Thursday, 24 November 2016

On feeling resentful (about certain things)

When I decided to start blogging again I swore to myself I wasn't going to be affected by how I wanted to be seen. I wasn't going to be concerned about how I came across, there's no point doing it if it's an exercise in ego boosting or attempting to "curate my life". It needed to be cathartic but also honest. We live in such weird times, with so much choice and so many options it's enough to make your head spin. But also a lot of contradictions, a lot of anxiety, so much uncertainty.

So this blog needed to be an honest exploration of life as a young(ish) mum in the 21st century. Obviously I'm not going to divulge all about our family life out of respect for those in it but not writing about it. But to mean anything to anyone, to have others nod their heads and feel like there's at least one other person out there who feels as you do, it has to be real.

And on that note, here's another real post. About resentment. That itchy, unsettling, uncomfortable feeling.

Currently I feel resentful on and off about the following:

- politicians for making laws that affect parents without seeming to care about them
- how hard it is for mothers of young children to return to some kind of satisfactory part time, well paid work (even if they're educated)
- how nasty the world seems to have become with outright racism seemingly acceptable since Brexit and the insane election of Trump
- my baby for being a baby and not sleeping at night
- my four year old for daring to be tired after a 6 hour school day and sometimes being hard work
- my husband for getting to leave the house, earn money and see other adults and daring to be tired at the end of a long day
- myself for being naive and not truly realising this is the life I chose
- anyone who I pass in the street who looks composed, calm and with shiny bouncy hair.

Let's get one thing straight, I don't hate my life. In fact there's much about it that's wonderful. We own a house, something lot's of young people in the UK can only dream about; we live in a lovely town with miles of beaches, nearby forests and plenty to keep us all busy; we have lovely local and old friends who both have and don't have kids and we have supportive, caring families. We have our health and we have each other. We might not be at our best but we're together and I'd say pretty happy overall. I can and do count my blessings before I go to bed at night.

So what's with all the whinging you might say. So you're tired, you have young children what exactly did you expect?

Here's the thing. I don't actually know what my problem is. I look at myself in the mirror and I think, "Smile bitch! Life's all good! Relax. At least you're not a refugee!" And then I want to hit myself.

Tiredness, years of tiredness; disappointment at not being the mother I thought I might be (endlessly patient, serene, clean clothes); anger at a world that seems to dislike children and mothers with no consideration really given for either (where are the breastfeeding friendly spaces, the jobs for working mothers, the decent paternity leave for fathers....); frustration at always being pawed. Boobs sucked, clothes tugged at, wails of "mummmeeeeeee". And guilt because they're just my vulnerable little babies who asked for nothing but the unconditional love of the woman who birthed them.

If I had to explain this bundle of complicated emotions to an alien for instance I'd say this.

Yes I chose to have not one but two children. So the tiredness, the loss of "me time", the changing body, these are all things to expect. But the damage to career options, the lack of affordable childcare options, the fact that society has changed to a huge extent and we no longer have the "villages" of family and local women to pass down rearing children advice and support these are not things I chose. And it's actually this that makes the day to day tough. You only need to scratch beneath the surface of social media or even read many celebrity articles to hear the stories of women struggling to manage it all. Of mum guilt. Of balancing career and children. Of finding such joy in one's children but it often being such a struggle. Of needing the support of other women, not just mothers although that helps. Of having a tribe to defend against the feelings of isolation.

I have friends, or know of many mothers from all sorts of walks of  life, with all sorts of financial situations and seeming life success. And yet all talk about the balancing act, the struggle, the frequent feeling that they've failed somehow, themselves, their children, their husband. That they're not being enough. I used to be pretty tough on myself, have somewhat low self esteem that I thought was tied in to how I viewed myself as mother. But now I don't and I still grapple with these issues.

The solution? Not complicated.

- create jobs for mothers that want to return to work. Or make it easier for those who want to.
- make childcare affordable so it's actually worth working financially
- create a world that respects children and the people who raise/look after them (probably have to overhaul capitalism for that but I have faith that Trump will fuck that up along with the rise of the far right in Europe and maybe after God creating another flood we can start from scratch).
- educate teenagers in school about the reality of parenting
- make NCT classes focus more on what the hell to do after the baby's born and have far less focus on how to get it out.
- encourage woman to talk to each other, to be proud of the choices they make whatever they are. To share stories, to be unashamed to admit how they feel they fail, to challenge the social media portrayal of perfection.

