It was Eric's birthday this Monday and I shared a post about him and about how my life had changed in the last 4 years (see below). And just like every time I share something along those lines, I got a lot of positive feedback.
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Happy birthday Eric! This is Eric’s first picture ever. 4 years ago I was in the hospital looking at my baby and realising that the rest of my life was just starting. I was exhausted after 34 hours of delivery that ended up in an emergency C-section at 2 am. The endless pain and wait suddenly changed to 10 people shaving me, preparing me, making me sign papers and a lot of tension and light. I was crying a bit with fear and just worried sick after hearing his heart was racing and the waters were full of meconium. Not exactly the birthing pool I had in my plan, but the birth that got me my son Eric. Motherhood is the most challenging, exhausting, fulfilling, hard, fun and intense thing I have ever done. Everyday I go to bed thinking how lucky I am for having my kids and how much I love them. Everyday, at some point, I fantasise about not having children at all. I get the people that choose not to have kids, you won’t find me trying to change their minds and selling the fantasy. This should not be the only happy option presented to women, but this was mine. Eric is my feminist wee boy (or fenimist, as he prefers to call it). He is a kid so open in his choices and so oblivious to the fact that some of them are not supposed to be ok for a boy. He loves superheroes, and his jolene dress, he loves pink and makes great Lego constructions, he is the most affectionate and sweet little boy and big brother and I can’t wait for him to grow and cook us awesome meals, that kid hasn’t stopped eating in the last 4 years and has a genuine love for good food! Eric makes me more feminist everyday, makes me want to change the world for him, but also makes me aware of my responsibility as a mum of a boy to educate him to be part of the solution and not the problem. Eric shouts “no means no” when someone invades his space, and ask for permission to give you “a kiss and a hug”, he sings let it go as if there was no tomorrow and makes me laugh with his negotiation skills. Today is Eric’s day, but it is an emotional day for me too as a woman, it has been 4 years since everything changed. I miss myself a bit sometimes, but I would do it all again for him. For them.
I got 3 phone calls because of that post. 3 friends that thanked me for saying what they want to say but they censor themselves from saying; mothers, like me saying "I miss myself" and feeling a bit relieved from their own micro fantasies of a child free life.
We need to make a pact among ourselves to be honest, to be real, to be raw. The stigma associated with motherhood is huge and it feels like the very first trap of the system. I am not saying that being a mother is a losing game, but the way it is framed is definitely setting us up for failure.
We are constantly told that we need to be mothers, we are indoctrinated, from the moment we are literally out of somebody's body to want to create babies of our own. Kids repeat what they see and because they obviously live in a family with kids (themselves!) they like to replicate that in their own world... they play with dolls, the push mini prams... but in girls it is so highly encouraged (while discouraged or ignored in boys).
The role models we have, the stories we read, the films we watch, the questions we get asked... all that reinforces a natural desire to have kids. But the worst part is the lies! We are lied to! And it seems to be a tacit silence agreement to keep those lies going from generation to generation, covered in guilt and shame.
Being a mum is hard! Not talking about the cleaning vomit from your hair, or the toys everywhere or the lack of silence (but also!) I am talking about the unrealistic expectations we have and the way motherhood takes over so much space (all the space!) that it is suffocating sometimes.
I am talking about the way we have the need to justify that we love them, or that we wouldn't change them for the world every time we complain about something. Could you imagine having to add "but I would marry them again in a heartbeat" every time you complain about your partner or about the some of the cons of being on a relationship?
Even Chris and I discuss about how hard I sounded when I say things as "motherhood is not always worth it" I promise I can see fear in his face. I don't regret having kids myself, but I don't judge people that do, I don't even assume that people that do are bad mothers, in fact, I am sure they are probably amazing mothers that found that their idea of parenting included far too much sacrifice but they stick by it at a very expensive cost, a cost that may not always seem worth it. Those mothers didn't enjoy the pros any less and I am sure they loved the kisses and snuggles in the sofa but when they did their own private and personal balance the cons outweighed the pros. It wasn't about their children it was about motherhood itself. I think the fact that we are silencing those voices is not a win for anybody.
I think this is part of the next feminist revolution. Women allowing themselves to matter and to not fit the unrealistic standard, women grieving being at the center of their own life most of the time without having add to it the shame or guilt for owning their own feelings, women telling each other the truth about the struggles and freeing each other from the narrative of perfection.
None of the hard conversations or acknowledging and voicing the hard parts of motherhood has made me enjoy any less the awesome parts of it, it hasn't tainted the love, it hasn't made me any worse of a mother, but it has made me feel less lonely in the struggles, it has validated my feelings and reminded me that they mattered.
Being an honest and fulfilled women is also part of being a great role model and parent.
Happy 4 years of brutal honesty, great moments, tears, boredom, self-appreciation and love for them and for me as a mum and much more than a mum! I expect many more years of all of those!
This post was originally published in The Feminist Shop