Motherhood can be gloriously life-affirming and wondrous (oh yes it can) but it can also be utter sh** too.
That now infamous photo of Beyoncé and her twins Sir and Rumi is truly magical. Just look at it. It’s a fairy tale style capture: an aesthetically stunning, staged image reminiscent of religious art.
It is however lacking realism because (sadly) new motherhood isn’t all flowing locks, a flat post-birth tum and serene sleeping babes in arms.
I’m a fan of Beyoncé’s, she’s a strong woman I wholeheartedly admire but I feel, in an ideal world, this picture would come with a warning. A note that this is NOT THE NORM.
It is of course, Bey’s prerogative to create an icon-like piece of art if she chooses, but this kind of imagery on motherhood verges on becoming dangerous if that’s all we see from mainstream influencers (and it doesn’t come more influential than Beyoncé).
The truth is, early motherhood is tough. I know it. Adele knows it. Even Beyoncé knows it, however much she might glorify it.
Millions of women (a whopping 15% are said to suffer from post-natal depression) and many will have applauded Adele’s honest narrative since the birth of her son, “I love my son more than anything, but on a daily basis, if I have a minute or two, I wish I could do whatever the f— I wanted, whenever I want. Every single day I feel like that.”
That honesty, so rare from mainstream stars is why bloggers and vloggers have accumulated such huge audiences. Their transparency and integrity is precious in a world otherwise saturated with untruths surrounding parenting.
The problem with just sharing positive imagery about new motherhood without the caption/ context: the babies puked, this stuff is hard but I wanted to celebrate my status as a mum of two etc etc alongside it, means we’re simply offered this Hollywood style narrative of perfect motherhood on a plate which applies unreal expectations and pressure on the rest of us.
It’s a discourse which causes alienation and can exacerbate the self-doubt many mothers already feel, post-birth.
That ‘motherhood is the most natural thing in the world’ pressure I was drip fed by the media, stalled me from reaching out for support when I suffered from a traumatic birth with my first son (I eventually did 10 months later when I had eventually hit rock bottom) because I felt I was failing. Everywhere I looked were perfect images of mothers and motherhood like the one you see here.
Thankfully many real parenting blogs such as my own came along, naturalising and normalising parenthood. My post on overcoming trauma and my Proud in my Bikini campaigns contributed to that honest dialogue about pregnancy and birth.
Those pieces reached (and hopefully) helped millions.
I still receive emails today from women saying they sought professional help after reading how therapy changed my own life after an emergency c-section.
Whatever your birth, parenting is a tough gig. The sleep deprivation, the demanding babies, the juggle.
Yes, Beyoncé could be having the time of her life right now but I doubt it because despite her celebrity status, she’s still a human who grew two babies, and her hormones are as tumultuous as ours, are.
Yes, we know she has a whole team to help her with her kids, and that photo shoot itself, will have had a professional team behind it, but it’s one tiny slice of her life right now and it’s not the norm for the rest of us.
The problem with her reach is that because she ‘speaks’ to so many, this ‘only positive’ depiction of motherhood can quickly become the default narrative and it’s dangerous.
With power comes responsibility and whilst positive imagery is undoubtedly pleasing to the eye, Bey seems dedicated to only showing a positive, strong side to motherhood which doesn’t reveal the whole story. It’s sad because she has the potential to help so many.
Maybe she will one day.
New mums, please don’t look at this photo and feel that you’re failing in any way because you might have a mumtum 4 years later (as I do) or you’re frustrated that your babies won’t sleep, or stop screaming, and you simply need you a break from everyone, because we’ve all been there and I reckon so has Beyoncé (even if she doesn’t want anyone to know it).