Yes we mothers may have more freedom, more choice and more money than many of the mothers who came before us but that doesn't mean it's always easy. At the risk of copying cheesy catchphrases, together we are always stronger and although many don't care of or are tired of mothers talking/complaining about modern day motherhood, we owe it to our children, to the daughters of the future to pave the way for a world that gives a shit about people who birth, raise and love children. not just because they're the people of tomorrow but because right now as screaming bawling infants they're worthy of our respect and so are the people who look after them.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

One of those women

It starts from the minute you find out you're pregnant:

Congratulations you're pregnant! Don't drink alcohol or too much caffeine. Avoid soft cheese and cured meats. Like your lattes and salami? Too bad, you can't have them for another 9 months or so, you don't want to be one of those women.

Then when you've endured the 9 months of being careful with your body there's the childbirth. They don't call it labour for nothing eh. But it's not good enough just to get the baby out healthily, oh no you should really try to do it naturally. Because even though people deny it, natural is the only way to go. That's what real women do. You know the ones with inner strength. The ones who reeeeally love their babies. They prove their womanhood by doing it with all the pain. Because, you know that's better somehow. And if you didn't manage without pain relief, or worse still you had a C section, don't feel bad because a healthy baby is the main goal, of course except it isn't and you're already a bit of a failure.

Then there's the newborn stage. You better love every minute of the sleep deprived, baby puke on your left shoulder stained second of it. Because you know you're a mother now and my golly gosh as if that isn't the greatest blessing. How many women would die to be in your shoes, you are so lucky! Moment of doubt or fear, don't worry about it, these are the best days of your life don't you know. And you're breast feeding of course because breast is best but you know that. Of course you do. Even if it's hard as hell and you hate it, you know it's best for baby and by jove you don't want to be one of those women. You know the ones who put their own needs first. *Whisper* they're the ones who ate camembert whilst pregnant and probably had an epidural don't you know. No real women breastfeed their babies and if they have to suffer a little in the process, well that only makes them better mothers. Plus, you know, formula is for those women.

NCT classes, baby signing, baby gym, lots of "mum" friends, tea and cake mornings, playdates oh I hope you're doing lots of those. Because you know how important all this social stuff is to new mums. Never mind if you're socially anxious or just plain knackered, you get yourself out there girl! Except not too much because an over stimulated baby is an unhappy baby, make sure you get the balance right, and not too much cake as that won't help you lose that baby weight now will it? Which brings me to your figure. You've got to care enough about yourself to be aware you haven't "got your figure back" yet but not be so desperate like all those celebs to lose your tum in 3 weeks, that's just sad and not appreciating the beautiful journey your body's been on. No you've got to lose the weight at a reasonable rate to show you're honouring your experience but aware no one can get away with that for too long. You don't want to be one of those women, you know the ones that still look about 6 months pregnant when their baby's learning to walk.

And don't forget hubby still has needs. Just because you've got a new love of your life, doesn't mean you can let your first baby's needs go unattended. Even if you feel your hooha might be so gaping your whole husband could get lost up there, you've got to satisfy your man (you can start around 6 weeks post partum which I'm sure you're delighted about don't you know).  In fact, please be a madonna in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom or whatever the phrase is (and only the best home made food for baby, baby led or spoon fed because although both you know, get food in your baby, you don't want to get something so important so wrong!). Real women have a home cooked meal on the table when hubby walks in the door because after all, he's been out at work all day and you've been at home. Which you shouldn't feel bad about because you're raising a baby. Selflessly and all. Except you should really be working a bit soon, you shouldn't lose yourself entirely. You don't want to become one of those women. But not too much mind. Don't focus on your career ahead of your baby, that's just selfish. No, ideally you should earn a decent living working part time in something you always wanted to do, whilst still being around enough to raise your baby and keep a tidy home and ensure no childcare until at least 3 for your little darling. Because that's what a real women would do no? And there's so many of those jobs out there.

