Nobody’s perfect, including Mom

November 1, 2017

Call it the Goddess Myth, which is what Time magazine did on its cover on October 30. Spawned by the maternity industry and pursued dauntlessly—even heroically—by women from the time they are old enough to diaper a Betsy Wetsy (or its modern-day equivalent), it is a dogma that dictates how they should “mother” their offspring from inception on.

“It tells us that breast is best; that if there is a choice between a vaginal birth and major surgery, you should want to push; that your body is a temple and what you put in it should be holy; that sending your baby to the hospital nursery for a few hours after giving birth is a dereliction of duty,” the story says. “Oh, and that you will feel–and look–radiant.”

Indeed, a survey of 913 mothers commissioned by Time and conducted on behalf of the weekly news magazine by SurveyMonkey Audience found that half of all new mothers had experienced regret, shame, guilt or anger.

It’s equivalent to bullying and it comes from friends, mothers, sisters, colleagues, books, doctors, nurses, midwives, even strange women on the street—and not as much from men.

According to respondents, a large majority—more than 70%—feet pressured to do things in a very particular way. And many feel like failures even before the baby comes home: More than half said a natural birth was extremely or very important, yet 43% wound up needing drugs or an epidural, and 22% had unplanned C-sections.

Breastfeeding, too, turns out to be a great deal more difficult, and often more painful, than anticipated. Out of the 20% who planned to breastfeed for at least a year, fewer than half of survey respondents actually did—and many were embarrassed to admit that they had lapsed.

As Rachel Zaslow, a certified nurse-midwife in Charlottesville, Virginia, told the magazine, “The minute a person becomes pregnant, there’s a notion that if you’re not doing those kinds of things, you’re not a good mother.”

Research contact: parents@time.com