When Society Dictates Our Emotions and Actions
It was one of those difficult days with my son. He was throwing a tantrum that was already 45 minutes in, and I had had it.
The topic of his frustration? He needed the chairs to be in the place that they normally are but because we had guests we had taken them to the common area for everyone to have somewhere to sit.
He hardly let us get a word in. He kept crying, stating his demand over and over again despite our attempts to explain, give him room to relax, or even divert his attention to something he would otherwise have enjoyed.
At this point, jokingly, but obviously with a pinch - or more - of truth in it, I retorted:
“And people ask me why I am not having a second!”
There was a wave of silence if only for a second.
The kind that is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable.
Allow me take a step back though.
There WAS truth to my comment. It was the fact that my husband and I had already envisioned having one child way before Anastasi came into the picture.
It is also true that I did get second thoughts - about whether I wanted another child - after having my son, despite the first 2-3 years being super intense for me.
However, seeing how much of my attention he required and how my body and psyche had reacted to the sleeplessness, I hosed that doubt down - not because I blame him or his tantrums - THAT was the joking bit - but because I assessed my own reserves, needs and, yes, desires, and realized there would have to be a lot of nearly-impossible things in place for me to feel like I could handle another sweet munchkin and truly show up in a "good enough" way.
I took a long, hard, and blatantly honest look at myself and my situation. I had conversations with mentors, coaches, friends. I assessed and reassessed my threshold of tolerance and, to my dismay, it was low.
Now, I unapologetically own that. I couldn’t in the past. It would mean I am weak at a time when my strength and stamina were still something so so incredibly dear to me and my identity.
Cutting back to that scene, the silence was eventually broken by a mom of two, who asked, “And YOU of all people are helping women 'thrive' in motherhood?”
Her words revealed the heart of the issue: the unspoken competition to be perfect mothers. There it was. Unravelling years of “mommy wars” in just one statement.
Should this remark had found me at another phase of my journey it would have definitely led me into retreat. Surely, the lesson learned would be that if you say you don't want to have as many kids as is humanly possible then you don't love motherhood, hence you don't love your child, hence you are a bad mother, hence you are an awful person. Period.
This is censorship. The kind that is evident all around us.
Mothers who feel like they have to hide thoughts that involve regretting having a (or another) child as if that means they don’t love them or would ever take it back if they could.
Mothers who fear being judged if they cannot wait to go back to work or if they long for a time when they will, again, be able to book a spontaneous mani-pedi without having to preplan 100 things and get others involved only to step away for 1.5 hr.
Mothers who feel pressured to pretend that they had health issues to excuse why they did not breastfeed instead of owning up to their choice, whatever the reason behind it.
That simple, albeit sarcastic, question was the ultimate attempt, though surely unconscious, to bring any woman who dares express a comment that is less than blissful about motherhood back in line.
No, I refuse to get back in line.
I refuse to see a line.
And, as I keep growing in my personal matrescence journey, I refuse to keep explaining myself and my feelings toward my son. When I get the urge to preface with how much I love him so that I can share that I am having a tough day, or week, or month, I purposely SHUT IT DOWN.
No preface. Just raw, in-the-moment feelings and the strong conviction that the only person who needs to know how deep my love runs for my son is Anastasi himself as the one who witnesses it every day.
The insidious forms of censorship in motherhood are rarely spoken about, perhaps because they operate subtly. This subtle shaming is inherent in the need to measure and compare themselves against societal expectations.
But it is the case that, even when we come out on top, the insecurity always remains. We have to be alert to make sure we never misstep so as to maintain our supermom status. It’s not viable.
The day we stop censoring ourselves is the day we finally allow ourselves to breathe.
To exist. To be mothers, not supermoms.
The truth is, we don't need to aspire to be untouchable; we need to aspire to be touchable; soft. To be human. That means embracing not just the Pinterest-worthy moments but the messy, raw, and, yes, even the 'unshareable' ones.
When you find yourself shamed into silence, remember this: Your voice has the power to shake the norms, to disrupt the cycle. And if one woman can stand tall in her imperfection and say, "This is me, take it or leave it," she creates a ripple that can turn into a wave of liberation for mothers everywhere. If you can't find that space, create it. Gather around, build your circle of real moms. The world has enough judgment; what it needs now is your unfiltered truth.
So don't just stand there feeling awkward. Step out. Own your narrative. And for the love of all things holy, burn the rule book that tells you what a 'good mom' should be. Tear up the unwritten code of motherhood censorship, and rewrite it in your voice, with your ink, and on your terms. Because only then can we start writing a different story for ourselves and the generations of mothers to come.
If breaking the mold makes you an 'awful mother' in someone's eyes, wear that title like a badge of honor. Because, let's be real, any rule that silences the complexities of motherhood isn't a rule worth following. And any community that stifles your expression doesn't deserve you at your best, let alone at your worst.
The best legacy you can leave for your children is an authentic version of you; one that says, "I am flawed, and that's okay. So are you, and I love you anyway."
Break the cycle.
Break the silence.
Because the opposite of censorship isn't just freedom; it's authenticity.
And that is a language that needs no translation.
Recognize the Censorship: Understand that societal expectations can often be unrealistic and burdensome. Recognizing them is the first step in breaking free.
Stop the Comparison: Every mother's journey is unique and includes a myriad of factors you cannot know or assume. Embrace your journey for what it is. Be grateful for it without measuring it up against someone else's.
Speak Out: Talk about your feelings. Whether it's with a close friend, in a mother's group, or with a professional. Speaking out can be liberating.
Seek Support: It's okay to ask for help, whether it's enlisting a babysitter or seeking therapy. You're not alone in your feelings.
Reflect: Spend some time reflecting on your feelings without judgment. Write them down if needed.
Connect: Connect with like-minded mothers who understand and validate your feelings.
Embody: Get your body moving. Shame is not just in our minds; it is trapped in our bodies. Allowing ourselves to move gives room for expression and release of deeper, subconscious layers that keep a hold on us.