Disclaimer:  This is by no means a defense of women who kill their children, this is an argument against entities that ignore the cries for help of mothers who are on the edge…

Every time we hear stories about a mother who has killed her children, we ask ourselves why?  Why would a mother go to such extreme measures?  Why didn’t she just leave if she couldn’t handle it?  How come none of her family members stepped in before it was too late?  Where was the children’s father?

The easy answer is people expect mothering to be instinctual ~ woman gets pregnant, has baby and maternal knowledge, patience and skill are imparted.  The truth is, being a mom isn’t the easy jump back into your pre~pregnancy clothes and bask in the love of your newborn infant life that we see flashed across television screens.  Being a mom is hard, smelly, loud work.  Babies demand.  Babies poop.  Babies cry.  There will be days when you won’t shower.  There will be weeks (months?) when you’ll look in the mirror and not recognize the person staring back at you.

We live in a culture that has set unreasonable expectations of motherhood (while at the same time denigrating women who choose to devote themselves to home and hearth).  Celebrities are paraded on magazines and television shows as the epitome of motherhood, they have it all and can do it all ~ fix gourmet meals while breastfeeding their adorable tots while still looking glamorous in their size 00 dresses.  No one points out the round~the~clock nannies on staff, the nutritionist who plans the meals, the housekeepers who polish the silverware and the physical trainer who whips them into shape.

I was a mom of four kids all under the age of five many many years ago and I remember sitting in the bathroom on the floor with the door closed crying because I didn’t think I could handle it anymore.  I remember seeing the tiny fingers sliding under the door and wishing they would just disappear.  I remember when they learned to write and those fingers started sliding notes under the door…  But I also remember the days when I couldn’t stop kissing them or when the only thing I wanted to do was hold them and stare into their big brown eyes.  Sometimes I can still hear the echo of their toddler voices begging me to put their socks on their hands, “Put it on, Mommy.”   To this day, I’m not sure what that was about, but they loved wearing their socks on their hands

My kids are teenagers now but I still remember how cut off I felt from the rest of the world when I was a SAHM.  I didn’t have Facebook, Twitter and the myriad of other social networking sites that moms have at their disposal today.  If my husband wasn’t available or my family didn’t answer the phone, I could go days without talking to another adult.

I think the women who reach the depths of murderous depression suffer from the same sense of alienation but with a side of hopelessness.  The men (husbands, baby daddies, etc) in their lives are emotionally (physically) absent from the relationship and the woman is left to handle things on her own.  Women are expected to be able to do it all ~ grace under pressure…

I’m not talking about women like Susan Smith who murdered her children so she could maintain a romantic relationship or the woman who committed a murder~suicide by driving her minivan into the Hudson River because of an argument, I’m talking about women like Andrea Yates who murdered her five children after suffering for years from bouts of depression/postpartum depression.  Not all women who can have children should be mothers and not all mothers should be stay~at~home~moms.  It’s hard work that requires a patience, dedication, love, devotion, physical, spiritual and emotional stamina that you don’t just get because you’ve given birth. 

What was the most surprising/disappointing thing about motherhood?  Do you think you were fully prepared for everything that it involves?  Were you able to create a support system?