Thursday, 2 July 2009

Wading In

I'm still here - honest. I'm just very busy, and knackered. I found myself doling out oven chips the other day while simultaneously trying to implement some key changes at work. I think this is what they call 'Having It All'. Funnily enough, all I feel I'm having is the shit kicked out of me most of the time.

But it did make me want to write this post and add my ten-pence worth on the cyber mummy wars. Because not enough has been said about cyber mummy wars already obviously.

Now let's get one thing straight - I'm not actually complaining about my life ok? Well only about life's general busy-ness and the not-enough-hours-in-the-dayness of life but that's not unique to mums is it? Pretty much most adults with responsibilities feel like that some of the time no? And I'm guessing they're allowed to moan about it a bit if they want to right?

I feel I have to say this because apparently there are Stay-At-Home-Mums who might read this and think 'Well it serves you right, you're stretched too thin, you're kids will suffer'. And then there will be Working-At-Home-Mums who think 'You think you've got it bad, at least you get to work in an office where no-one needs their nappy changed and latte is easily available'. And no doubt there are some Angry-Of-Tunbridge-Wells types who think that all yobs would disappear if only I would stay at home and bring my kids up properly. And there are bound to be a few Single-With-No-Kids-And-Tired-of-Covering-For-You-When-Your-Kids-Are-Sick types - actually they can just fuck off because in my experience it's not the parents in the office who take most of the sick days. I'm just a Tired-Of-Covering-For-You-Because-You're-A-Bit-Hungover-And-Can't-Be-Arsed-To-Come-In type of person I think.

But anyway, I digress. What's my point? My point is I've been all of those people, the SAHM, the WAHM, the WOHM and lots of other things too. But at no point did I feel under pressure to be a certain way. I didn't feel I had to conform to any stereotype while wearing one of those hats. And yet, alot of the mum wars seem to me to be about this point. That some other group of people - let's call them 'they', want 'you' to be a certain way and you're angry about 'them' trying to make 'you' into one of 'them'.

And this supposed 'pressure' then becomes an excuse to disrespect other people and their choices, sometimes in extremely inflammatory terms.

Now I find myself in a really odd position where I'm disagreeing with the people who are most like me when it comes to this topic. I'm all for 'good-enough' parenting. I don't strive for perfection and I accept that other people will parent differently from me. This seems to be common-sense to me. But alot of what I read from women who seem to hold the same point of view really concerns me. There seems to be this idea that there is a conspiracy out there against 'real' mothers and that everyone is pressured into being a 'perfect' mother. A perfect mother only feeds her child home-made organic food, has a perfect home, a great sex-life, no baby-weight and goes to the gym 3 times a week. The perfect mother doesn't sit in front of daytime trash tv eating her twelfth round of toast having been up feeding a new-born four times last night.

But you know what? I don't buy it. There is no perfect mother conspiracy intended to make 'real mums' feel inadequate. I think the people peddling the perfect mother conspiracy are often those same women who use it to strengthen their own 'real mum' credentials. When my children were babies, the only mothers I knew were 'real mums'. We were all working it out as we went along. Nobody ever made me feel inadequate because I was shattered, and still in pyjamas at 4pm some days. My heaven-sent neighbour who rescued me from my smoke-filled house the day I put food on the grill then promptly forgot about it in a fog of sleeplessness regaled me with her own stories of domestic disasters caused by sleepless nights.

In fact, in my experience all mothers have been at pains to point out that there's no wrong or right way to be and to go with what works for you. I never sit in judgement on other parents when I'm out and about as you can never know what's brought them to the point they're at. It's only some very new mothers who will occasionally lapse into 'Sanctimommy' mode and they soon get that knocked out of them. (Trust me - if you're reading this and think you will never bribe your child with sweets/never let them eat junk food/never use a naughty step/never drag them bodily out of a supermarket/never tell them to just BE QUIET FOR FUCKS SAKE? You're almost certainly wrong. )

Does anyone really feel the pressure to be a perfect mother? Because I don't. I feel under pressure to be other things but not that.

Where is all this 'pressure' supposed to be coming from? Not the media surely? We're not stupid enough to fall for that are we? I don't look like Madonna because a) she has shedloads of money, b) she has a cook, c) she has a housekeeper, d) she has a nanny or two and e) she has a personal trainer. Not because I'm inadequate. And do you know what? I bet if I was sat in a coffee shop and got chatting to Madonna about babies she'd offer up some choice parenting moments of her own. Because mothering and our acceptance of how hard it can be unites us much more than it divides us. But you don't always hear that.

1 comment:

  1. I *love* this post, you articulate so well what's been bothering me about this "fighting" and "pressure" for so long. Who are these people that actually LISTEN to the 'pressure'? I think they are simply internalizing things they see around them, thinking that anyone else doing it differently must be judging them. It's Paranoid Parenting at its worst. Just do what feels right and stand by your choices and you won't ever feel that you don't measure up to anyone's standards. Simple as that.

    Noble Savage