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Being a 'Natural' at Raising a Child Is a Myth

Photograph by Getty Images

Mila Kunis “was born to be a mom.” That’s according to a source who spoke recently to "People" magazine.

According to many other sources (or at least one: me), that’s a pretty freaking hilarious statement. No, of course I don’t doubt Kunis is a loving, attentive and nurturing caregiver to her newborn baby girl, Wyatt. Of course I also couldn’t tell you either way about her parenting skills or instincts because I neither know her nor do I know much about her.

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However, what I do know is that, less than a couple of weeks after the birth of one’s first child, many, if not most women are also marvelous at motherhood. It’s hard not to be because most of what many babies at that age is eat, sleep and poop.

Kunis and her fiancée, Ashton Kutcher, are reportedly “taking parenting by storm.” While she’s “not a glamour-puss,” and is expecting “their lives will change,” it won’t be “nearly as drastically as other couples, because [Kunis and Kutcher] were so ready to be parents and knew what responsibilities they had in store.”

Are you laughing with me yet? If you are, chances are you are the parent of a child older than one month. If not, just wait.

To prove how inherent Kunis is to parenthood, the source went on to tell People that she spent the weekend at home with Wyatt, took her out for short walks around the neighborhood and “looks great and very happy.”

Surely there are some new moms whose babies don’t simply sleep, eat and poop a couple of weeks in. But even if you talk to the moms of those who have perfect babies from the get-go, by month two or three, you’ll invariably start hearing different stories: How the baby won’t sleep or eat. How the baby cries — a lot. How the baby is constipated. How the new mom starts to feel less natural at motherhood. How the new mom actually feels like she probably shouldn’t be a mom if she can’t soothe, feed or relax her own flesh and blood.

The problem is that feeling like a “natural” after giving birth is a persistent myth that’s perpetuated all over the place.

Many celebrities and wealthier families have the benefit of doulas, baby nurses and nannies. Some new moms might have the benefit of having extended families nearby to help out on a regular basis. Even in those circumstances, though, so rarely do new moms feel joyous at all, or even most times outside of the first few (often blurry) weeks of parenthood. There is so much anxiety that comes with change, and when you consider how much a baby changes from birth to Age 1, it’s enough to make you lose your motherly mind.

To be sure, no one reads "People" for the final word on motherhood. The problem, though, is that feeling like a “natural” after giving birth is a persistent myth that’s perpetuated all over the place and makes many women feel decidedly unnatural, even unhuman, when their newborn baby is inconsolable or can’t nurse or sleep. Just as so many of us learn the hard way that getting pregnant, staying pregnant, giving birth and nursing is not nearly as easy as Hollywood would make us believe, being a natural at raising a child is a legend that has been passed down from generation to generation and never gets easier to believe because it’s really never easier.

Let’s hear about Kunis and her “natural” mothering abilities when Wyatt switches over to solid foods and it turns out she might have some food allergies. Or if Kunis decides that disposable diapers are more her speed and the cloth diapering people take her to task. What if she weans her from breastfeeding before the time recommended by the World Health Organization? How about if we get an update from Kunis when little Wyatt won’t take no for an answer — about anything? How will Kunis react naturally, exactly, if Wyatt bullies or is bullied when she starts school?

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The "People" piece on Kunis is just fluff, obviously. The story’s source is unnamed. Kunis is a few weeks into motherhood. Kudos to her and her “natural” abilities, which might still be just as natural in the future, and if so, more mom power to her. I sincerely wish her all the luck in the world. Because, as natural as motherhood is to so many, sometimes when you’re a mom, you actually need sheer luck to make it through the day. Lots of luck on many days, in fact.

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