1. Chelsea says:

    This is such an important, eye opening and urgent article and issue. You have so articulately worded what our society as a whole must see, address and push. I agree, this current standard of motherhood is drowning our moms and leaving them without lifeboats. Thank you for your work.

    • Beth says:

      Thank you so much, Chelsea. It’s so true. We’re drowning without lifeboats, whilst trying to teach our children how to swim.

  2. Mary says:

    DAMN. You NAILED it.

  3. Corina says:

    As usual, reading your words leave me with goosebumps and tears. You preach it, sistar!

  4. Hi Beth,
    I am a mother and grandmother who has also lived through emotional abuse. Thank you for presenting this state so many women live in with strength and conviction. I’ve been studying, practicing and writing about Buddhism for mothers for over 30 years. In that time I’ve learned some practices that have helped me greatly and am in the middle of editing a new book, Awakening at home, which is intended to offer support for home based spiritual practice. It is my heartfelt wish that is will be of support to the mothers you are speaking to. If you are willing, I’d love to send you an advance copy via email to get your feedback. I don’t want it to put one more thing on the plates of mothers already overwhelmed with activity and expectation and would love to have your support in making sure that doesn’t get into the book.
    Warmly
    Jacqueline

    • olivia says:

      Jacqueline, I would love to have a copy of this book as well… I’m an American but live in Nairobi Kenya… I have been in a covert narcissitic abusive relationship for 13 years and am getting ready to be a single Mama…(this article really spoke to me…) He is moving out next week. I teach meditation here in Nairobi… Love to you, sister… Let me know how to get a copy in Kenya…

      • Beth says:

        Much love and strength to you, Olivia, as you navigate this courageous life transition. I have respect for anyone who is able to spot narcissistic abuse and get themselves out from under its disorienting, degrading toxicity.

    • Beth says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words and generous offer, Jacqueline. It would be an honor to read your book! It sounds beautiful and much needed. Feel free to send me a private message.

    • Anon says:

      I wish you had not written this from the exclusive lens of a 2-parent family because there are a lot of things I nodded my head to but I don’t represented as a parent by the base assumptions. Inclusion matters and representatives matters, too.

      • Beth says:

        Thanks, Anon. I am a single mom, myself, so I wasn’t writing from the perspective of a two-parent household. I will reread it, however, and try to see what you mean.

  5. Atiya says:

    This is so good! I love that the author offered solutions at the end. I read so many rants/vents about the struggle of motherhood. At the end I’m always left wondering what am I supposed to do. So thank you!

    • Beth says:

      You’re very welcome, Atiya. I, too, like to have places to focus my attention and ways to orient rather than mere exposure to more of the world’s struggles.

  6. LVG says:

    This is why I am an anti-natalist. Last thing our world need is more children. And if being a mother is such misery, why do it? Just stop having kids and enjoy your life. Resist the societal pressure to procreate, it’s not worth it, and it’s killing our planet

  7. This is beautifully written and so empowering to read. Thank you for your words and your work. And I found this because someone shared it in my local Moms group where everything is empathetically saying how much it resonates with them.

  8. KJ Ferry says:

    Thank you for writing this, it is true all over the western world. But you forgot one thing, in order for this to change in a greater scale one of the strongest things you can do is vote. Vote for compassionate humane leaders, who value people over profits ❤️

  9. Nicole Pulliam says:

    Thank you for this powerful piece. I’ve never thought about these struggles in relation to oppression, but you were spot on. Wonderful read and I’ve shared it with a few others.

  10. Cathy says:

    Sometimes I feel like I am on an island floating farther away from my family. I am trying to get back to them but the water is rough. My mom died before my daughter was born; I did not have positive people who helped me raise my daughter; my in laws were emotionally abusive to me while they were caring for my daughter- they ridiculed me, told me horrible things about myself, and led me to believe I was a bad mother. Then in 2012 I had q major depressive episode and had to be hospitalized. In 2018, my dad died. I am taking one day at a time but it is hard. I so appreciate your article on motherhood. It spoke to my heart. Thank you!

