Right now, today, as we speak, on Women’s Day, there are thousands – likely hundreds of thousands – of women out there, belting back wine, smoking weed, taking up yoga/hiking/meditating/whatever just to cope with the fact that sometimes, having kids totally sucks.
*cue gasps and horror*
Since we’re on the topic of your “horror”, can someone please explain one thing to me? If we’re willing to accept women talking openly about their “coping mechanisms”, how is it that people (notwithstanding their sex) lose their goddamn minds the minute a woman comes out and admits the truth… that the thing that she is trying to cope with is the reality that sometimes having kids seriously blows.
Why are we so shocked when women admit their secret-not-so-secret desires to flee from the role of “mom” for a second and reconnect with their old selves? Especially when the phenomenon of longing for “reconnection” itself inherently requires a preceding “disconnection”.
Now am I saying that ALL mothers feel this way? No! Of course not – it would be insane to assume that every woman has the same experience of Motherhood (RIGHT?)… But a lot of moms do feel this way. And that’s what makes this important.
Why can’t we allow women to talk openly about their fears and anxiety surrounding the loss of their old (pre-motherhood) selves or the loss of the idea of who she thought she’d one day become?
Are they not worth mourning? Are they not worth missing?
I count myself very lucky that I am able to publicly mourn the loss my old self. I do it right here on The Rebel Mama. I write when I feel sad or claustrophobic or anxious that I’m losing who I am amidst a sea of whining and boogers and tantrums and teething and sleep regressions. I cope by calling my fellow mamas to have a 5 minute vent followed by an hour of talking about grand creative goals and the small steps we need to take to accomplish them. I reconnect with my old self by reading non-mommy things, searching for cool artists and reminding myself over and over again that I’m not alone in day dreaming about running away from home every now and again and that doesn’t make me a bad person or a bad mom.
Motherhood has changed me in a lot of positive ways, but it comes with nearly as many lows as there are highs and I’m grateful that I have a forum where I can discuss it all – the good, the bad and the ugly.
But I’m in the minority. A lot of women are subjected to harsh criticism or immediately written off as terrible mothers as soon as they attempt to open up about any negative feelings that arise in them about motherhood.
Take, for example, the women in this article featured last month in The Guardian. In truth, they were the driving source of inspiration behind this post. They are women who came out and admitted their darkest and most intimate feelings about motherhood and they are also women who were attacked from every angle by an angry comment-section mob, desperate to label, silence and guilt them into oblivion.
As a bystander, looking at the whole picture from the outside, it seemed to me that the ONLY thing these women deserve is respect for their honesty, followed by the support they need to continue to be loving parents to their children. That’s it.
Does it not make more sense to listen to them than to try to silence them?
*And when I say listen, I mean listen for the sake of learning, and not for the sake of responding.
But when it comes to a Mother in distress, that seems to be too difficult of a task to undertake.
This is exactly the type of shit that proves time and time again that we DO still need Women’s Rights Activists. And this is exactly why I find it so difficult to understand the people who argue that women already have equal rights and we shouldn’t act like such ungrateful, entitled, whiny brats.
Here’s an example of inequality:
A man, at work, hanging around the water cooler discusses his adverse feelings about his role as a father. Maybe he says something along the lines of: “Man, this ‘having kids’ thing is no fucking joke! I don’t know what the hell my wife and I were thinking. I miss the old days of having sex and sleeping in.”
Do you think other men and women are rushing to jump down his throat with comments like “omg you are a psychotic narcissist, and you’re ruining your kids’ lives!” or “Some people can’t have children, you know. You should be grateful!” Or “Wow sounds like you’re one seriously unfit father – your poor children.”
Do you think men feel obliged to always tag on a “but I really do love them!” or “still, SO grateful for them, though!” or “at the end of the day, it’s all for them, you know?”
No, for them, the above reactions to their brutal honesty are rare. For us, they’re the norm.
It’s us that bare the guilt – the pressure to uphold the image of the some kind of virgin mother figure. For some reason, people can’t seem to be able to handle the thought of a world filled with women acting outside of their prescribed gender roles.
If we stray from the script, if we’re ever totally honest about our experiences and our feelings, it awakens people’s fear of genuine equality, because equality looks a lot like oppression to those who benefited from inequality.
If you think I’m wrong, then let me alert you to the fact that we (as in Aleks and I) literally had to create our own, closed community to escape the visceral rhetoric that spews out of people when women speak their truths. Our community is now home to almost three thousand members who know better than to be “too open” and “too honest” anywhere else.
