How refreshing to read an honest article about motherhood. At last. You see, I love my five children to bits but I have no rose-tinted specs about the institution that is motherhood. Like everything else in my life, I did it large. Five is big by anyone’s standards. If I was going to do it, I’d do it wholeheartedly. When they were small, I ran on auto-pilot. I had more energy than anyone else I knew, and, boy how I needed it. The issues arise later when motherhood starts to take its toll, and a middle-age life of one’s own is appealing. No longer having to consider anyone else feels like a pipe dream, way too far off. You don’t know this when you have children because no one tends to have an honest debate – and if they did, would we believe them, anyway? But women should at least aim to be honest. There comes a time, as one’s children move towards independence (job well done, cheers) that mothers feel like banks and taxi drivers. They bail out their kids if they get into bother, tolerate adolescent moods, and are assumed to be on call 24/7. We are there to help but not to interfere. Advice is often unwelcome. We can communicate when they choose to talk or listen to us. In any other relationship than a parent-child one, such conditions would be intolerable. There are advantages. They keep us young and on the ball, but they are not our friends, and eventually, it is friends we need.
There is a new #regrettingmotherhood hashtag. I’m not a fan because I’m not a fan of regret. Sure, like everyone else, I might have made different choices had the information been out there but it wasn’t and I didn’t. I was also one of those crazy females whose biological clock well and truly kicked it. I couldn’t blame conditioning. It was a primal urge. My body wanted babies! Yet, very soon after, I was surely not the only woman who detested mother and toddler group and felt vastly bored by the whole accepted child-rearing thing.
Trawling through this article, I can skip some parts. My body didn’t get too messed up. Well, yes, actually, it did after a botched forceps delivery and extended episiotomy with first born, but there was some nifty repair work and all has been pretty good since, to be fair. I would not undo motherhood, but I would like to get across the message that motherhood is far from blissful. As their kids grow up, I know many women who have found themselves unhappily married – and stuck – because they took on full-time mothering/housework, or poorly paid part-time roles to fit in with motherhood, and are now suffering the consequences of having no financial power within their primary relationship. Even those who worked in professional careers can find their circumstances straitened, and, let’s be honest, children do not like you living your own life/seeking fulfillment, anyway. Why would they when it means putting them second?
Of course, once we get the children up and running, people then assume we women want grandchildren. Er, no thanks. Not remotely interested right now. Maybe in ten years I will be. It is just another aspect of child-rearing and domesticity that is supposed to appeal to us, to make our lives complete. To me, it just means more of the same, and I’m not too keen! Over-saturation of a theme.
The big issue remains as it was during my feminist youth. It is simply this:
Motherhood is not the route to complete female happiness, so stop pretending it is. Actually, no one thing is because we are all multi-faceted. More often motherhood is a route to oppression, if only because of economics.
On the train recently, I heard a woman in her 70s mourning her life after having children and warning the young woman to whom she was chatting, to think hard about children, and to enjoy life beforehand because “you sure as hell don’t once they arrive”.
It’s not popular to say such things and children can bring great pleasure, but actually, so do lots of other things, and generally without the painful bits, too!