So last weekend the papers were full of articles about Mothers, Motherhood and Mothering, from every angle possible… I read them with some interest and increasing annoyance. Everyone has an opinion on what being a mum is about these days, and as one article pointed out home-making is very ‘of the moment’, so true – Cath Kidston et all forcing us all to rethink our homes and our lives so that we can all fit into this super mum with super house mode. What a crock… What I have realised over the last few years is that no two mothers are alike. We may follow a particular pattern but when it comes to our own kids we differ hugely. We will defend them to the death, we will stand up for them, support them, clean up after them, we love them, but all in our own ways.
I have been, at different times, a stay at home mum, a working mum, and a self employed mum. I have loved being with my kids but I have also found it hugely irritating, I have loved being there to see their first steps and I have cried in anger when I had to sacrifice a long needed day out because one of them is puking. I have missed assemblies to go to meetings, I have palmed them off to friends and family in the school holidays, and yet if need be I would have given it all up, and indeed I have for the short term.
The thing that irritated me most in the Sunday papers was an article about a book called ‘Shattered: Modern Motherhood and the Illusion of Equality’ by Rebecca Asher. I haven’t read the book I should say, my annoyance was based on an article in the Sunday Times, (which even more irritatingly the website won’t allow me to link to). I think the book title is awesome and if I had written a book about modern motherhood I might just have used something similar but the content would be very different. Ashers approach seems to be one of selfish self-sympathy and I can recognise this in some of my own friends and possibly my past self if I am honest. Let’s face it, having kids is bloody exhausting, you cannot expect to get through parenthood without the exhuastion, general brain-failure and loss of self. But women of this century are expected to (and possibly expecting to) be super mums. I am sure I have written of this before. We are expected to be high fliers at work, whilst raising the most darling little beans with perfect manners and school results, all the while growing our own organic veg and still getting to the gym 3 times a week, oh, and not forgetting baking cakes for the PTA coffee morning. And that is frankly impossible, I know my opinion is tainted by my own experience and subsequent illness but I honestly don’t think that kind of perfect life is possible for anyone. Well not without hired help, marriage issues and a bit of insanity (or maybe a lot..). And should it be anyway? I mean why do we have kids? Not to palm them off on someone else surely? Asher seems to be rather bitter about the changes she has had to make to her life since becoming a mother, but isn’t that what we are supposed to do? having children means sacrifices, that is part of being a parent. It’s no good saying that society and laws need to change so that we can have the same life as we had before children. It doesn’t work like that.
Gosh, I’m not anti-women working and I fully intend to go back to work, albeit in a very different area, but I think some women need to accept that they are mothers first and foremost and that carries with it responsibility…
LesleyApril 6, 2011 at 2:31 pm
ok, but surely dads need to make an equal level of sacrifice? That is where the inequality often comes?
JulesApril 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm
Thats what she said in the article but the problem is that it's very unlikely that you can do that in an equal way. Unless couples are very lucky its unlikely they could both work part time or flexitime. So if one person is working full time to bring in the wage isn't it acceptable that the other deals with the baby/kids? I'm not saying it has to be this way but her tone irriated me as she was complaining about her husband when he had come home early to help and then she got annoyed that he was later checking his emails in his blackberry.
I'm also not saying it has to be 24/7 – I mean I would expect my husband to help more at weekends and eves if possible, I do accept there has to be some level of sacrifice on both parts, but Asher seemed to want to have her cake and eat it!
GOD thinkerApril 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm
To add to the comments, dads are really wired completely differently. It is tough enough for a mom but I have seen dad's forced to be the stay at home parent and it almost kills them. Women are more wired to be nuturing and relational whether in the hoe or not. Men are more of the providers. Yes, dad's should help when they are home, but the will never be a mom and shouldn't have to act like one. Both parents are needed.
There is nothing like being a mom with all its challenges and joys. It is terribly hard at times but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Mitchell PowellApril 7, 2011 at 2:22 am
Tainted by your personal experience? Nah. I'd probably be suspicious if you were pontificating about something you didn't have any experience in. And if you being a mother had gone smoothly all the way through, I'd also be suspicious.
JulesApril 7, 2011 at 12:53 pm
God thinker: yes I agree I wouldnt trade it either, but there are women who do and need to. Probably Asher is one of them, perhaps if she had admitted she would rather be working than at home she might have felt better about herself and the situation. I think though that it's a bit of a generalisation to suggest that men couldn't do it, I hope I wasn't suggesting that in my post. Obviously men do sometimes stay at home and do a good job, I guess it's about the dynamics of invididual families and what works for them (which obviously wasn't wokring in Ashers case!)
Mitchell: Hi, welcome, haven't seen you here before. Yes its true, is any mother perfect!?
I guess the overall thing that i felt from this is the question of why we have children in the first place? We do live in an age where we can have kids and farm them off to full timne nannies, go back to work full time and expect to have our lives as we wish them to be but I'm not sure that is the best approach, or best for the kids…
PerpetuaApril 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm
Been there, done that and still have the scars to prove it 🙂 I think I'm so lucky to have had my children over 40 years ago, when I was still in my early 20s and before I started a career. It was long before the days of Superwoman and though it wasn't easy to combine motherhood with working life (no legislation to help back then) at least I didn't feel burdened by unrealistic expectations. Young mothers today have my deep sympathy.
Hannah MudgeApril 7, 2011 at 9:00 pm
Good post! I have been reading all those pieces about motherhood with interest as we hope that in the next year or so we might be able to think about having a baby…it's a really big step and fairly terrifying. It will be necessary for me to go back to work and it has taken me a while to come to terms with this. Not that I think I will mind – one of the things I was unsure about was being at home full-time. I wondered how miserable it might make me. But like you say, with this focus on perfect parenting and presenting a certain image as a mother, being a SAHM is almost an expectation in some quarters these days, particularly within the church. And I think 'Who am I kidding, the Cath Kidston cupcake-baking domestic goddess with a hoard of perfect kids is so far removed from my personality that it was never likely to happen anyway!'
I don't think it will be easy and I do wish there was greater equality in terms of parental leave so that both parents could take a good amount of time off. The new allowance of up to 26 weeks for fathers on SMP will be of help to some couples, but for those on below average incomes, like us, it's not going to be an option.
I guess I won't know how I feel about it all until I'm actually experiencing it, but there certainly is a lot of pressure.
JulesApril 8, 2011 at 9:59 am
Hi Perpetua & Hannah, thanks for your comments. Hannah, I don't think you can know until you are there, how you will feel, but I hope you find a way that works for you both 🙂 The important thing is to do what feels right for you and your partner and of course your child, not what anyone else wants or expects. Wish you well with it too – it is an exciting time once you have decided to go for it!