Thursday, May 7, 2009

More than 'just a mum'

I was inspired by Mel’s post Not All Sunshine and Lollipops to write my own take on motherhood. If you get a chance, visit her excellent blog

From the moment you give birth for the first time, your life is changed irretrievably and forever. Your life becomes about your baby – protecting her, guiding her, providing for her. Your needs suddenly come a distant second to hers’ and the rest of your family’s.

“You’re a mother now,” people say, as if, suddenly, all that has gone before is no longer of any consequence. “This is the most important job you’ll ever do.”

I agree with that. Raising a child, shaping them into a compassionate, well-rounded human being is undoubtedly a big deal…but to automatically assume that it makes all our other achievements pale in comparison is a bit rich.

A few years ago I watched Felicity Huffman from Desperate Housewives interviewed. When asked by the gushing journalist if motherhood was the best experience of her life, she said: "No, no, and I resent that question. Because I think it puts women in an untenable position, because unless I say to you 'Oh, it's the best thing I've ever done with my whole life,' I'm considered a bad mother. And just when I said no, you (reeled) back."

For that unexpected, and refreshing, piece of candour she was hauled over the media coals. A mother not thinking her children are her crowning achievement? What kind of hard hearted bitch is she? My answer…an honest one.

It’s important to realise that, even though a woman inevitably changes once she’s become a mother, she doesn’t stop being a woman. If she’s spent 15 years climbing the career ladder, managing teams of people, and revelling in intellectual debates, she’s unlikely to find conversations with her toddler about her favourite Hi-5 character stimulating for any length of time.

Giving birth to a child does not mean a woman suddenly becomes obsessed with finding the best brand of laundry liquid to make sure her family’s clothes are whiter than white; or is beset by urges to cook a pot roast every night. Unfortunately, expelling the placenta does not guarantee a sudden ability to clean the house well. Trust me.

I love my children. I am so glad I have the opportunity to guide their path to adulthood, and I take my role and responsibility as their mother very seriously. But I’m also a woman who has worked bloody hard for her career and is very proud of the things she’s achieved in her working life. Does wanting to be thought of as more than ‘just a mum’ make me a bad person? I don’t think so.

It just means that underneath the baby vomit smeared jumper…behind the mountains of unironed clothes...I haven’t stopped being me.


Bells said...

And nor should you either. I've spent the years of trying to fall pregnant watching women and how they experience motherhood. There's a whole range out there from the 'crowning achievement' types to the 'it's bloody hard slog and I struggle' types. I don't know which I'll be - I suspect becoming a mum later in life will mean I'll fight to keep all the other bits of life that make me me as real and prominant as possible. Theory, huh? I just know I'm a happier person when I keep a balanced approach, which is, I think, what you're getting at.

Anonymous said...

Love your post. Love it love it!

And I loved Felicity in that interview. What a freakin' breath of fresh air.

I, like you, have a brain I love to use at work. Being a mum doesn't render that brain useless or stupid or, as you rightly said, now suddenly hell bent on finding the best floor cleaner. I'm a mum, but I'm so me it's not funny. And it takes a while to get there. After 2 years, I'm feeling like I've struck a bit of a balance, BumMum.

Thanks for posting fab stuff continuously.

Rowe said...

Oh, these baby pics get me every time. I am pathetic when out shopping and I see the little bald heads everywhere, I really do have to contain myself. I can so relate to what you are saying for when I was a first time mummy. I have had a 17 year gap between my two eldest sons and my prized later in life daughter who has brought a divine ray of sunshine into my life. I did not appreciate being a mum as much with my boys when I was younger, there was no doubt I loved them though, and may I say they have turned out beautifully, they did not go to jail when they got older as I fretted they might due to their entirely normal boy behaviour. I treasure each day with my daughter as I know she will grow up fast, as many older people used to say when my boys were young and my eyes would glaze over not knowing how true that is. I am now one of those older people with another little rugrat, and yes I still fight for my rights to be not just a mum with no other talents or abilities, tho I must say the fight is not as strong.

Iris said...

Hurrah for honesty - I'm definitely still in here (under the bird's nest-hair and poop-stained EVERYTHING).

Giving birth is one of the greatest moments of my life, certainly, and being a mother is fabulous, but I'm itching to get back to studying come July.

(Permanently twenty three, I love that you say "Being a mum doesn't render that brain useless or stupid" - I wish! There are times where I'm sure that what intelligence I had is being sucked out along with my breastmilk..)

Anonymous said...

Well said!