And above all else, don't forget yourself you know?  No one likes a bore, a mother who can talk of nothing but baby poo and which pram is best. Whilst you navigate this brave new world called motherhood trying to forge a new identity, understand yourself in this new role and cope with raising something tiny, oh so precious and going around carrying your heart inside it, don't forget yourself. And don't even think about complaining about any of this (you must always be smiling beatifically), or wondering why, since literally millions of women go through this our world doesn't seem well equipped to support the utterly beautiful, exhausting journey you go on once you bring that baby into the world. So you know ride all those crazy feelings you good woman and whilst it might feel like nobody gets it and everyone's doing it better than you they're really not. Because every woman to whom someone calls mama knows it's both so incredibly wonderful yet totally mundane, so magical and yet so unappreciated. So humbling and yet so tedious.  You know we ladies, really are all in this together and whatever you do, you know it's probably wrong, so let's abandon all fear of judgment and have baby wearing co sleeping mothers and formula feeding, schedule loving mothers uniting until the time comes when there is no comparison, no fear of failing somehow and just being mum is enough.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Back to blogging

Hello again! It's been a good long while since I've written a blog post (maybe 2 years or more) but it feels good to be back. I've changed the name and made all of my old posts drafts since I'm not sure how relevant they are to me now (or to you for that matter). Who knows I might rehash some of them in time.

I'm not sure who'll be reading this as I have no idea if people even read blogs like this anymore. All I know is that once again I feel I've got lots to say and no other form of social media suits someone who likes to talk/write as much as blogging. If you were ever here before when it was oh! you pretty things then welcome back.

My thoughts right now are basically this:

Why is parenting so hard sometimes?
When can I have a bit of quiet?
Why is there not more support for families from the practical to emotional? We're all going through this together yet it's so easy to feel alone.
And how is it that I do feel so alone sometimes when I have lots of friends with babies.
How can I help myself whilst I grapple with all the big feelings mothering small children provides?
What can I do with the resentment I often feel that Antonio "gets to escape" and why does my house sometimes feel like a prison?
Is it normal to long for a spa weekend quite so badly?
And finally, why if I feel like this, and clearly loads of other mothers do to, does social media, in particular Instagram which is huge with mothers not seem to reflect this?

Some of my favourite instagrammers have blogged about their struggles with postnatal depression or similar yet their IG feeds are filled with babies in sink baths, and posts about happy blessed feelings.

Is it possible to use social media to explore how we really feel whilst navigating this most important transitional phase of life in a helpful way?

I think we're scared as mothers and perhaps women of judgement. Of not keeping up with the Jones, of failing somehow. Why else are we so desperate to present our best selves, our happy moments, our "curated feeds", ugh, more on this in another post) on social media? Ok we want to remember them but sometimes in the admitting of how you really feel you find the truest, freest happiest moments of all.

I don't think it's helpful to gloss over the realities and glamorise motherhood. I don't mean the messy day to day bits but the way we sometimes feel. I'd like my girls to live in a society by the time they might want to be mothers, that truly respects being a primary child carer (usually the mother) and all it entails. And I think one of the first steps we can do is step away from the attempts at perfection and embrace the reality. Ok, but I don't want to focus on the struggle you might say, I want to feel good about my life and complaining doesn't help. So instead lets list ten things about ourselves every day that we're proud of or that we're grateful for. Whether it be managing to put mascara on to reading the news. Let's bolster our selves with positive self talk to negate the constant comparison that it's so hard to avoid falling victim to. This has got to be healthier for us as individuals and for the collective motherhood than pretending all is rosy all the time.

So this return to blogging isn't going to involve lots of posts heavy with photos and updates of our lives. That's not really me. I want to use this space to write about the wonder, the chaos, the life changing yet mundane aspects of being a parent, well a mother, in this strange post Brexit, Trump (!) world. I know lots of people are so over hearing mothers talk about motherhood, But at a time that doesn't seem particularly female friendly in many ways, at a time when the world, or certainly politics has got nasty it seems even more relevant to dissect what motherhood means to us right now as we plod on doing our best to raise the next generation.

© the earl grey diaries
Maira Gall