Today an article was published in the Guardian in which the author Bibi Lynch, expressed her disdain at women who complain that motherhood is difficult. She herself is not a mother (through the opportunity never arising) and used the piece to appeal to mothers to ‘open their eyes and see what they have’. I found the article very hard to read as a mother myself who yes, does have a rant occasionally about how difficult life is.
Yes, she was brave to have written such an honest piece so publicly and, yes I have sympathy for her that her life hasn’t taken the course she’d have liked and she’s been robbed of the chance to have a family. But after posting the article on Twitter this morning and sparking a debate which has lasted the day, I feel I need to explain exactly why her words have touched a nerve with me.
Bibi cites a survey which claims that ‘women who tried to be “supermums” were in danger of becoming depressed and stay-at-home Mums (with no adult company) were most at risk from this depression’. She then goes on to say she’s sick of hearing about desolate Mums and how hard motherhood is. Dangerous ground, lady.
I have suffered post-natal depression. I still, two and a half years after the birth of my second child suffer depression (only recently diagnosed) and anxiety to the point where I have a physical reaction in the form of heart palpitations and nearly pass out from light-headedness and dizzy spells. It’s no joke and sometimes takes all the strength I have just to get through the day. It’s not a weakness and it certainly shouldn’t give reason for criticism.
Does this mean I sometimes need a sounding board after a particularly stressful day? Yes. Do I sometimes need to take to Twitter or my blog to find support from people in similar situations? Yes, and it’s a HUGE support. Does this mean I’m not grateful for what I have? Not for a second. Does this mean I wish I’d never had children? No, absolutely not. I KNOW how lucky I am to have my children. Each night I kiss my children and thank my lucky stars for having them in my life. They are my world, I would die for them. Since becoming a mother I have not once wished I’d remained childless. Not for a second, not even on the hardest, most bone-crushingly tiring days.
LadyCurd wrote earlier that you shouldn’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. I cannot agree with this sentiment more. Mothers suffering depression (regardless of whether or not it’s post-natal) suffer massive guilt. Guilt associated with bonding with their child, guilt because they’re not working, guilt because they ARE working but most of all, guilt because they’re feeling sad when they have this wonderful child and they’re not bursting with happiness. Then reading that they should be happy/grateful/dancing a jig around the living room whist sitting under a dark black cloud which simply refuses to lift is painful. Very painful to read. Cue more guilt, the black cloud descends further and so the cycle continues.
What is clear from the piece is that there is a strong difference in opinion between mothers and women who don’t have children. I disagree that mothers are treated as superior citizens. Quite the opposite in fact. Long gone are the days when seats are given up on the bus or tube. Women pushing prams are sneered at for taking up the pavement and I’ve even had people move in a cafe when I’ve sat down next to them with my children (in a family cafe, at lunchtime and my children were sat in silence I must point out). Working mothers are at the very bottom of the food chain. How many women do you know who’ve had to compromise on their job/hours/pay after having children? Most working Mums I know have, and a shocking number have found themselves ousted from their positions after maternity leave, having to take on a different role or having no job to go back to at all.
I must reiterate that as much as I can, I do empathise with Bibi for her situation. It must be so hard seeing friends become pregnant, being surrounded by children knowing that it’ll never now happen for her but at the same time I beg, please don’t tar us all with the same brush. In your own words you are somebody who ‘fucked up her own life and is just jealous’ but please, please don’t lay the blame on other mothers. Don’t judge us on something you (sadly) know nothing about and most of all please, please don’t ever call us ungrateful. Believe me, we do know we’re born.