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.

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Maira Gall