Despite the smiles, the sloppy kisses and the pure magic children bring to our lives, it's hard to deny that motherhood can be tough. And while it's important to acknowledge the difficulties, to normalise and validate our experiences, sometimes a change of perspective can be helpful too.
Here are five commonly identified challenges of being a mum, seen through a slightly different lens.
1. The mess and the chaos
There are the epic, often unpredictable tantrums, the constant runny noses and a house forever strewn with toys are all parts of raising kids.
And yet, there's something about the mess and mayhem of children that forces you to stop taking life so seriously. You develop an ability to laugh at yourself and the situations you find yourself in.
Sure, I was slightly mortified the time I looked down while ordering a coffee to find my shoes covered in dried breast milk I'd spilt earlier that day. I had a good laugh about it later though, just as I've learnt to laugh about some (not all) of the other little mishaps that come with parenting.
When you're a mum, your days won't necessarily go as planned. And that's okay. There's nothing quite like motherhood to loosen up one's perfectionist tendencies and learn how to go with the flow.
2. Feeling as if you're losing your identity
At times, particularly in those first few months in the new baby bubble, it can seem as though the all consuming demands of motherhood swallow you whole. There's often a deep sense of not knowing who you are anymore, and of having lost yourself. To some degree, it's inevitable that the person you were will change as a result of becoming a mum. Your priorities shift, you have less time, and your heart stretches and fills with a new fierce, unconditional love.
And yet, rather than losing your identity, or the essence of who you were pre-baby, becoming a mother can give you a new identity, another richer, layer. You're a mum, and that's something you can incorporate into the way you see yourself, a part of who you are, rather than defining you completely. Somewhere between the nappies and the pride felt in watching your children grow, you can find yourself in motherhood, too.
3. Changing friendships
Having children often results in changes to friendships, particularly with friends who don't have kids. And yet motherhood also provides one of those rare opportunities in your life post high school and university, to make new friends.
Mothers' groups may be based around the fact that you all happened to have children at approximately the same time and live in the same suburb, but if you're lucky you might just find a friend or two for life. I've also met women in the park, our children whooshing back and forth on adjacent swings while we chatted, and other lovely mums through my son's childcare.
The poet Sylvia Plath once said, "There's nothing like puking with someone to make you old friends." I strongly suspect that the same goes for friendships formed around baby vomit and severe sleep-deprivation.
4. The changes to your body
Few of us come away from pregnancy physically unchanged. We're often curvier or flatter … or both. Not to mention the stretch marks. It can be easy to say "own those tiger stripes" and "embrace the curves", and yet for some women, the changes can be confronting and disheartening and not easily dismissed with an inspirational statement.
An upside of motherhood, however, is the way that, starting during pregnancy, you become more attuned to your body, to what it needs. And how after your little one is born, caring for and nurturing their health and wellbeing encourages you to be the healthiest version of yourself that you can. Being a mother makes you acutely aware of your own mortality, of the cycle of life, and of just how precious it is. It's the perfect opportunity to take stock of and responsibility for your health, for your own sake and for your kids.
5. Less time alone with your partner
Suddenly having less time together as a couple can be a tough adjustment. Lazy brunches, nice dinners, travel and simply time to talk about non-baby related things are made all the more difficult (or impossible), at least initially.
Having children requires you to be more creative in the way you nurture your relationship. It's about going back to basics for a little while, focusing on small kindnesses and stolen moments. And embracing the simple things, like a bottle of wine brought home after a particularly trying day, and shared in the sleeping-child silence of night. An unexpected heart-lifting text message of love and appreciation, sent right when it's needed, or the gift of a craved for sleep-in.
And while it's hard getting used to having less time alone as a couple, watching your partner become a parent, growing into and embracing their new role and working it all out together too, is such a privilege.
And the time you do manage to spend together … well, it's decadent and wonderful, and you savour every minute.