Jacinta Tynan is asking. Before I unpack this article, I just want to say that I’m very happy that Jacinta is enjoying being a Mum. That is fantastic. However, she is only one woman and her experiences do not reflect those of every woman. Sometimes motherhood really is that hard. I think there may be a fair whack of unexamined privilege there.
1. Yes, there are sleepless nights (many of them, in a seemingly endless row), but there is nothing difficult about being up all night with the love of your life. Not all women are able to be up all night without consequences to their own health, happiness or general wellbeing. Some women can’t afford to be up all night because they have to go to work the next day in order to pay the bills and put food on the table. Some have health issues which don’t allow them an all nighter. Some don’t have the option.
2. But it is not hard. Hard is being tied to a soulless job for 80 per cent of your waking hours. Hard is fighting cancer, or having a child who is. Or not being able to conceive a child when you ache for nothing more. But soothing a crying baby who won’t sleep for love nor money is a privilege, not a hardship. Wiping spew off your jacket before bolting out the door to a meeting is funny, not a drama. Soothing a crying baby who won’t sleep for love nor money is a privilege? Trying to help a baby screaming their lungs out in pain that you can’t seem to counter is a privilege? Walking around until you feel like your arms will break seconds before your heart does is a privilege? This smacks of ‘just because you were lucky enough to have a baby and now you’ve got what you want why don’t you shut up your whinging?’ We don’t say to athletes who have just won a gold medal – well you’ve got what you wanted, so don’t you dare mention about how hard it was to get here, how much you have sacrificed, just be happy you got what you wanted and shut up, yet we are happy to say that to mothers who dare suggest that motherhood is not all love and roses all the time.
3. It is not fashionable to say so. Uh huh, that’s why it’s an article in a national newspaper. Yep.
4. And it can be. It just doesn’t have to be. Absolutely. With enough money to pay bills, run a car and shop occassionally or have access to good public transport a sling/stroller or other baby carrier that you can wear without straining yourself, access to the internet for internet shopping (where available), a partner who does their share of the housework and childrearing, access to childcare, a flexible part time job if you want it, a circle of supportive family and friends, a healthy baby, two parents with no major health difficulties or difficulties adjusting to parenthood, or depression or post natal depression, or trouble breastfeeding, or inability to breastfeed it can all be a breeze. Unfortunately not everyone is able to tick all those boxes. Some parents can’t even tick one. Are they allowed to say that it is hard?
5. But I do think we could learn a thing or two from our mothers and grandmothers. You never heard a peep out of them about mucking in to double the kids and double the workload, with no online groceries or disposable nappies. Sure, they didn’t work (most of them) but they also appreciated that being a mum was one of the better things in life. What rubbish. I’ve heard more than a peep all of it fully justified.
6. How tragic to begrudge it because we can’t find time to read a book. I don’t begrude having children because I don’t have time to read a book. I begrude being expected not to take the time to read a book while my partner goes about and does his own thing as if the children weren’t his responsibility (this is not the case anymore, but I had to fight for it). I need time out to myself to read to feel comfortable and whole. If I don’t get time to read I feel unbalanced and unwell. It is a need, not a want.
7. cherish those moments when it was just my baby and me together, the only light on in the street. I too cherished those moment, but then I chose not to put the light on and have only street light. I didn’t have a situation where the streetlight was the only light because the electricity had been cut off the week before, or I didn’t put on the light because I was wondering how I was going to pay the electricity bill. Not everyone has my level of economic privilege.
8. I am blessed to have a stimulating part-time job and good childcare. Good for you. Not all mums have this option. Flexible part-time jobs, which not only pay but also allow you to have a sense of yourself outside being a mum can be hard to find or something that you have to give up if the realities of having a child in your particular circumstances don’t allow you to keep your job. Good childcare costs money and not everyone has access to quality childcare. Not all children can go to childcare, for whatever reason. Having access to these things is part of what makes parenthood easier. It is also a marker of privilege.
SotBO: This is only one opinion, and my dissenting opinion is only one opinion. If you are having the time of your life with your child good for you, I’m happy for you. But please don’t tell me how I should experience child raising because you aren’t me and I’m allowed to have my own experience and be heard and believed.