy i was ecstatic. I could not wait for the journey to begin. Since I brought my daughter home from the hospital, I've became a miserable wreck ever since. Don't get me wrong I truly love my daughter but lets face the fact I am not for this:(

Niki said...

Why do mothers lie to each other?

Because we live in a mommy culture, where women enjoy the game of oneupmanship (onewomanupmanship?) by using their kids to do it. It's quite fashionable to declare motherhood the essence and epitome of womanhood - woman have pushed the propaganda for eons. Feminism is a total crock - women are each others worst enemies.

I have never, ever wanted children and get shit from most women. Where's the sisterhood?

@Dark Mother, I love you!!