Last Sunday was Mother’s Day here in Australia. This always produces an avalanche of thought on the role of mothers and their importance. Social media is flooded with people thanking their mothers, signing their praises and signalling their gratitude for being a mother. Another not so recent event was A’s first birthday. This is a big milestone for any mother, but in resonated with me as it coincided with my (part time) return to work. Its been a big year and if you’ve read this blog you will know that along with the many joys there have been a few challenges. But we survived the first twelve months relatively intact.
Mother’s day wasn’t always a joyous event. A couple of years ago, it was preceded by my three unsuccessful IVF cycles. Watching mothers being deified is crushing when its the only thing you want to be and the one thing you can’t. Its not that I think that we shouldn’t show appreciation for mothers, we absolutely should. I just think that we need to be conscious that the rhetoric that comes with a day like that can be a knife through the heart for many and often that rhetoric is empty and useless to the very mothers it claims to love. It is a little hypocritical to, on the one hand, put mothers on a pedestal for a day, then the rest of the year tear away at them in myriad of ways. From mummy wars, to poor childcare resources, to unsuitable working arrangements. The ways in which we can actually support mothers rather than the tokenism that one day of the year offers are many and varied. I’m sure many mothers would prefer affordable, accessible childcare over flowers and flexible working arrangements over a dressing gown. Often we separate mothers’ issues form women’s issues, when often they are one and the same.
Which brings me to my next thought, about our identity as mothers and wether we can be considered separate from that big part of ourselves. I think we often find it hard to identify ourselves as more than the parent of our children, particularly if you are a stay at home mum. A lot of who we used to be is lost in the transition and we often just call ourselves someone’s mum. When really we are much more than that. It seems to be a rising trend to take on motherhood as the whole of our persona and dedicate your entire existence to mothering. You are a “bad’ mother if you have interests outside of your child. If you have a desire to work outside the home or resume your career. Its also tied to being a “better” woman, if you’re a better mother. Which is offensive to those that are trying to be and can’t, and also those that have no desire to be at all. Motherhood has become a contest of who does more for their child, whose sacrifices are greater. This competition doesn’t interest me. I enjoy time out from my kid occasionally, so I guess that disqualified me early on. If I’m brutally honest, I do sometimes miss my pre-child life. I often feel that I can’t say that due to the difficulty I had in falling pregnant. But just because my journey to motherhood was more difficult, does not mean that I do not share the daily frustrations that someone who fell pregnant on their first try feels.
Everyone know that motherhood comes with a massive life adjustment: everything is turned upside down. I wasn’t nearly arrogant enough to think I could fathom what that would mean, but I was silly enough to think I knew what I didn’t know and that finding answers would be easy, if you knew what you were looking for. I know for many, their experience of first time motherhood can be scary and overwhelming but generally they get the gist by about 3 months. I feel like I have been at this for a year and only now am I starting to see some order among the chaos (but still no sleep. Sleep is for the weak, according to my daughter). This is one of the hardest jobs in the world. But, for me at least, the best.