“Why would I ever want to be a mum?”
I was asked that question at work last week. About seven of us were sitting in a small room having a meeting and a 27-year-old colleague asked me that, as she scanned the morning news across the internet globe.
The list did go on. A smorgasbord of negative stories about motherhood.
How hard it is. The daily struggle and juggle and muddle. The monotony. The (mainly) snakes and ladders game we play with our careers. The physical changes to your body that stick. The constant admin duty both mental and physical. The worry. The housework. Post natal depression. The dark facts and the figures from the latest study where mothers come out on the bottom.
The helicopter parents. The dysfunctional parents. The parents who split up because parenting is just so bloody hard. The parents who stay with each other for the children’s sake and no one in the family is happy. The sacrifices. The expense. The mum being abused by her teen daughter. The mum whose drug addicted son steals from her. The fact you end up eating food that has been spat out because you are at an acquaintance’s house and it’s too hard to find a bin. The fact you completely lose it, you actually stamp your feet on the floor, over a water glass being left on the floor.
The alcoholic mums. The exercise addict mums. The plastic surgery mums. The depressed mums. The selfish mums because the world is overpopulated already – you narcissists who just want to create someone in your “own image”. The mums who aren’t selfish enough.
Listen to Monique Bowley and the MMOL crew discuss, heatedly, Miranda Devine’s column about motherhood versus career.
So what do you say to a 27-year-old woman who is looking at the prospect of motherhood like viewers look at one of those food challenges from I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here?
Because it’s not as if the stories she talks about are made up.
I didn’t know what to say.
What I do know is that I have read a lot of stories about being a mum that do not fit my experience at all.
I don’t fit the 1950s mum who greets her family with a red-lipsticked smile, a cooked dinner, bow in her hair and no complaints, but I also don’t fit with the modern mum who has examined herself and her life to such a punishing degree that she has come to the conclusion, like Victoria Elder from Louisiana, she regrets having children.
We are now being so ‘honest’ about the negatives motherhood that we are being photographed with our daughter for a story about regretting becoming a mother.
If you regret having your children, you should tell them, Morgane, 18, Victoria Elder’s daughter told The Guardian this week in Stefanie Marsh’s ‘It’s the breaking of a taboo’: the parents who regret having children.
“I feel that telling them would be the best option. It’s not because you don’t love them. Children can get on your nerves and they really just think about themselves, I never felt unwanted by my mum. At all,” Morgane, who doesn’t want children, says.
“I think I’d be a really horrible mum. I am very narcissistic; I only think about myself. Most of my friends don’t want children.”
Sometimes I feel I need to keep quiet about how positive and fulfilling being a mum is for me. It doesn't fit the modern narrative of motherhood, where you talk first about what you have lost, not what you have gained.
I'm so glad and grateful I became a mum. It's the best thing I have ever done by far. It beats everything. I don't even think I need to say it, but I will: kids and career are not an either/or proposition. You can do both. At the same time. And you can love one more than the other. I love my kids more.
Yes, sometimes I get frustrated. Yes, sometimes it's hard. Yes, I worry a lot. Yes, society need to change how it deals with women, childcare, paid work and unpaid work. But I signed up for this. I was lucky enough to choose to have children. I was lucky enough to have healthy children too.
No, my life is not at all what I thought it would be when I was 27.
My life is completely different.
It is so much deeper and better and harder and scarier. My life is so much bigger than me now. I have emotions I never knew existed. I surprise myself and I disappoint myself constantly. Nothing will ever be the same.
I know the words to Little Mix songs. All the words.
So that is what I told my colleague when she asked, "Why would I ever want to be a mum?"
Well, I told her the abridged version.
"It's the best thing I've ever done," I said.
Then we all got back to work.