I didn’t know there was toxic positivity in motherhood until I became a parent. Honestly, I couldn’t stand one more person telling me how “blessed I was to have a child” anytime I’d share how exhausted and sleep-deprived I was.
I was so tired of the positive phrases that I swore to myself I’d slap the next person who tried to tell me how grateful I should be that I was a mum. Good thing I never got to the point of actually slapping anyone because I figured what was the point of even explaining my situation if the result was a long-winded speech?
So, I stopped sharing my struggles. Which we know is disastrous during postpartum as it can lead to burnout, anxiety, and sometimes even depression.
Later on, I noticed that most of the time, the people in my support group would try so hard to be positive even when all I needed was to be quiet and listen to my woes.
And I bet I’m not the only one who’s had their fair share of toxic positivity.
How does Toxic Positivity look like?
Do you find yourself bombarded with positive quotes and phrases anytime you express your feelings to your spouse, friend, or family?
Cue in Toxic Positivity.
Do you feel like a failure or ungrateful because whenever you attempt to express your fatigue, you’re filled with praises of how great you’re doing and that you should hang in there?
Definitely toxic positivity.
How often have you tried to engage other moms only to be told off because “at least you have a healthy baby”? If you’ve been through any or all of those scenarios, then it’s pretty clear that you have first-hand experience with what I’m talking about.
It sucks, right?
The exciting thing, though, is that most people who try to make you think positive all the time and stop complaining or whining don’t know that their behavior is toxic.
To them, they’re trying to be helpful.
But the truth is that all those positive phrases dismiss the mum’s feelings and put excess pressure on her to get it right.
How to support a mum without being toxic?
So, how can you show your genuine support to a mum without being toxic? Here are some great tips you can apply.
- Listen. Don’t interrupt to voice your opinion, Susan! Just be a damn good listener.
- Acknowledge her feelings. Not this is the tricky part where most people go crazy and add too many positive vibes. Let her know that you understand her struggles and how tough it is.
- Be empathetic. How would you like someone to treat you when you’re sleep-deprived, tired, and going through newborn blues? I bet you wouldn’t want your friend or spouse to remind you for the 100th time that you’re “lucky” and you should be “happy.” So, skip the speech and say something along the line of “I’m sorry you’re going through all that. Sounds tough! I would feel the same if I were in your shoes.”
- Offer ways to help. Ask how you could be of help? Maybe watch the baby/kids while she rests?
Now that we know how toxic positivity shows itself in parenting, I’d urge you to use the above fantastic pointers when visiting a new mum. Or when around other parents going through the rough ride of mothering.
A little sprinkle of positive vibes is essential. Too much of it, especially when someone is trying to express their feelings, is borderline unnecessary.
The takeaway here is that if you’re around your friend and you don’t know how best to support, just sit there and listen. Yep! Imagine that’s
all it takes, and it goes a long way in showing that you care about the other
I hope you found this post helpful. If so, share it with a friend who might find it helpful.
Have you ever experienced toxic positivity? Let me know in the comment section or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org