I knew very quickly when I had Jess I wasn’t’ like the other mums. They all loved their baby, keen to play, hold and cuddle their squishy ball of human. At one baby class I watched as a mother stared into her babies eyes, smiling and cooing, loving every second of their play. It appeared genuine, it was genuine. I smiled and cooed with Jess, but I wasn’t enjoying it. I put on a show, pretending to be a ‘mother’.
More than once I was asked by excited, gleeful, wide eyed mums if I was ‘enjoying motherhood?’. My response was always a lie, my honest response would have been akin to telling an exited child that no, you’re not going to Disneyland, you’re going to the waltzers down the road. I couldn’t bare to smash their illusion that motherhood is thee best thing in the entire muslin cloth filled world. And I couldn’t bare to feel like a leper either. I was already down a dark, isolated and painful road. I didn’t need the ‘pat on the back’ most people offer saying things will get better, we all feel like that, ‘it’s hard’ or ‘it’s all worth it’. For me, that’s just another white wash over mental illness. That somehow my depression was just another part of becoming ‘mum’, something to be powered through, just like everyone else had. It took all individuality away for me and threw me head first into post natal depression – the great illness of mothers (and some fathers).
It’s been over 2 years now. I’m in a much better place, not entirely happy or struggle free. I’m still dealing with the fallout of my mental illness, still wandering through depression, but with a little more guidance and understanding. But the one thing that hasn’t changed, is my view on motherhood – I’m still not a fan of being ‘mum’.
The way I see it, motherhood is this glorified insta worthy, picture of love radiating from a mothers eyes towards her child. Maybe it’s a profile shot of her holding her baby up on the sky, eyes connecting, wide mouthed smiles from ear to ear. Beautiful. Perfect. And complete bullshit. I’m 2 years in the game and still those kinds of pictures make me feel like a failure, a fraud, a shit person. We are sold this package of motherhood as the best thing you will ever do, yes it will be hard, but you will get through it and you will love it. Not only that, you will really love going to the soft play and arts and crafts are wonderful bonding experiences. Your whole weekend will be spent, willfully, exploring the outdoors, collecting bugs, climbing trees, then maybe coming home snuggling by the fire having a big mug of hot chocolate. Uh huh…motherhood is glimmers of that lovely dovey shit, but the reality is hard work, stress, tears and a whole load of self doubt smothered in guilt. And responsibility, suffocating responsibility.
You know what I really want to say, and it’s pretty much a cardinal sin. I want to say that I do NOT like motherhood. Oh my! This isn’t a sentence you can blurt out without A – fear of judgement – I’m ungrateful or any other of that shite. B – being labelled as struggling or mentally ill – granted you win that front or C – you really can’t just be saying statements like that, at all, about your child. Saying you don’t enjoy motherhood is like saying you don’t like you kid, you wish she had never been born, that you hate your life. Again, that’s bullshit too.
Motherhood and my child are two very different things.
Do I love my child? Yes. More than I knew was possible. Could I be without her? No. I couldn’t, the thought makes me feel physically sick. I’m pretty darn proud to be a mother, to go through childbirth and to still be here with my family everyday. Being a family and saying a family can be pretty bloody hard, so I discovered. If I had seen or known the heart ache, overwhelming responsibility, pressure and sacrifice it would entail, would I still have chosen to have a child? That answer is a bit more complicated. And purely because I know I will be judged. I know people will think, ‘but look at your beautiful daughter, are you telling me you wish her gone?’ No I don’t and that kind of response is not only incorrect and completely off topic, but also does quite a bit of harm to the poor parent that is only voicing their honest opinion. These types of response instantly cast a net of shame. How ungrateful must I be? A child is the pinnacle of life, the notion that having children is the best possible thing must not be challenged –unless you have a very good, mental health reason for it. You can never utter the words or the mere thought that you have seriously questioned if the mum life is for you.
The reality is I’m just not a fan of motherhood. In fact, I would go as far to say that some days, I really fucking hate motherhood. Pretty sure this is a natural thought to have, in fact, I’ll judge YOU, if you tell me you LOVE every second of everyday of being a parent – who’s mental now?
My feelings on motherhood have nothing to do with my feelings for my child. It doesn’t take much to see that she is the centre of my world, mainly because you’ll see me there trying to push her off that top spot so I can regain my position. But still, she’s there, number one. I’m not sure why I feel that I need to express, or defend, the love I have for my child just because I said I don’t like motherhood. I know there will be people reading this in confusion. How can I hate motherhood and still love your kid? Do they not go hand in hand? But I also know there are plenty, PLENTY of mothers (and some fathers) reading this and feeling the same way. Feeling that they question their choice to have kids, questioning if they are fucking it up or not, questioning why they really fucking hate painting with a toddler while the rest of the world seems to love it. Some parents question if they should even be a mother/father, because they are just not enjoying the ride like they thought they would.
I’m going to hedge a bet that more parents than I know would agree that parenting isn’t all its cracked up to be. Parenting is hard across the board. You can’t even explain how hard it is or what makes it so hard, it’s different for every family. But universally, parenting is fucking hard work. And this is accepted as being ‘okay’ to say. But not many say they do not enjoy motherhood, this is somehow seen as a direct link to saying ‘I hate my kid’. It’s just not the case. I enjoy my daughter, I wouldn’t be without her, but this motherhood pressure forced down our throats I can do without.
