There were two videos this week that had all the women in the Mamamia office backslapping each other, wiping away tears of joy and clasping their hands in delight.
Everyone, except me.
The first one was a viral video. A very clever campaign where a card company posted an ad for a job and then interviewed prospective applicants.
But it wasn’t just any job. It was the job from hell. It required the applicant to work standing up, all the time. To never have a break. The hours were endless. There were no holidays, (in fact, the workload increases at holiday time). Applicants were told: You will not sleep. You will not eat. And you will not get paid.
The shocked applicants dub the conditions as “illegal” “cruel” and “inhumane.” And as we watch their incredulous faces that such a job could possibly exist in the world, comes the grand reveal. *Cue soaring classical music*
The job is “Mum.”
The full video is here:
The second is a new show on the ABC called The Letdown. A comedy about the cruel shock of having a baby, the disconnect, the struggle, the ‘real’ness of the changes that happen when you go from DINK (double income no kids) to SITCOM (single income, tiny child, objectionable mother-shaming).
The mothers’ group are a pack of bitches. The husband is hopeless. Judgement leaps from every corner. The lead character doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat, doesn’t know who she is, feels isolated from her friends, and sobs on the bus on the way home.
My social media feed is littered with parental real talk. I’m told becoming a parent means gaining weight, living in filth, being constantly tired, constantly judged, never having time to read the news/do a wee in peace/or have a shower. You’ll forget your kids’ name and you’ll never drink a proper coffee or have a good night’s sleep again. Your wardrobe will fill with elastic-waisted pants. Your car will become a tip. Your life will become a tip.
And you, you once had a career. Maybe a university degree. And now you can’t remember your name and you’re wearing fur-lined crocs.
As they get older, it’s just lather, rinse, repeat. Now you’re dealing with bitchy school mums and school-yard politics, sexting and come what may. You still haven’t slept. Do you remember the taste of brunch? The taste of FREEDOM? LOL!
For parents, I imagine the relentless stream of war stories are reassuring. In fact, I know it is, because we have a podcast dedicated solely to it. People want to hear real parenting talk. They want to read it, to know it, to click 'like' and 'share' on photos of messy cars and lives. To nod along with the chaos, to know they're not alone.
And I understand the need to push back against "perfect" images of parenting. There are countless psychological studies that point to lowered expectations as increasing your likelihood of happiness. High expectations, it seems, is linked to feelings of failure, and even depression.
But as a possible future parent, I gotta tell you.
You are TERRIFYING all of us.
It's a bone I picked this week on Mamamia Out Loud with Kate De Brito (mother of two) and Mia Freedman (mother of three). And I gotta be honest, neither response was really mum-spirational.
In case I wasn't worried enough about my uterus shrivelling with age, I now get to look forward to my career imploding, never sleeping again, and living a messy, tedious, soul-destroying life, constantly in a harried state of knowing what I'm doing is never right and never good enough. Right now, the sound of my biological clock ticking is drowned out by the collective howls of parental complaints.
I feel like current images of parenting fall into two very different extremes. You're either "perfect mum" or you're "hot mess mum." The former compete with pinstagram-worthy lunchboxes and PTA committee work, and the latter with how shambolic their lives are.
And the entire dichotomy leaves me feeling like either way, it's going to be awful. I'm someone who, for the longest time, has been looking forward to having a family. And now I think "is this going to be the worst thing I've ever done in my life?"
'Cos right now, the evidence would say: yes.
Not just anecdotal evidence, mind you. Certainly, social media fosters an environment of complaining, or self-deprecation, of oversharing. But there's also the fact that, like Jennifer Senior writes in her book All Joy and No Fun, parents actually hate parenting. The author cites study after study that shows parenting doesn't increase happiness, that our modern, child-centric parenting style leaves us adrift, and we're not sure how to cope with a situation that is mostly, irreversible.
Do we reach out to others to feel less at sea? To validate each other that we're doing the 'right' thing?
Where are all the moderates saying 'parenthood is actually really great' and why don't we hear from them?
Let me be clear. This is not a call for us to return to the pretend world of perfect parenting. I'm not calling for a cease and desist on mummy blogs, parental real talk or oversharing the realities of what life becomes.
I am saying, please, parents. Let's ask the REAL question. Knowing what you know now, would you still do it?
And is it really, truly, that bad?
The full episode of Mamamia Out Loud is here. It's the weekly show where three women talk about news, politics, society, celebrities, and the small and big issues that make up life.