Thursday, August 26, 2010

Saddle up readers, I'm getting back on my high horse...

I'm enraged. For some reason or another (now long forgotten) I was trawling The Age website and stumbled upon an article published back on August 2nd in the Sunday Life. The article by Jacinta Tynan, entitled, 'Is motherhood really that hard?', sported the tag line, 'quit moaning about your lack of me-time and unread novels… this motherhood thing is all a bit of a lark'. I kept waiting for the punch line when it was revealed Jacinta was being sarcastic. She wasn't.

The article even went so far as to imply that women who say motherhood is hard are simply whingers who want to fool others into believing they're working hard. The whole thing smacked of a lack of empathy and imagination for situations other than the writer's own. How much support a person has is a key element on how easy or hard motherhood is. Staying at home with the kids can be isolating and down right lonely if you don't have people around you to share things with.

As far as I understand it women's lib was all about giving women a voice, so that they didn't have to stoically and silently battle on unacknowledged and unappreciated polishing the silverware and fetching their husband's slippers. We've won the right to a voice so dagnamit I'll be using mine. To shout from the rooftops about women's rights and women's issues. And one issue is that some (read most) women do struggle at home… at least some of the time. I say this not to scare people or put them off motherhood, which I think everyone unanimously agrees is a gift and privilege. Rather I say it to inject a bit of reality into the discussion.

All too often when we discuss motherhood we seem to fall into the trap of veering to one extreme or the other. We either wax lyrical (as Jacinta did) about the joys of motherhood as though we are some saintly madonna whispering sweet nothings into our angelic babies ears, savouring the moonlight hours alone with the tiny 'love of our life', 'motherhood is a cinch', and really anyone who isn't managing to breeze through their mothering days, whilst also holding down some kind of paid employment and putting up a fancy dinner for their husband each night is frankly downright lazy. This kind of thinking sets up unrealistic expectations for the childless among us and feeds into the ever prominent cycle of guilt and self flagellation of those women who feel they're not living up to this ideal. News flash - no one lives up to this ideal all of the time.

I sometimes worry I feed into this cycle of supermumdom by writing this blog. I am probably guilty of feeding this fantasy by (for the most part) showing you the best parts of my days and shamelessly editing out the bits I'd rather you didn't see. I'm not trying to be dishonest, rather I use this to focus my mind and celebrate the positive aspects of my days.

On the flip side some women will rant and rave about the horrors of motherhood, and make you wonder why anyone would sign up for what is effectively a prison life sentence. I have to say I don't think these women are lying either. You've probably caught them on a bad day/week/month. We've all had them. Recently I recall sitting on the floor in a sleep deprived haze scrubbing poo from the walls of Minty's room, after yet another Pro Hart inspired faeces artwork installation and sobbing, wondering where I had gone wrong in life when a few short years ago I was decorating this beautiful nursery, enjoying daily intellectually stimulating exchanges with friends and colleagues and now I was faced with a wilfully disobedient two year old, who flat out refused to cooperate in the creation of the picture perfect magazine ideal of the family I was trying to create. I would hazard a guess and say that the women who tell these horror storries aren't trying to scare you, they are merely trying to lift the veil of unrealistic expectations or elicit a little sympathy.

Children are people, not dolls, and just like any other relationship there are going to be challenges, ups and downs. There are few things in life that can be simplified down into black and white categories of 'good' and 'bad', 'easy' or 'hard'. And frankly we probably wouldn't want them to be. Within any given day of motherhood you are likely to experience the whole spectrum of emotions, rage, boredom, hilarity, joy, peace, tedium, frustration and elation. I refuse to box this up and label it with a simple tag of 'easy' or 'hard'. It's beautiful, messy, ugly, and fun. Motherhood isn't a static state of mind, it's forever changing and adapting and entering new phases.

Frankly I feel like publishing an article like this is downright irresponsible. I worry about its affect on new mums who are struggling. What these women need is a little compassion not judgement. Thankfully those who are struggling as new mums are unlikely to have had to time to be reading the Sunday Life. It is about as narrow minded as writing an article claiming that 'I have a job' therefore anyone who doesn't is a lazy, dole bludging, whinger who needs to get off their backside and make a contribution to society. Actually that does sound like an article The Age might publish so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

And yes Jacinta, I do want a medal. What may I ask is wrong with wanting a little appreciation for the work I put in?


  1. You go Susan!

    Best... post... ever.

  2. Send this to someone and get it published!

  3. I never saw the original article but I did read some of the subsequent responses - don't think she'll be showing her face at kinder any time soon ;)


    Take heart - the world hasn't lost its marbles entirely (though I was frightened by some of the mother's comments at the end of the original article - the ones at the end of this are far more sane)

  5. This is a fantastic post, Susan. Beautifully written. I'm in awe.