I bumped into a girlfriend this morning and she was incensed about something she’d read yesterday. It was in the same magazine in which my column appears and in case I’d missed it (I hadn’t), my friend pulled a copy of the article out of her pocket. “I was so angry I wrote a letter to the editor and then I ripped out the article so I could keep it,” she huffed.
It so happened that it was an article from Sunday Life magazine in which my column appears called “The Big Easy” by journalist and author Jacinta Tynan who had written about her bafflement at all the bad press motherhood receives. Jacinta wonders out loud if there’s anyone else who finds it easy like she does.
When my friend stopped frothing long enough to articulate what it is about the article that had so inflamed her, she said she had no problem with Jacinta finding motherhood easy but that she resented the implication that those who didn’t were somehow inadequate.
Knowing Jacinta a little bit as I do, I wasn’t convinced that had been her intention so I emailed her to see if I could do a quick video interview with her about her story. She was at work where she is a Sky News presenter so I jumped in the car and grabbed her between news bulletins (hence the reason she looks so immaculate).
And it turns out there is more to it than what was written. See what you think….
So. Where do you stand? As I said in the interview, I sometimes feel like the people who have the hardest time (myself included in certain situations) shout the loudest. It’s terrific that those who have a rough time with some (or all) aspect of parenting have the opportunity to share and vent their experiences. But I believe we also need to validate the good experiences. So long as they’re told honestly (we all know a mother who pretends her child is sleeping through when in fact he’s not) and not just in an attempt to make themselves feel good or someone else feel inadequate.
Here is the unedited version Jacinta’s article published in Sunday Life, Sun-Herald.
There is one thing nobody warned me about when I became a mother: what a breeze it would be. I was warned about everything else. All I had been told since I became pregnant was to prepare myself for the ‘toughest job of my life’. For years of sleep deprivation, boredom (yes, boredom) and my life not being my own. I was bombarded with tales of cracked nipples, all night vigils, and vomit on the carpet. I was more than mildly worried as a result about how on earth I would cope. I am someone who needs my sleep and had a decades long habit of calling my own shots. Would the requirement to be at the beck and call of a little one – even my little one – do my head in?
Which is why I got the most pleasant surprise to find being a mum one of the most seamless, joyful, intuitive things I have ever done. Yes there are sleepless nights (many of them, in a seemingly endless row) but there is nothing difficult about being up all night with the love of your life. I know our baby boy is only nine months old and isn’t even crawling yet let alone tearing through the house crashing pots on the floor. I know I only have one child who is healthy and I, thankfully, escaped the cruel curse of post natal depression but, still, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. Ask me if I have another, but from where I stand motherhood is a cinch.
Yes it is tiring, and yes it is time consuming with showers and emails a sudden extravagance. But it is not hard. Hard is being tied to a soulless job for 80% of your waking hours. Hard is fighting cancer, or having a child who is. Or not being able to conceive a child when you ache for nothing more. Soothing a crying baby who won’t sleep for love nor money is a privilege not a hardship. Wiping spew off your jacket before bolting out the door to a meeting is funny, not a drama.
It is not fashionable to say so. For the past decade or two – coinciding with most of us trying to squeeze a career in with motherhood simultaneously – we have heard the cry of mothers’ martyrdom. It has become de rigueur to complain about how arduous the whole thing is, one upping on whose baby sleeps the least, chucks the most, and who has less hours in the day. We didn’t lobby this hard and hang out this long for work life balance to admit the whole thing is a piece of cake. A cavalcade of books and blogs reassure us we are not alone in our hair ripping out struggle to keep it together: I Don’t Know How She Does It, Mommies Who Drink, and the riddled with sarcasm Motherhood Is Easy: A Survival Guide, having a good chortle at our disheveled demeanors, and misdemeanors. You are excused for your despair, they say. It’s a tough gig. And it can be. It just doesn’t have to be.
Journalist Jenny Dillon might be pushing it with her claims that mothers today are “perpetuating a hoax” pretending it’s as hard as it used to be, household appliances apparently putting us on “easy street”. But I do think we could learn a thing or two from our mothers and grandmothers. You never heard a peep out of them bucking in to double the workload and double the kids with no online groceries or disposable nappies. Sure they didn’t work (most of them) but they also appreciated that being a mum was one of the better things in life. My mum had six children, no help and, on occasions, a job. Yet she gave it her all with grace and joy. Our generation acts as if we deserve a medal.
It’s not like we didn’t know what we were signing up for. Most mothers want to be mothers, longing for the day when we will hold our own baby in our arms. How tragic to begrudge it because we can’t get a thing done around the house.
“You will resent the night feeds”, one mother warned me. I never did. I relished them. I took my sister’s advice: to cherish those moments when it was just my baby and me together, the only light on in the street. I didn’t want to will away one second. “Don’t you hate the sound of their crying?” another mother queried, searching for camaraderie. No. I didn’t and I don’t. Babies don’t cry to annoy us. They cry because they are hungry or tired and we are here to solve that.
“It’s just because you have an easy baby”, say mums when I confess (it feels like a confession) how much I love it. We do have an easy baby. So far. He laughs a lot and loves his food and sleeps, well, like a baby. And I am blessed to have a stimulating part time job and good childcare. Like most mums I have to “juggle” – just as I was warned – often presenting six hours of live TV news in a fog of sleeplessness. Until recently our baby woke religiously at 4am. I also feel an overwhelming responsibility for my baby’s emotional well being. But, hard? No. Exhilarating and rewarding more like it.
I never knew I had such capacity to love. Nobody warned me about that.
I believe there’s room for all shades of experience in the spectrum of parenthood. Because surely if we smother stories and voices like Jacinta’s, we’re not painting an accurate picture for those who don’t yet have children, are we?
Video from Kylie and Larry’s interview on the Morning Show, Channel Seven:
I’ve asked Jacinta to stop by and read the comments and respond to as many as she’s able. What do you think?