The aim of this qualitative study was to comprehend how mothers understood and accounted for their experiences in relation to the ideology of motherhood which has been socially constructed as a critical aspect of femininity. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 24 primiparous and multiparous women, and transcripts analysed using open and axial coding with triangulation. Using a material-discursive approach to interpret the data, two higher order themes are presented: ‘the realization of new motherhood’ and ‘coping with new motherhood’. These themes demonstrate how unprepared for motherhood the women were and how their expectations were based on various myths of motherhood. This led to feelings of inadequacy as they struggled with the myth versus reality discrepancy. However, they could not be seen to be inadequate and therefore employed greater efforts to portray themselves as supermum, superwife, supereverything and hide the opposite. These findings are interpreted within the context of the social construction of femininity and how it is performed within motherhood. Implications for antenatal and postpartum care are discussed.
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