My view on motherhood hasn’t been created by my daughter. She’s a good kid, like really good. She loves her space at bedtime, she sleeps through the night, she’s was easily potty trained before she was 2, she eats fruit, she doesn’t have many tantrums, she will (usually) listen and understand why she is being asked to do something, she has no health issues, she’s polite, she’s loving, she’s clever, she’s independent, she’s a grade A top notch little person.
My view has been created by this warped and perfect view that society has determined defines ‘motherhood’ combined with its pressuring need to be the ‘best’ to be like everyone else, to enjoy every ‘gift’ we are granted. I wouldn’t describe myself as a grade A top notch parent, all because I really doubt if I enjoy being mum. And that’s a little sad that I feel like this. I feel like I should love it, that there are so many people out there that want to be in my shoes. Most days I feel like I endure motherhood. My day is broken into time segments – the morning rushed routine called the ‘move it we’re late’, then the full time job, followed swiftly by the picking up child and bedtime routine we shall call ‘ reading the same bloody book for 3 moths solid’. every single aspect of my mothering day is filled with guilt. I feel shit for working full time. I feel shit for rushing my toddler out the door when all she wants it so snuggle in ‘mummay’s’ bed -it’s daddies too, but she obviously knows I take up more space thus it’s really mine. I feel shit for being tired at the end of the day and just wishing she goes to bed quickly and doesnt do one of her 3 hour long ‘not sleeping but I’mma shout on you every 10 minutes’-athons. I feel like I’m being pulled in every direction, crushed under the pressure to be a ‘prefect’ mum, to enjoy my daughter as ‘she’s not little for long’ as I’m so frequently told.
Motherhood (father/parenthhod) is really, really tough. Some of us just don’t enjoy or handle the ride as much as others. And some of us don’t enjoy the ride at all. You know, you can be a parent, a really fucking good one and STILL not enjoy parenthood. That’s just how it is, or how it should be. And that’s not being negative or pessimistic, I don’t count down the days until my child flies the nest. Quite the opposite, I fret and worry when my 2 year old will leave me. I worry about how painful that day will be. I wonder how parents deal with this and will it be another life alerting event just the same as welcoming a child into your life. I don’t sit and hate every second I spend with my child, but nor do I love every second either.
I’m a mother to a toddler. I’m still in a transition period of adjusting, mentally and otherwise, to parenthood. And I’m trying to do it while working full time, as does my partner. Working or not, I still hold the same view on parenthood, I felt exactly the same during maternity leave. I’ve held this view for a long time, only expressing it to a few people. I’ve come to conclusion that I’m not wrong for my view, I’m not going to lie and pretend I’m the classic ‘baking cookies, smiles all round, loving every minute’ kind of mum. I’m just not. I won’t feel guilty or ashamed or as if I will be judged if I just crack out a ‘are you all fucking kidding me? You like baking with your kid?!’
Some people love parenthood, they revel in it. And some people aren’t that into it. We still do all the same shit, read bedtime books, visit the beach, book overpriced holidays, worry about not booking overpriced holidays, go to football games, go to gymnastic competitions, go to dance shows, watch Disney, bake cookies, paint, visit the park, we all try our best for our kids.
Just some people really love that shit, while others slap on a smile mask and get through it the best they can. Yes, get through, like it’s an effort to bake cakes with a two year old. It really fucking is. I don’t let my daughter know that every time she spills the mix or flicks raw egg about the place that I want to whip the spoon from her stumbling, anti-dexterous little fingers. My personality is very much, right time, right place, things go in order as exact as possible. Baking with a child is fucking torture for me. Actually, even doing things with certain faffy adult people (auntie J) is fucking torture for me. Don’t be mum shaming me for ‘politely’ gesturing that the sprinkles actually go on the cake, where they fucking should be, as opposed to the floor, while I secretly hate the whole event.
It would be so much easier, for my mental state, if I could say ‘I love motherhood so so much’. Maybe it’s my personality, but I’m sorry, some parts of parenthood are just bullshit. It’s constant and relentless – that’s life with kids, I get that. But I’m not sure where along the line I was expected to hush up and smile about motherhood purely because I should. You can speak out against having children and it’s ok, you’re allowed to say more than ‘I’m really stressed right now’ or ‘this is tough’. You are allowed to say I really don’t love motherhood like I thought I would, it’s really overwhelming on all fronts. You are allowed to second guess what the hell you’ve done. Motherhood isn’t all rosy cheeks and loving snuggle hugs. There is so much love and moments that make you hope that other people experience this kind of warm and bond, but they shouldn’t take away from the harsh reality that is raising a child. You shouldn’t feel guilty for even day dreaming about life before children, or what life could have been like. I have personally- been through a bumpy parenthood ride, and I’m not having other parents dictate how I should feel about motherhood. I don’t like motherhood – I might one day, but right now I’m hardly handing out flyers advocating motherhood to childless friends.
That doesn’t make me a shit mum. Or an unloving or ungrateful or any other piece of mum shaming nonsense you can think of. I’m sorry but that child has stolen (gladly given) everything from me, my time, my mind, my money, my house, my partners love (nothing like asking your partner ‘who would you save me or the kid?’ to watch them pause and tactfully, wincingly say ‘both?’ – I know where I stand, and it’s not above Jess) and even my best friends. So I’ll be fucked if she’s going to steal my truth! Motherhood is not the most wonderful thing in the world, my daughter is. Motherhood, in my eyes, is pretty shitty. Some people love it, but then again some people need to take a good long hard look at their glitter converted face and reveal their own truth.
And my child might be the centre of my world, but I’m really never going to enjoy being forced to play ‘doctors’ every single time. Especially when I know where that stethoscope has been.