Thursday, 21 January 2010

I know I shouldn't say this but...

So much 'mummy blogging' (the term itself actually proving my point to an extent) is anodyne, sugary, insipid, and well... a bit crap really.

I'm ducking the rotten tomatoes as I type.

But I can't hold back anymore. What I want to know is this: Are there really women out there for whom motherhood is always such a dewy eyed, sentimental, fluffy experience (because I'll have whatever they're having) full of foetuses with cute nicknames, and toddlers who never scream 'I hate you!' in the middle of the supermarket? I suppose there must be. But I've never met one. Not for real. Not if she was being honest.

Where is the perfectly natural and healthy ambivalence towards impending motherhood? Where are the other mothers who looked at their newborns in the cold light of day and thought for a fleeting moment that they might be the devil, because I know I can't have been the only one.

Now. I realise that not everyone would wish to emulate my particular style of 'over sharing' on the internet. Some blogs are set up just as a way to let families separated by long distance know how loved ones are doing - I understand that. And I also know that I have no right to tell women what they should and should not feel, or write on their blogs.

But I have a lot to say about the romanticising of motherhood. A lot. Because I believe it does women and their children such a huge disservice. I think it should be called up and held to account for creating so many unrealistic expectations, shattered dreams, confusion, and guilt. I blame the bible. Not exclusively you understand, but I think the holy pedestal upon which 'gentle mother' Mary was placed, is perhaps where it all originated. If we could have had just one story about Mary feeling like chucking Jesus out of the stable window because it was three in the morning and he wouldn't stop crying, then perhaps centuries of women might have been spared a creeping sense of fear and guilt arising from their own suspected 'inadequacies' in failing to live up to a mythological ideal. Just a thought.

I like children. And I love my own just as fiercely and passionately as any mother, but it's a love I grew into. It took a long time, certainly with my first. It crept up on me almost. It was no instant thunderbolt crashing dramatically down as my baby left my body, but more of a slow, painful, learning process. It was hard won, and I wear my love for my children all the more proudly for that. Whilst pregnant with my first child I bought a copy of Kate Figes 'Life After Birth'. I couldn't bear to read it. I read the first chapter or so and then put it down for fear of jinxing myself. The things I was reading frightened me, they seemed so dark. Motherhood was nothing like that I was sure. Then when my baby was one I read it again, cover to cover. And then again when he was three - and both times found it so immensely comforting that I wolfed it down in about a day and a half. Finally, I wasn't the only one.

It is 2010, and yet still there is such a huge amount of pressure on women to collude with the lie that motherhood is all pastel colours and fluffy kittens. I think we owe each other more than that. I truly believe that the most supportive gift we can give to each other as parents and parents to be, is real honesty about what it's really like. The joy and the despair, the love and the resentment, all laid bare with compassion, so that we can take that leap with our eyes wide open. And not feel as though we have failed if we sometimes land on our arses.


  1. This is an excellent, well-articulated post, I agree completely. Thank you for having the courage to speak the truth...we need more of that.

    Fertile Feminism

  2. Hello, coming here via Noble Savage. I agree, oh my goodness I agree. I find motherhood horribly hard, something I blog about very honestly. And surprisingly, it's the posts where I am most honest where I get the most comments. SO many women saying "I can relate to this. Thank you".

    So why do they find it so hard to write about the same issues on their on blogs?

    There is an image of motherhood, it seems, we are expected to adhere too. But it does us all no favours to perpetrate it because motherhood IS hard and pretending otherwise just makes us feel more of a failure.

    Fab post. Thank you

    Josie (Sleep is for the Weak) x

  3. I love babies....I've had five but I am finding it tough, very tough at the moment especially now as a single parent. Some days I wonder how the hell I'll cope for the next sixteen years being 'in charge' on my own. It wasn't what I signed up for. I love them and wouldn't change it for the world, I love having five but it's hard work and I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm struggling at the moment. I find some blogs make me feel even worse when they write about the wonderful relationship they have with their child, the things they make/cook together. Now I sound even more useless than I feel at the moment! Ooops- didn't mean to rant on here.

  4. I had my children 30 years ago and it was just the same then. I love them to bits and think raising them to be the wonderful adults they are is my greatest achievement in a reasonably achieving life. But when I had children at first I found it so hard that I thought I had been conned by people who must have known how hard it would be but had smiled and congratulated and pretended it was all just wonderful.

  5. VERY WELL SAID! xxx
    Have sub'd your blog, nice to find you.

  6. *applauds*
    This is all so very true. The fear of failing to be perfect only exists because the myth of the perfect mother is alive and well and it keeps being reproduced and passed around.
    And I love the quip about Mary and the stable window!

  7. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and comment on my post. At the risk of sounding self indulgent, I'm a new blogger, and getting comments is ridiculously exciting!

    I'm really glad that what I wrote resonated with you all. The worry is always that by saying these things you are inviting criticism, but I think in the end it's more important to reach out to other parents with openness and honesty. I'm discovering more and more women in the blogosphere who are doing just that, and so providing other mothers with genuine support. What a nice community - thanks.

  8. I just found your post via twitter. I'd like to respond. When I was pregnant, I was very unattached from my baby. I hated being pregnant, I had no idea what to expect. I was huge, bloated looking, and felt disgusting. I would stand in the kitchen some evenings early on, slamming my fists into my stomach and screaming about how I wanted to feel like myself again.
    Once my daughter was born, however, I found myself completely, soul-drenchingly enamoured with her from the start. I would sit and watch my milk come in while she slept and wonder how anyone could ever feel so needed and not follow through on it.
    I still spend hours just reveling in the fact that my baby is my own, that I can kiss her sweet dear face, hold her to my chest and nurse her. Motherhood has brought me patience I never knew I could have, and has made me into a better person. I find myself reaching out and comforting her and it makes me happy to be able to mother her in a way that brings out the best in her (she's 18mo) and the best in me.
    Motherhood has empowered me, brought me to my knees, made me sob at the sight of other babies in need, torn my eyes open with a passion for being the best model I can to my daughter- but most of all, it has been fulfilling and deeply bittersweet.

  9. Good post, just found you. I only revealed my blog about 2 weeks ago (although I have been secretly tapping away for months!) and I LOVE geting comments. I have read tons of blogs with honest accounts of tough motherhood on them and I am always happy to share - just a little too uch some may say! lol Mich x

  10. Well put. A lot of my readers are mummy bloggers and most days I just can't bear the sunshine that seems to permanently blaze out of their orifices. It's too much. I like a bit of honesty, the grim reality that parenting is often incredibly difficult. That's what I find helpful, that's what I can relate to.

  11. Thank the Lord! Finally, after what feels like an epic journey though the Fluffy Blogs of the Blogosphere, I have finally found some women (and men it seems) who are happy to say it as it is. Wonderful piece, well considered and written. You are a natural my lovely to this blogging malarkey.

    I shall be back again as I suspect we will have much more to chatter about from here on in. If that scared you sorry, just read it back and have made myself sound like a nutjob stalker!


  12. Hear, hear! I much prefer a bit of honest 'my children are evil and i think i might put them on ebay' postage than the fluffy bunnies and rainbows.

    And I now have a wonderful image of Mary launching Jesus out of the stable window that will stay with me in my darkest of mothering moments!