While we’re proud that we’ve provided a safe space for our fellow moms who are doing their best and occasionally benefit from a supported rant here and there about kids/family life, it’s not lost on us how bloody sad it is that we’re unable to open the space to the public.
It’s not lost on us how important it is to keep conversations transparent on this site and to discuss topics that many consider to be taboo and uncouth.
And it’s especially not lost on us how privileged we are to not only be a part of the most welcoming, understanding, supportive community in the world (we love you, Rebel Mamas!), but we’re also privileged to own THIS space, to be able to vent to our readers and then move the hell on.
Because when it’s all said and done, when we close our laptops or put down our phones we’ve got goals to crush, relationships to nurture, homes to maintain, and children to love and care for … and we do all of that SO MUCH BETTER after we can get what’s bothering us off our chests without fear of the iron fist of patriarchy falling upon us when we do.
See, a patriarchal society functions in a way that stokes the development of the male character. He’s encouraged to be competitive, to follow his passions, to push his way up the ladder, to achieve greatness and to be the strong, protective provider.
Now, is being the provider an easy job? OF COURSE IT ISN’T. The stress and the depth of a man’s sense of responsibility must be completely overwhelming. That’s not up for debate. (so “men’s rights activists” can calm the fuck down and save it for another day.)
The difference is that a woman is encouraged to bust her ass, become well educated, fight her way up the corporate ladder, look good (blow insane amounts of money and waste INSANE amounts of time in an effort to look good), find a husband, have kids, step away from her life to raise said kids (either for months or years), and then, when it’s all said and done, she’s left alone to navigate the bizarre world that welcomes her when she finds herself on the other side.
Welcome to motherhood! Now you need to juggle work, relationships, friendships, children, goals, guilt, self-loathing, and body image issues, all the while carving out some time for “self-care”, driving your kid all over God’s creation in the name of “socialization” AND being totally “present”, “in the moment”, and “appreciating every second” of the ride.
Sounds like fun, right? It must be peachy ALL THE TIME! I bet you NEVER have moment when you just want to cry or when you think you were INSANE to sign up for such a raging emotional shit show.
Now for the love of God, please don’t come at me with the, “This is just what motherhood is like! We’ve all gone through it – us and our mothers before us and their mothers before them – be a good parent and just grit your teeth and take it like the rest of us did!”
THAT IS A SHITTY ARGUMENT.
Generations before us made wonderful advancements, but they also did a lot of messed up shit concerning the rights of women. Pair that with the current state of today’s parenting climate – created largely by the internet (read:mommy blogs and mommy forums) – and you’ve got yourself a big reason to look for real solutions.
According to British Relationship Therapist and Author, Andrew G Marshall, as quoted in The Guardian, Feb 11, 2017:
The internet has created this child-worship, where anything beyond obsessive motherhood is bad motherhood. But it’s perfectly acceptable to be an individual, to ask ‘What’s my life’s meaning?’ and not feel it can only be your children. (he continues) Originally it was God that was going to save us from ourselves, then it was love, and now it’s children. It’s the product of the divorce era. Up until then, we could believe that falling in love means happily ever after. Now we’ve tested the love-is-for-ever myth and found a replacement: that a child is going to love us for ever, make us feel happy, secure and successful.
We have got to keep evolving. We have got to keep pushing for solutions, demanding that we be heard rather than shamed into silence, requiring that people and institutions change their way of thinking about women and about mothers so that we can find a way to be both, on terms that feel good and fair.
And so here’s the kicker – the thing that REALLY drove me to publish this post today – we’re definitely not going to get to a point where we can feasibly put forth any real solutions to help make life better, fuller and more diverse for women at large until we stop lying about “loving every minute” of motherhood.
Do you think I loved every minute of the day I had to launder my sheets, my clothes, and my baby’s clothes because he projectile crapped all over me and my bed?
Do you think I loved every minute of my toddler crying and whining the entire day at my favourite beach in the world (a 4 hour flight from home)?
Do you think I loved every minute of watching my eldest son seethe with jealousy and sadness because all of a sudden he had to share the spotlight with somebody?
Of course I didn’t! That shit sucks! And it happens to all of us. So why not TALK ABOUT IT?
It just doesn’t make sense to keep encouraging women to cite their “wine-to-go cups” and their “mom weed” and their “girls nights”, glossing over the elephant in the room.
Let’s just allow mothers to say, “this blows” because as a collective of women, we can only hope to find solutions to our problems once we’re given the grace to admit they exist in the first place.
Virgin of the Angels, by French painter Adolphe-William Bouguereau (1881)