#MomLife: The Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

We all know the infamous hashtag #MomLife. Social media often makes motherhood look glamorous; but it also makes us moms feel like we must be doing something wrong if our lives don’t resemble an Instagram photo or blog post.

“Mom Life” is a term that has come to be associated with the beautiful, perfect, and/or glamorous motherhood moments. It’s a way of describing the kind of image that many women, or people in general, want to convey about their lives.

I have found myself disappointed with the use of the “mom life” hashtag at times. There seems to be a massive gap between the real and the perceived, from beautiful pictures of your friends’ lives to photos that are entirely manipulated to hide any flaws.

Motherhood is often portrayed as the ultimate level of success, glamorized by images of happy, successful mothers. The harsh reality is that motherhood can be one of the most challenging seasons of life — and it’s not always sunshine and rose petals. Many women go through difficult times as they balance their child-rearing roles with working outside the home. They may have health concerns, financial worries, and marital difficulties. Putting on a brave face can minimize the reality of motherhood, which can be challenging. By filtering out the whole experience of motherhood it welcomes criticism and negative perspectives from others. 

The biggest issue with society’s expectations of a mom is that it can lead to guilt. Not fitting the mold of the picture-perfect mother can make moms feel like they are not giving their children 100%. They experience thoughts like “my child deserves better” and feel the need to work harder. Ultimately, this leads to moms pushing themselves to burn out while still not meeting these unrealistic expectations. This can contribute to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. It can  become a vicious cycle because many moms are reluctant to get help. After all, society has given moms the idea that they should be able to do it all and that there is something shameful about reaching out for help.


The Reality Of It All

Approximately 70% to 80% of all new mothers experience some unpleasant feelings or mood swings during the first few days after birth.

Only 40% of mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders seek treatment. The consequences for the mother and infant can be long-term and life-threatening and may lead to severe emotional problems and general medical problems in mothers, fathers, and children if appropriate early treatment is not received.

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders may feel like: 

  • persistent sadness and hopelessness
  • inability to accept comfort or love
  • social withdrawal
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • impatience
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • lack of energy
  • emptiness
  • fatigue
  • changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • crying episodes
  • guilt
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks,
  • frustration
  • irritability
  • lack of self-care
  • and neglect of the needs of the infant or other children in the home. 

Onset of symptoms can occur during pregnancy or during the first year after that and often lasts for a year or more if untreated. 



How To Break Away From The Unrealistic Expectation of Motherhood

Here are some tips to help jump-start this path of liberating yourself from impractical standards.


1. Take a deep breath 

Being a mother is hard work. Take that break; you deserve time to yourself. Create a self-care plan that meets your needs and put it into action.

2. Set your own expectations and be flexible 

What feels good to you? You know best. Listen to your body. Be gentle with yourself. Filter out the noise and unwanted opinions/criticism. Every day is a new day. Leave room for error. There is no manual on how to be a mother. Follow your gut instinct. There is no right or wrong way. Just do you, mama!

3. It takes a village 

Ask for help. You are not expected to do it all alone. Build your community of support and lean in when needed.

4. Reach out to a professional

Postpartum does not only affect first-time mothers. Every pregnancy, birth experience, and child are different. If you need extra support, are feeling intense or overwhelming emotions, or struggle with this new role, call a therapist to help you navigate your new normal. 


Are you struggling with living up to expectations, mood instability, feeling connected or settling into the role of mom postpartum?  To learn more ways to manage these challenges contact Emily Martinez, LMSW at emily@chaminajjan.com or call us at 917.476.932. 

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