    • Caroline says:

      Cathy, your reply echoes my life. Lonely parenting journey, major depressive breakdown in 2016 and my beloved dad died in 2016

  11. Suzie Branton says:

    This spoke to me. Thank you for this. I am an OB postpartum nurse, lactation consultant, mother of three raucous boys, and a feminist. You have so exactly hit the nail on the head I got goosebumps.

    I was talking to somebody the other day who felt like they had been pressured into breastfeeding by healthcare staff. This conversation was after I had posted a very poorly written HuffPost article about doctors and nurses pressuring women to breastfeed and how that was causing them anxiety and depression. I said that I didn’t know any healthcare workers who pressured people into breastfeeding we simply educate on why it’s a healthy choice and should they choose to make that choice, we support and assist. But we don’t convert.

    But then it dawned on me – something that I knew instinctually but had never really put into words – it’s not the breastfeeding that stressing out women. It’s the expectation to breastfeed in a society that does absolutely nothing to support breastfeeding. A society that expects us to go back to work within 6 weeks, gives no paid maternity leave, expects us to pump in broom closets and bathrooms during unpaid breaks and then considers that an “accommodation”. And if you don’t you’re not a good mom. it’s not the healthcare workers making women feel inadequate, it’s society and culture as a whole.

    Anyway a few days later I read your article and it is a deep dive into that feeling that I was having. It gave me the words and the dialogue to talk about this thing, this oppression. Thank you very much.

  12. Frustrated says:

    I guess dads shouldn’t read this since only mothers parent children.

    • Beth says:

      Or, dads could read it, soften their defensiveness, and try to understand that their reality (as a whole) is completely different than the reality of mothers. It requires VASTLY less effort to be seen as a good father than it does to be seen as a good mother in our culture. The system is rigged in favor of men, who can do so little as to wear a baby in a baby carrier and win praise. Fathers have unique struggles and challenges in this patriarchal set up, but they cannot justly be lumped in with the struggles of mothers. It’s apples and oranges.

    • Hannah says:

      In the spirit of challenging narratives, aiming for inclusion and strengthening my own support network, I think there is a different response to ‘Frustrated’s comment: As I was reading and relating to Beth’s article (deep thanks Beth), I was also struck by how much of it resonated with the efforts and struggles that my husband, and other men in our circle go to and through, in his striving to be seen as an equal parent to our four boys, even within a supportive, thinking community that we live in. Assumptions of availability for work things if you are serious about your career, parenting differently, without male role models or many peers doing the same, struggles of losing yourself, being seen as inadequate (on the home and work front), searching for mentors and supports, being oppressed by societal narratives (whether about parenting, work, strength, supporting/protecting others etc) all hold true for him too – and many men. Yes, the distinctive character of the challenges for women and for women are essential to recognise. Their source and content can be, as Beth says, vastly different. But improving the support and perspective for women means including men in the conversation – whether they come to it in an initially defensive way or not. It means inviting questions and perspectives (not minimising or competing on suffering as Beth critically says), supporting experiments, efforts and failures, challenging assumptions – opening conversation. The last thing women or children or society needs is isolated, unsure, defensive, lost, unaware men. So bring them into the conversation – watch for those important, tentative moments of possibility, like ‘Frustrated’s’ comment above so the seedlings of change can grow.

  13. […] love all the articles on social media that remind us of the mental load of mother’s work (and yes it’s quite gendered […]

  14. Kristen says:

    Hello!

    First, it takes courage to share your ideas with the world. Thank you for putting yourself out there.

    This list of ten actionable steps is spot on. Cut that toxicity every chance we get!

