Written by Tawakalt Oseni
Every now and then, social media inundates us with heartwarming images and videos of adorable children. There are kids, a couple of months old, all wrapped up for photoshoots, toddlers making the funniest faces, children saying the most adorable things, making a mess, displaying remarkable intelligence at such a tender age, or even speaking impeccable English. It’s natural for anyone to ‘aww’ at these endearing moments. However, for women, this adorable content often prompts a more profound reaction. It leaves many women pondering whether they want to experience motherhood or simply admire it from a distance. I find these conversations interesting, so I read all of them from the post to the comment section, and these are four things social media tells me about motherhood.
Motherhood is a huge decision
By any metric, the choice to have a baby is life-changing. It moves you straight from a single person who has only themselves to take care of to a whole new world of responsibility.
It influences life patterns through career choices, daily routines, relationships, social life, and personal priorities. While babies bring immense joy and fulfillment, they can also lead to stress, worry, and emotional challenges. It demands a higher level of commitment, patience, resilience, and emotional and financial stability. This is why it is a monumental decision.
Most social media posts celebrate the joys and fulfilling aspects of motherhood, showcasing happy moments, milestones, and cherished memories. However, more women are sharing their struggles, discussing the difficulties of balancing personal life, career, and parenting responsibilities. And even now that mental health conversations are common, more people talk about the emotional and mental toll motherhood can take.
Beyond this, the more casual conversations about the amount of support needed during the early stages of motherhood, the cost of school fees, and the prices of diapers and baby food are tellers that, beyond the rosy pictures that social media creates, motherhood is a big decision and a huge commitment.
Motherhood is a different experience for every woman
Pregnancy photo shoots are the go-to method for announcing pregnancies on social media. Women talk freely about their pregnancy journeys, and share throwback pictures that show how pregnancy affected their bodies. These posts invite a range of comments, from observations about the size of the baby bump – whether it’s notably big or barely noticeable even at 34 weeks – to discussions about physical changes such as the enlargement of the nose or how some women maintain a cute, petite nose throughout pregnancy. Comments also touch on weight gain, changes in skin tone, and admiration for those who seem to radiate a glowing aura throughout their pregnancies.
Women also discuss typical pregnancy issues such as ‘pregnancy brain’ and cravings. However, some encounter lasting changes, like hoarse voices or worsening eyesight. I once read about a woman who developed vitiligo during pregnancy. Childbirth experiences vary, from tears during vaginal birth, to smooth, easy deliveries. Postpartum depression affects some, while others find it less challenging. Breastfeeding troubles are common, with some facing difficulties and others unable to breastfeed. Babies’ needs differ, with some being more demanding than others. This tells us that beyond the pretty photoshoots they all have in common, experiences are different.
Recognising that each woman’s pregnancy journey is unique should foster empathy and understanding. As consumers of this content, we should embrace these differences rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to pregnancy. There should be fewer stereotypes and assumptions about what a ‘typical’ pregnancy should be like.
Also, understanding that pregnancies differ means acknowledging that women have varying needs during this time. This should influence society to offer support systems that cater to these diverse requirements, whether they’re medical, emotional, or social. This shows how important it is for healthcare to be flexible. Medical care should adapt to fit the different needs and experiences of women.
Ultimately, acknowledging the diversity in pregnancies highlights the importance of education and information. Empowering women with knowledge about a range of experiences can help them make informed decisions and navigate their unique journey more confidently.
Not everyone wants to be a mother, and that’s okay
Simply put, just because one has the reproductive organs to be a mother doesn’t mean one has to be. Like many other major decisions in life, the decision to have children or not is a deeply personal one. People may not feel the desire to have children due to various reasons that are personal to them. This means respecting individual autonomy and agency is crucial.
This conversation is still nascent on social media; it is still met with a lot of surprise and horror. It is preposterous to even think that when people outline their goals in life, having children is not included because isn’t that an obligation to the planet?
This reaction is not surprising because in many cultures, people grow up assuming that having kids is something everyone just does, especially for married couples. It’s often seen as a validation of a woman’s femininity and establishing a family. But recognizing that a couple can be a family sparks discussions about choices and challenges the traditional norms. This openness erases the stigma around unconventional methods of starting a family, like surrogacy, donor insemination, fostering and adoption.
I appreciate the term ‘childfree’ for those who choose not to have children. It offers a more positive perspective rather than implying something is missing in their lives without kids.
The awareness that a lot of people don’t want children also tells us that fulfillment means different things to different people. The people who champion these conversations on social media are advocating for broader societal acceptance and understanding of the decision not to have children. They encourage open-mindedness and respect for different life choices.
It is common for mothers to regret having their children
Women usually talk about how their babies are the best things that have ever happened to them and how much they love them, which seems like a common sentiment. However, social media allows for more open conversations, even about ‘taboo’ topics. Some share anonymously if they aren’t comfortable speaking openly.
From these conversations, it’s evident that not just a few, but many women express regrets about having children.
For some, it is because they were young, had the babies too early in their marriages, or did not know that it was as life-changing as it eventually was. These women are always quick to include that they love their kids with their entire lives, but there is always an infatuation with the life that got away. Of course, these kinds of conversations still get a lot of horror responses.
This is not entirely surprising because babies are usually seen as blessings and symbols of happiness. Society often assumes that women can’t possibly regret having them. But these confessions are real. As a society consuming this content, it’s important to acknowledge that awareness and understanding is better than ignoring the possibility of such feelings.
I also think reactions to these kinds of confessions are this way because as a society, we find it difficult to accept complex feelings. When conversations challenge the stigma around expressing regret or difficulties about parenthood, fostering an understanding about complex feelings and seeking support is acceptable. Ultimately, pregnancy can be tricky. Even with birth control methods, unexpected pregnancies happen, including rare cases like ectopic pregnancies. Bearing this in mind, conversations on social media should be more geared towards the reality of pregnancy. This awareness helps women deal with uncertainty. A woman choosing motherhood can plan when and how she gets pregnant, build a support system, and handle uncertainties better. It helps a great deal that conversations on social media move from a perfectly curated depiction of life and motherhood to a trend of more vulnerable, authentic, and relatable posts.