I write in response to this week’s simplistic article on motherhood. You represent those who are unable to have children, those who have no desire to have children, and those who find having children the most fulfilling thing they’ve ever done. The thing is, you left out another group. You’ve left out a complicated group of mothers who are ambivalent over motherhood in general.
Let me explain: I am 34 years old, mother of an 18-month old little girl. I am a writer and entrepreneur, slowly forging a career for myself in between sing songs, building blocks, nap times, and nursery days. I never dreamed about how many children I’d have while growing up, and my husband and I never had a set number of kids we wanted; we just knew we wanted to give the parenting thing a try. We wanted a child, and we were lucky enough to have one.
And while I love my daughter deeply, I cannot say that I have found these first months of her life totally fulfilling. I don’t mean that there aren’t fleeting moments of joy, but rather, it is the monotony of motherhood, the repetition, the sheer eye-splintering boredom that comes on the back it, that is tricky for me and so many other women. We are intelligent women, women of substance and we try to keep some semblance of ourselves during this huge transition into motherhood. It is nigh on impossible, yet we cling to the shadow of our former selves in the hope that one day this almost unrecognisable person we now are will mesh with the elusive version from before. We love our child, or children, but they do not define us. Somehow we must make the two worlds work together.
I have no desire for more children. As my daughter gets older, I find myself enjoying her more, not pining for her as a baby. People often ask when the next one is coming along and my answer is not anytime soon. I have been told countless times that as the child grows older and independent, mothers often miss the sweetness of their little baby and subsequently decide go through the whole process again. Perhaps it is only to relive that soft flush of love that comes quietly into one’s soul in the months after your little one arrives, but to me I cannot see why anyone raising a child would want to get them to a place of more independence, only to do it again. And again. And sometimes, again.
As women we are forced to choose between our careers and family. Your article reiterates that there are only these two options: “never have children and have a life”, or “have children and put your life on hold (but don’t worry, it’ll be worth it while you’re doing it.).” But the truth is that it isn’t that simple. There are thousands of women who are trying to balance what you define as “having a life” while having kids; there are women who don’t want to spend all day singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, but feel so madly in love with their kids that they do it anyway. Often everything about motherhood doesn’t feel “worth it”, but somehow we soldier on. The real courage of motherhood lies in our abilities as mothers to admit that it isn’t fun most of the time, that we should not be expected by anyone to always think our children are the most amazing creatures. It is the courage to admit that we don’t know how we feel about it, but each day, we get up, we love our kids, and ourselves, and we make it work. For us.