“Be grateful” they said. “Cherish all these moments, they’ll be over too soon”.
You know what? I’ve been mothering for nearly eighteen years. By the time my youngest child turns eighteen, it will have been thirty-five years of mothering. I reckon there’s going to be a whole heap of marvellous memories from all those years, but from time to time, mothering wears thin. It’s hard work, and it’s ok for women to express frustration and a desire to have a moment to themselves.
All those memes that do the rounds about loving the little things, not wishing these years away, being grateful to have children ….. They’re ridiculous! I don’t need to be told to appreciate little things, I adore them! I don’t need to be warned against wishing these years away, I can’t wish them away, so your warning is a waste of words. I don’t need to be told to be grateful to have children, because I also know the pain of losing a child, believe me I’m grateful! What mother isn’t!?
If I’m complaining about having a hard day, it’s because MOTHERING IS THE HARDEST JOB I WILL EVER DO. I don’t love every moment of it, because who in their right mind would enjoy cleaning vomit at 3am? One time I was pregnant and had really bad morning sickness, and cleaning vomit made ME vomit. How would you recommend I love that?
Who would be grateful for walking in other people’s pee every time they go to the toilet in the dark? Surely no mother of three sons will ever be grateful for that experience. Pee on your socks in the middle of winter is never going to make anyone smile with happy sentimentality.
What about walking on lego and tearing a ligament in my foot which left me unable to walk properly, or without severe pain for months. Literally. Lego that was on the floor despite the fact people had been asked to pick it up several times. Mmmm. I was sure grateful for that ….
But I do love my kids with every fibre in my being. Loving my kids is entirely unrelated to how I feel about walking in their pee, or a torn ligament from their lego. It’s entirely unrelated to the hours I’ve spent cleaning spew out of nooks and crannies I didn’t even know existed, or soaking it out of rugs.
Every single time you share a message that’s along the lines of “be grateful” you leave a struggling mother questioning herself. What’s wrong with her? Why can’t she just be grateful for this life? Maybe she IS grateful, but because she needs support, she second guesses herself, and instead feels guilty when she reads your inspirational memes.
How about this. How many mothers never ever get a break? How many mothers are told to just “take some me time” when there is literally no way for them to do that? How many mothers could spend more time creating the “magical memories” in the memes, if they weren’t household slaves.
How many mothers come back from their “me time” to discover that the house is destroyed, no washing has been done, there’s food from one end of the kitchen to the other, everyone is filthy and needs a bath, and they’re all hyped up from sugar. “Me time” is better described as “over time” for many women. It’s like buying your sanity on a credit card with an interest rate so high you can never afford to repay it.
Motherhood is constant, there are no breaks. Even when you have “me time” you still have your mobile right there in case someone needs you. Women who work outside the home have to organise their work life around the kids, either school or daycare, women who work in their homes have to be forever on call, ready for the drop offs and pick ups. And through all this, there’s something mysteriously absent. The other parent.
Single mothers rarely have an ex who takes their full share of the responsibility which puts them even further behind.Partnered women rarely have enough help to really make a difference. Whichever way you look at it, women do the vast and overwhelming majority of child care. And no one wants to hear them talk about how intense it is, any expression of it is “ungrateful”.
Most women will tell you that they wouldn’t have it any other way. That despite the challenging nature of mothering, they want to be there! They want to be the ones who care for their kids. They know that if they’re the ones doing it, it’s being done well. It’s hard to trust other people to do it in the way you think is best for your kids! And even if you fully trust someone, it’s hard to ask for help.
Women really struggle to ask for help, we are raised never to burden anyone. We see our friends struggling the say way we do, and can’t imagine adding to that for our own peace of mind. Admirable! Women are truly amazing, and inspiring in that way. But sometimes I wish we could offer to help, or ask for help more easily. Maybe offering a swap rather than a favour is a good way to go about it.
So before you share another meme on social media that basically says suck it up and smile, cleverly disguised as some kind of motivational nonsense, think again. Maybe ask your mothering friends whether there were more happy things, or more challenging things in their day. Maybe ask them which ones they’d like to talk about. Maybe just trust that they love their kids without modern day motivational mumbo jumbo, and offer them a hand up, a shoulder to cry on, or just some basic compassion and validation. Let’s honour mothers for their tireless efforts to clean vomit at unruly hours, and let’s listen to them complaining about that without judgement.
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