Millennial women are redefining what motherhood and balance can look like.
They are pushing themselves to take ownership of what motherhood means to them and not relying on the narrative that has been pushed on them by society.
Women and mothers have been taught that in order to be a good parent, they must completely neglect themselves. That means that they are expected to neglect themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally, as well as neglect their careers.
It is because of this narrative that many women have opted to forgo having children. Women who do have children are trying to step away from the theme of self-neglect and instead embrace a form of motherhood that prioritizes their needs outside of that role. They are doing this by taking charge and saying – we can be mothers and also show up for ourselves. Girls who grow up seeing their mother figures dim themselves in order to let their children shine may grow into women who view being a mother as losing the part of themselves that makes them special.
Through taking a close look at the relationship between mother figure and daughter, one can find a balance between being a mother and being a person. Millennial women today have opportunities to take care of themselves in a way their elders did not. With the inclusion of support in the form of therapists, psychologists, and support groups, women today are able to better help themselves. They are realizing that society’s expectations of motherhood have been so unrealistically high that they have been figuratively shackled by these expectations for centuries. With these advancements in mind, the modern woman can change the way motherhood is performed.
Many millennial women learn in more than one way how to be a mother. When watching their caregivers, they subconsciously take in what it means to be a mother from their childhood upbringing and family upbringing. Another way women learn is through watching their peers who are mothers. When in spaces with these women, one may pay attention to how they show up in motherhood, the pressures that they feel, the expectations they place on themselves, and the ones people have of them.
Lastly, one learns what it means to be a mother from society. Through watching TV shows or reading parenting books, or by observing how people in society talk about motherhood, you learn about what is expected of mothers. When women try to rewrite narratives of motherhood, they start to feel guilty. This could be because they feel they are dishonouring their elders, because they are not performing in the way their peers are, or because of societal pressures, it is common to feel guilty for choosing a form of motherhood that is unique to one’s capabilities and needs.
Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, senior Social Work lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “Motherhood alone can feel very isolating, but it can feel even more desolate when you add in the fact that you are trying to change what you’ve been taught about being a mother. The people that you would have otherwise sought support from may not be able to help you through this process since they may have accepted the societal pressures of motherhood. Therefore, you may have to build a community of additional support with like-minded people. Too many women have gone through life not prioritizing themselves, but you can have a community of women who have also discovered their power and knowledge to change this.”