I was reading the Metro on the train yesterday, and saw an article with Adele saying how tough she’d found parenthood.
I shared it on Instagram and there was such gratitude to her for speaking out. Yes! That’s how we feel! She’s breaking the taboo and admitting it’s not all roses! The floodgates opened.
It struck me that I take for granted the honesty that I share with my friends. The confidence to be honest that comes with being a few years in isn’t something you have at the beginning.
Those first tentative steps with new mum friends, when everyone feels like they’re desperately trying to show they’ve got it together but inwardly thinking ‘I have no fucking idea what I’m doing, I’m leaking from more orifices than I thought possible and I’m not sure my marriage is going to survive’ are bloody hard. Comments intended as observations are interpreted as judgements. I felt so sure that other people were looking at me like I was getting it all wrong. In hindsight, most people are more concerned with their own cock ups to take much notice of someone else’s.
But here’s the thing, and it’s a very important thing. When you share with someone how you’re really feeling about motherhood and they respond with ‘oh my god, me too’ it not only takes a layer of the anxiety away, it’s exhilarating. When someone says ‘we had a row because he put the saucepan lid in the wrong drawer’ or ‘I can’t stand the way my husband breathes either’ it becomes funny rather than marital doom. Saying you’re struggling with feeding or that you’re just not really enjoying every minute is liberating when others admit they’re in the same boat. You are not on your own. And those early days of motherhood can feel so very lonely.
One of the things that got mentioned in response to that article was that it was great that a celebrity is breaking the ‘taboo’. Why is it we feel like we can’t say that, when sleep deprived and doing something we’ve never done before, while recovering from a major body trauma and with an assault of hormones thrown in, we aren’t really having a ball?
Motherhood is, frankly, a headfuck. It makes you feel such a vast array of contradicting emotions.
How could I feel high just looking at another human, while feeling exhausted and like life will never get any easier? How can it be that you can feel like your whole world is cradled in your arms, but like you have no idea who you are anymore? Brim with love for your partner all day but want to scream in his face when he strolls in the door ten minutes late? Feel completely certain that in giving birth you’ve found the meaning of life and everything else is just noise, but at the same time find yourself feeling so very uncertain about…well, everything?
I think in time most parents would readily agree that having kids is the best thing that ever happened to them. But it’s also the thing that causes the most anxiety, self-doubt, anger and exhaustion, especially at the beginning.
And maybe that’s one of the reason’s we struggle to express how we’re feeling. We know having a baby is a blessing. We feel like we should be cherishing every moment because that’s what older people say and we presume them to be wiser. I put it to you that most of them have forgotten what those first months feel like. That reflective sentimentality is dangerous because it suggests expressing anything other than joy is wrong. A new mum does not need another thing to feel guilty about.
You can love your baby and feel exhausted by them. You can want to do things other than be a mother, and still be an awesome mother. You can want to put all your energy in to being a mum, and you’re still more than just a mum. You can feel overcome with guilt as your child hangs off your leg shrieking ‘Muuuuummeeeeeee’ as you leave the house, and still want some time away to be a grown up. You can spend the day at the end of your tether, exasperated and shouty, and then watch them when they sleep and want to hold them in your arms and breathe in their sleepy scent.
For every woman that you feel is critiquing your mothering, there are so many more waiting to help build you back up. They’ll be there with a nod of solidarity at Monkey Music when your kid loses it over tidy up time. They’re the person you went to school with 25 years ago that posts on your baby pictures and asks how you are. You can find them in the nights (or afternoons) sat around a table with all the wine cackling at your collective motherhood misdemeanours. That shared feeling can get you through when it feels like not only have the wheels fallen off, but you’ve lost a shoe and stood in dog shit.
I’ve met an army of these women since starting the blog and Don’t Buy Her Flowers. Women who understand that the sisterhood is not about agreeing with everyone’s choices, but supporting the fact that we have those choices and we’re all doing our best with what we’ve got. Sometimes it’s just bloody hard.
You are definitely, definitely not alone.