This post has been bouncing around in my mind for literally months. I have been very apprehensive to put ‘pen to paper’, for lots of reasons as I’m sure you’ll soon realise. But reading this article last week, sharing it on She Sows Seeds Facebook page and seeing a discussion opening up, has cemented in my mind that I would like to at least continue the discussion here. I debated whether to preface this post with the following, I’d like to not have to say all of this as I’d hope it would be obvious…but here it is anyway:
I KNOW that I am lucky. I KNOW I may be in the minority. I KNOW I may/will be eating my words with a ‘terrible’ toddler/teenager. I KNOW that I only have the one child at the moment. I KNOW that I am incredibly lucky to be able to stay at home for the majority of my time with Eleanor, and that I have family help close by. I know all of this. But I can only speak from my own personal Mothering experience. My own. That’s all any Mothers can do. So, this is simply my own story, on my own terms, on my own platform – my blog. Right? Cool…
If I had a dollar for every time somebody asked me in the past 12 months “Is she a good baby?” well, I’d probably be writing this from my yacht in the Maldives. A good baby? A good baby? What a funny question. Of course she’s a good baby. All babies are good. All babies are full of delicious, sweet, happy goodness. Every. Single. One. What do people want me to say? “Oh no, she’s a terrible baby! Can you please tell me where I return her?” There is no such thing as ‘a bad baby’, just as there is no such thing as ‘a good baby’. Babies are different from each other, yes. But gosh, wouldn’t it be a terribly boring world if all our babes were the same? All our Mothering experiences were the same? Can you imagine? Yawn.
Which brings me to my revelation – my shocking confession which I have been too ashamed to even dare to utter…
I do not find being a Mother hard.
I said it. Phew. Cue the orchestral cymbals and ‘da da DAAAA’ sound effect. And the death stares. And the looks of horror from other Mothers, aghast and confronted by me and my Truth. How dare I! It has become pretty apparent to me, on social media, in the mummy-blogosphere, in every day real life, that apparently I am meant to be tearing my hair out, rocking slowly in a corner, on the brink of divorce with my husband and crying at least every 20 minutes about the disaster that is Mothering. And if I’m not in that state, well I’m doing it all wrong.
Bullocks. To. That.
The glorification of the Mothering struggle has been irking me for awhile. Everywhere you turn there will be a blogger, a social media mum, a friend on Facebook, spouting that this gig is hard. Really hard. And yes, it is…for some. For others, like myself, they don’t find it overly ‘hard’. Do I find it challenging at times? Frustrating at times? Tiring at times? Yes, yes, yes. Monotonous? Yes. But soul destroyingly difficult? No. I absolutely 100% acknowledge that some (most?) Mothers would identify with their roles as ‘hard’. And that’s ok. But it’s also ok to not identify with that ‘struggle’. There seems to be endless topics of conversation happening for those in the ‘this is bloody hard’ camp, and I agree that these are the Mothers who need the most support, the encouragement, I get that, I really do. As a Mother in this other camp, the ‘I-think-I’ve-actually-got-this’ camp, I might not need as much support, but I still need other like-minded parents to identify with. Everywhere I turn there seems to be a parenting pity party taking place, and I don’t have an invite.
It is a concept I have struggled with a lot over the past year. Sure, every Mother will tell you that they love their children, they love their role as Mother, it’s the best job in the world, yadda yadda yadda. But to say that it’s ‘not hard’? Well, the fear I’ve felt of mummy-persecution has been a weighing on me heavily. I’ve felt guilty, so guilty, that I was finding this babyland my natural habitat. I seemed to have discovered this strange paradoxical world, a new form of ‘mummy shame’.
A whole new variety of ‘mummy isolation’ was happening for me as I looked around my mama village and didn’t identify with much at all. I would nod along about sleepless nights and screaming sessions and mastitis horror stories, all the while I had (have!) a baby who was sleeping often from 7pm-8.30am, was so quiet when she did wake up that I struggled to hear her and I seemed to be able to breastfeed like some sort of Olympic sport.
Let me say this again: I know I am lucky. I count my blessings a thousand times a day. But, not being able to identify with this doom-and-gloom of Motherhood has been a curly one to get my head around. What a funny place to find yourself.
Another thing that has happened recently, and got me thinking about this whole business of how I find Mothering, has been the birth of a few babies dotted about the blogosphere. Namely Beth’s little Maggie over at Babymac. I am a regular reader and commenter over there…but since the post-birth posts about anxiety, post-natal depression, mastitis…I haven’t commented. I have sat on my hands. I have felt like a mummy island adrift from all these other Mother’s nodding along about the anxiety with a newborn. I never had that. I don’t understand it. And that’s great, I know that. But for me? It’s hard to join a conversation when I have no concept of the topic at hand.
My fantabulous mother-in-law told me on the day we left hospital with our baby blossom and brought her home to our cosy farmhouse: “There’s no such thing as a contented baby, only a contented Mother.” In my post-birth hazy fog brain I was so confused by this. But it soon clicked. Boy, did it click. I now often tell new Mothers this, or mums on their second or third round. I often hear about mum’s (like Beth) and how ‘different’ it is for their second/third/fourth baby compared to their first. And honestly? I sit back and think…but that’s what it was like for me with Eleanor, my first. Huh. How will it be different for me with subsequent children? I just had a whole lot of round-peg-square-whole type stuff going on.
My other giant bug-bear is how all this doom-and-gloom glorification is affecting woman, many of my friends, who are yet to become Mothers. I’ve had heartfelt conversations with two of my friends recently, slowly but surely paving their own roads towards Motherhood, and the fear in them of the task at hand made me so sad. And it was all influenced by the constant chatter ‘out there’ in the internet ether about how hard it was, the horror stories, that you will never sleep again, that you will need a straight jacket, a bottle of gin nearby and your life will. be. OVER! Give me strength… I got up on my soapbox (I seem to be good at that on this topic at the moment!) and gave them a good dressing down. The notion that these yet-to-be-Mothers were so frozen by fear to take the next step just made me…sad. So sad. I remember early on in my local mum’s group (which I have found awesome by the way) my now good friend Jen leaned across to me at our coffee date, our sleepy newborns in our arms and whispered: “Everyone tells you the horror stories…but…it’s just the best”.
So, as I’m about to hit publish on this post…the apprehension still bubbles. The fear of speaking my Mothering Truth. But that’s just what it is: Truth. And it’s mine. Nobody elses. Judge me, shame me, tisk-tisk from afar, roll your eyes or curse me a thousand times. I simply can’t sit here and share my Mothering journey, as I do in my role as a blogger/oversharer, and not have it speak honesty. Raw and real and confronting as it may be.
Now, once you’ve slammed your laptop shut and grumbled into your bucket of strong coffee, please refer back to my preface. But…there it is. The truth. My truth. Phew.