Pregnant women of Australia, I hope you weren’t reading Stellar Magazine yesterday.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the glossy magazine that pops out of your News Ltd paper every Sunday, it’s a bloody good read, but because if you did, you would have had a crash-course in the confusing, un-winnable culture war to which you’ve just been conscripted.
For a start, on the magazine’s cover, there’s a glorious creature with tousled hair, long honeyed limbs and a seductive stare, cradling a newborn. It’s Rachael Finch, four weeks after giving birth, and she looks incredible. The cover line reads: ‘Nobody Deserves To Be Made To Feel Like They’re A Bad Mother’.
Inside, things get more incredible. Rachael wears a dusky pink ballgown, and is reclining on a lounge with her improbably gorgeous husband, Michael Miziner, baby Dominic and their curly-haired daughter, Violet.
A more perfect image of motherhood could not exist: Beautiful babies, handsome husband, ballgowns and bed hair. That’s what it’s like, ladies, don’t you worry about that.
Flick on a few pages, and you’ll find Mia Freedman.
Mia isn’t in a ballgown, she’s in the stylish everyday clothes she wears to work, and scattered around the page are social media snaps of Mia with her first son, Luca.
Far away from being a newborn, Luca Lavigne is 19 years old, and the story opens with reference to a chapter he’s written for his mother’s new book Work, Strife, Balance about what it was like being raised by a feminist media mogul/overachiever.
‘His mother was brilliant, supportive and inspiring,’ writes Jordan Baker. ‘But she was also chaotic. There were many forgotten pick-ups and hungry lunch times.’
While over on page 11, Rachael Finch is taking her three-year-old along to birthday parties so she can monitor the food that goes into Violet’s mouth – ‘Sometimes… they don’t have sandwiches or sushi or fruit, so before she goes I make sure she’s full of healthy food… she understands it’s a treat when she has a tiny slice of birthday cake,’ – over on page 17, Mia Freedman is forgetting to take her infant son to parties at all.
He had to catch a lift with friends. He often didn’t have a present ready to give the other kid. Sometimes, he had to make his own way home, too.
It’s not entirely clear how, with this level of neglect going on at home, Luca Lavigne has grown into such a fine young man, with what Baker describes as “impeccable manners”.
Rachael Finch and her family adhere to a strict, sugar-free diet. She, Michael and Violet don’t eat processed foods, refined carbohydrates or take-away.
Listen to Rachael Finch talk about her perenting on I Don’t Know How She Does It
Mia Freedman says she often forgets to pack or order her younger kids’ lunches and they have to make do with a ‘cheese sandwich from the tuck shop.’
Thank you @stellarmag and Jordan Baker, Sarrah Le Marquand and @aleksbeare for today’s profile about my new book #workstrifebalance and my relationship with my firstborn @luca_lavigne . Hard to read in parts but all true. Link in bio. For those asking, I wear all my own clothes in shoots and ask that my shots not be retouched. Profesh hair and makeup for this shoot though! Jacket is from @sportsgirl about five years ago and jeans from @sassandbide around the same time.
The thing is, you expectant mothers full of hope, is that whichever side of this mothering equation you land, you are screwed. The game is rigged.
The glorious Rachael Finch (I’ve interviewed her, and far from being pious, she’s warm and open, and glows with a radiance visible from 50 feet) has been roundly slammed at various times for losing weight too quickly after birth, pushing her strict diet on her children and letting her mother-in-law babysit her daughter on the weekends.
Mia Freedman (I’ve met her too, she’s my boss) has copped plenty of criticism for being too career-focussed, thinking that buying a Charcoal Charlie’s chicken counts as cooking and not baking her kids’ birthday cakes.
Now entire interviews about her new book are being haunted by the spectre of parental failings around forgotten birthday presents and empty lunch boxes.
Can you see, woman on the brink of parenthood, how ridiculous this is?
Have a think about the fathers you know. Picture them. The ones in your life, the ones on your TV, the ones you’ve worked for and with.
Do you know whether or not they pack their kids’ lunches? Do you know if they let their kids eat sugar? Do you know if they remember every kid in class’s birthday party date, time and gift preference? Could you imagine them having to apologise over and over for failing to bake and decorate the entire contents list of the Women’s Weekly Big Book Of Cakes? Have you ever seen them cradling a newborn in a ballgown?
If you read that glossy magazine yesterday, you could be forgiven for thinking motherhood options are these: Either I am a glowing paleo goddess who's depriving my kids of a little sugary joy or I am a frazzled working mother who'll be forever atoning for my inability to memorise timetables and tuck-shop schedules.
The reality is, rather than motherhood being a festival of perfection or a pursuit defined by your mistakes, much of it is just you, flailing around in the middle, doing what you can.
One day, you will nail those fig and quinoa bliss balls and present them at a playdate like a Nobel Prize. Another, you will forget it's your own small child's birthday, and find yourself lying to them about the date.
That's motherhood. And either way, there will be plenty of people to tell you you're doing it wrong.
And it's really hard to eat humble pie in a ball gown.
Which version of parenthood is closer to yours?
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