As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. But it seems that sense of community might be lost as the majority of women in a new study say they feel alienated during parenthood and too ashamed to ask for help.
According to the online survey conducted by Healthdirect, Australia’s national pregnancy, birth and baby helpline, it was found that more than half of the 1,011 women interviewed said they couldn’t admit what they were going through to anyone, not even close friends and family. They just put on a brave face and kept pushing on.
A further 58 per cent of women said they would avoid seeking help and support because they were afraid of being judged or being seen as unable to cope. With the nappy changes, the sleepless nights, the temperatures and fevers, the strains on relationships, the baby talk, saying goodbye to the work-life balance and dealing with a complete change of lifestyle, there’s no doubt parents need support and lots of it.
But can we really blame them for not asking for help? Nowadays, if you so much as give your opinion about a parenting topic, you just might lose half your friendship circle. I’ve heard of mums receiving hate mail and death threats because of the opinions they’ve shared with other mothers on their Facebook feeds, while other mothers have been too worried to share their own questions and feelings when they see other parents bragging about how well their child is sleeping, pooping and feeding.
Parents are judged by whether they use formula or breast milk, whether they let their babies cry in the crib or let them sleep in the bed, how they introduce solids or combat teething. And everyone has an opinion on the best way to raise a child. You can hardly blame new mums for wanting to try and navigate the unknowing nature of life as a parent alone.
“Unsolicited advice flows with abundance when you are a parent,” says Rachel Wiley of The Tent, an online parenting blog.
“I’ve had people tell me how to dress my child, feed my child, and comfort my child. I’ve had people inform me what she needs to get used to, what is good for her and at what stage she’s ready to have time away from me. I’ve listened to people fix parenting problems I’ve never had. I’ve allowed them to push me into decisions I didn’t want to make.”
And while people mean well, sometimes it feels like judgement. Like you have no idea what you’re doing with this new little person. Like you’re doing a bad job.
Ebony Steadman, a mother of three who took part in the survey, said social media was a big reason why she fails to ask for help when she needs it, especially when other parents act on social media as though everything is peachy.
“It makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong,” she said. “You’re not about to declare to the world that your baby is doing the opposite; it makes you feel like a failure.”
What do you think? Does social media stop you from asking for parenting help? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.