NORTH GRENVILLE, Ont. – Motherhood isn’t easy. Women around the world are expected to balance raising their children and personal and career growth, all while maintaining a Pinterest-perfect living space.
And talking about their struggles that happen behind closed doors is taboo and stigmatized. One woman is aiming to open the doors for moms to share their struggles and find support from people just like them.
Author and art therapist Anne Walsh has released her newest book–Out of the Mouth of Moms, from the Trenches of Motherhood— just in time for Mother’s Day, in hopes of giving other mothers something of a support group.
“As an art therapist, I have a studio in our barn and I decided to start working with moms–with women in general, but I had a lot of moms coming in,” said Walsh, describing how her book came to be.
“And they would come in looking like they had everything under control. There was no indication that they were struggling. But they would come in and start telling me all these doubts they had or that they had failed–that they screamed at their kid this morning or that they missed an appointment or that they worked and couldn’t go to their kid’s play. Or something like that.”
It was then Walsh says she realized moms are more alike than they might know.
“Because we don’t talk, we don’t know that we’re all struggling! That visual of all these moms in their homes individually struggling, feeling isolated–it was painful to think of that,” she said.
“But what if we just talked? What if we actually stopped pretending and we just said, ‘I’m having a really hard day. It’s much harder than I thought and I could really use a friend right now’? Maybe the person two doors down is having a great day and they can come over and they can be your person to talk to. And when they’re struggling, they can feel comfortable coming over and saying ‘I’m really struggling today’ and we can help each other that way… as opposed to crying in the shower and then going out with your makeup done and your hair done and smiling and pretending everything is hunky dory when it’s not.”
Book cover of ‘Out of the Mouth of Mothers’ by Anne Walsh. (SOURCE: Anne Walsh)
Walsh hopes her book, which is a collection of other mother’s stories of their struggles and their triumphs, will help moms also having a tough time realize they are not alone.
“What we struggle with might be different…but if we look at what we’re doing–we’re all doing the same thing. We just want to do the best job we possibly can raising our children so they grow up to be well-adjusted children.”
On top of that, there’s very little recognition, validation, or support for moms.
Walsh says that there should be a designated support system for mothers, built into everyday things. She uses the example of going to the gym.
“I wanted to work out and there was no gym in my area that had a daycare attached. Some gyms have that but that wasn’t an option where I lived. And I remember I couldn’t go work out [because of that]… It would be nice to know that in your community you can go and work out somewhere where they’re taking care of your child so you can do that and not organize daycare or a babysitter or whatever, just to get out the door. And the same goes for groceries.”
Every mom has a nightmare story of their child throwing a tantrum in aisle five and they have to decide if they should power through the rest of their trip or if they need to abandon their cart and return to the sanctuary of their car. Part of the book includes a few concrete ideas and tangible changes communities make to better support parents, like adding a daycare or supervised play place parents can leave their kids in while they grocery shop.
Those changes are welcome ideas for Jennifer Luckhardt, first-time mom to a five-month-old girl. She hopes that some employers will take a look at being more flexible and supportive for parents.
“Women are set up to fail. I know that things are getting better for women in terms of jobs and stuff, but what if I want to stay at home [longer]?” Luckhardt says with her job, her schedule is inconsistent with shifts that flip flop, making being a working mom difficult.
“Now, I am lucky, because my company is looking into helping me working from home, which they didn’t do before. And other jobs won’t do that.” And it goes beyond the workplace, says Luckhardt, adding support systems in general need to be stepped up.
“When you become a mother, if you don’t want to go back to work and you want to raise your own child, you are only a mother now. I am struggling so much to maintain my identity and it is so difficult,” she said, adding there are still other people who may not have the supportive families that she does.
“My identity is so important [to me]. I was so afraid to lose who I was and just become ‘mom’. I have so many goals, but when you become a mother you have so little support that your only goal becomes your child–and that’s wonderful for some people–but I want to be something for me and I want to progress, but that’s so difficult to do on my own. But western society expects us to do it on our own.”
She echoes Walsh, saying there’s a lot of stuff she wants to do, but can’t tackle some personal goals due to a lack of societal support. “We idolize maternal sacrifice, but at what cost? Why aren’t we concerned about a mother’s happiness?”
Luckhardt also wants to eventually see the stigma surrounding the title of stay-at-home mom be broken down.
Some of the proceeds of the sales of Walsh’s book will go to helping moms in need in her community south of Ottawa.