    Oppression, though. Having a child is a choice (fulfilled only for some). Yes, many of us get in over our heads, have difficulty of varying degrees, and do experience the weight of others’ expectations for motherhood. (I struggled hard myself). These difficulties are not exclusive to motherhood, though. Aside from the glaring issues with insufficient parental leave and adequate early childcare for most of us in our country, we get what we sign on for with child rearing. It’s hard, yes. But oppressive? No. In short- “Oppressive” is a word that should be reserved for those in situations they did not choose. With motherhood, we are in control of our choices. That includes the choice to have children (if you are able), how many children we have (should we be so lucky), what opinions and expectations from others we believe true for ourselves, etc. etc.. These are choices we’ve made- we don’t get to call it oppression.

  15. Geordie says:

    This is the most soul-soothing article I’ve read in a long time. You’ve articulated what I feel every single day…that no matter how hard I try (and I could not be trying harder), I will never make up for my culture’s huge deficits. Lying in bed right now feeling shit about a tough day with my kids and your article made me feel less alone. You nailed it. Thankyou!!!

  16. […] Beth’s essay, Dear Mothers: We Can’t Keep Pretending This Is Working for Us […]

  17. JP says:

    Yes a million times!!! Thank you for your courage to write the truth.

  18. […] Your anger is essential. It’s evidence that you care, that your boundaries are being crossed, that something you’re witnessing or experiencing is unjust or toxic or damaging. (It’s also sometimes evidence of woundedness and unhealed trauma, which require extra tenderness and, sometimes, professional support to move through effectively). Finding healthy outlets for your anger allows it to become one of your greatest allies instead of your greatest saboteur. Feeling our anger as mothers and learning to channel it wisely is a much greater gift to the world than repressing it or pretending everything’s fine.  […]

  19. Ash says:

    Best article I have read in a long time! Really resonates and so succinctly put! Thank you!

  20. Truth says:

    The biggest issue is that women lie about it themselves and portray motherhood an some garden of Eden that everyone can do as well as them. Social media promotes that. And everyone does alone in their home of a huge feeling of not being able to keep up with those perfect parents.
    If people were honest to each other we’d be far more supportive. But they all have to pretend they’re all coping fantastically and it’s the most amazing experience ever. People need to wake up and be real.

  21. Carla says:

    This is the biggest truth bomb that needs to implode on our unconscious society, until it wakes everyone up from their induced sleep and shakes them to their core.
    I feel this alarming truth intensely burning in my veins ever since I began my journey into motherhood.
    The red flags were there from when I first became pregnant and suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum. (Undiagnosed and barely treated, despite frequent visit to my doctor and obstetrician.)
    I begged for help and support and was constantly met with a blase, ‘oh well’ attitude, and an implication that it’s not really that bad and to just deal with it yourself.
    I half expected this from the males (had hoped for better) but from the females in my village…that was a tough blow to take, in such a vunerable state.
    The patrichary may have intiated, lit and fuelled this toxic fire, but to realise that the only reason that this is truly alive and well in our society today, is because the majority of the matriarchy are fanning and reinforcing the oppression and gaslighting they experienced (whether conciously know it or not)…is absolutely dumbfounding.
    I’m not sure if it’s because they had it tough and therefore believe we should tough it out and struggle on our own too. Or because they aren’t willing to “give up” their current circumstances of “well-earnt freedom”, in order actively and continuously support us through this unfairly difficult time.
    The matriachy has a significant impact on changing this narrative for us by supporting us in the ways they were never supported.
    This can vastly fast track our generation’s concious revolution to shift away from these toxic patterns and claim our true power and honoured place in society, rather than remaining the submissive victim, who may end up defending the patriarchal mould.
    This unfortunately sentences our daughters to that uncesscessary cycle of trauma and abuse, instead of conciously providing them with an unburdened experience of motherhood, surrounded by a most lovingly, supportive matriarchy.
    Imagine what that generation of children would look like, being born and raised in a progressive and supportive society that truly values and honours women and the motherhood journey? Probably a world that doesn’t need saving from itself…
    Thank you so much for so truthfully and accurately articulating this heart-felt matter for us, so that we finally feel heard, seen and able to spread and share this message of awakening with others.

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