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.