This is a very difficult post to write, mostly because of the sensitivity of the topic at hand. But please bear with me—I think it is an important topic that we, as members of a community, really need to deeply think about and, hopefully, be inspired to do something about.
There is something so horrific about mothers who kill their children. It seems to illogical, so contrary to nature, that it can be understood why we tend to condemn these women. If all mothers were to act in such a way, the human race would become extinct in a matter of years.
But the horrific nature of this act is what makes it so important for us to think about and reflect on. What is it that drives a mother, who, biologically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, is driven to love and protect their offspring?
Think about it: the most natural, normal thing for a mother to do is to protect her young ones. It is a very powerful drive that has yielded amazing stories of women performing incredible acts when their children were in danger.
Which really begs the vital question: what would drive a mother to commit such as act? Whatever it may be, the negative force that counters the positive instinct to protect and nurture is a very powerful one.
My own mother told me stories about some of the difficulties of being a parent. They include isolation and exhaustion and the pressure of being the perfect mother, wife, and homemaker despite it. Not just that: we are meant to achieve all of this without the traditional family and community structures that used to support mothers.
When my close friends started becoming mothers, they told me of isolation and exhaustion, and also of the pressure to be the perfect mother, wife, and homemaker, and on top of that, of maintaining a career, an active social life, and making it all look good on social media.
Since I’ve become a mother myself, I have gained a taste of what the pressures society exerts on us can do to a mother. Even when I was at my most exhausted, all I could think of sometimes, instead of sleeping because the baby is sleeping, is that I had to clean the house, clean myself, bake something, wash dishes, do chores, go out. If all those things were done, then I would start thinking about exercising to lose weight, because I had been, at less than two weeks after giving birth, the target of comments about the way my stomach looks (despite the fact that I am quite slim and healthy-looking and that my weight and stomach are of absolutely no medical concern.) If that was done, I would start thinking about my career, about working, writing, applying for jobs.
In other words, there always was, and still is, something pressuring me to do more, rather than sit back and take a deep breath, just enjoy motherhood, and just be.
If I didn’t have the support I have from my incredible husband; some measure of financial stability; the support of my amazing parents and lovely sisters; a healthy baby, a healthy husband, and a healthy body; a job that was on hold and waiting for me to pick up again; well, honestly, I can see why someone would be driven to commit the unthinkable.
Because it’s hard being a mom, and if we don’t give moms the support they need—which most of the time, we don’t—they will crack.
So instead of looking at moms who kills their children with the eyes of judgment, we should look at them with concern not for themselves and those like them. Rather, we should look at them with concern for the state of the society they live in. More importantly, we need to take a long, hard look at our own contribution to creating and maintaining a society the structures of which allow for the perfect storm of pressure to build on moms to such an extent that some would commit such horrible acts.
It can be very simple, and each one of us can do something right now about it. When we see a mother, we should ask them how they are doing, instead of focusing only on the baby. We should comment on everything they are doing right, rather on what they are doing wrong; we should do little acts of kindness for the ones we don’t know, like opening the door for them, making their baby smile, handing them that can of tomato sauce they are waiting for, letting them pass in front of us at the grocery store, helping them with the stroller. For those mothers we know, we can also drop off food, visit them to say hi, pick up a little something for them from the store—a couple of apples, an orange, flowers—anything to make them feel loved and appreciated for the service they are providing humanity. And for the mothers in our intimate circle of friends, we should go over to their place with our laptops and keep them company, watch their baby for half an hour while they linger under the shower head, make them food, hug them while they cry because they are so tired, and assure them that whatever they choose to do, they are wonderful and incredible.
We should also not forget about the fathers, who soldier on beside their wives and are allowed even less leeway when it comes to showing any change in their “productivity” after having a child. They have to be strong, they have to be energetic, they have to keep exercising to keep that six pack, they have to not cry, they can’t admit to being tired, they can’t acknowledge that they are overwhelmed.
Thankfully, on an individual level, the conversations are changing, and more women and men are admitting to all of the above that applies to them. It means that we have already taken an important step towards changing the discourse in our society on these topics; and hopefully, once the discourse reaches a tipping point, we can create a world in which no mother will ever get to the point of committing the unthinkable ever again.