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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.


9 responses »

  1. I enjoyed reading this post and it is a really insightful argument against the Guardian article which I read earlier and did think it was on particularly dangerous ground.

    Im a young lady (23) im not a Mama yet but i hope to be one day, and there is something i dont understand: now, I know that it may not be the same as bearing and raising your own ‘flesh and blood’ but there are so many babies already out there in the world in need of a loving mother and family and a warm bed at night-
    Personally (and i wouldn’t want to overstep a mark with a topic i have no experience in), but i think that to adopt a little vulnerable life like this and raise him or her would be just as wonderful and rewarding (and hard work no doubt!), as raising one of my own would. I have no hesitation in saying that if i was afflicted in an unfortunate way with a condition that meant i could not have children naturally- this would not stop me being a mother, or having a family, I would just love and care for an adopted baby.

    I don’t know what anyone else thinks of this though, it has just always been my opinion.

    • Yes, absolutely. I obviously can’t comment on the depth of feelings as I’ve not adopted but what a wonderful thing it would be to give a child the family it needs. I imagine the feelings grow and of course, you’d love the child as your own.

      A lovely comment, thank you.

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  3. emotionalcynic

    “What is clear from the piece is that there is a strong difference in opinion between mothers and women who don’t have children.”

    As a woman without children (by choice, although I am a teacher and a doting auntie so I do love kids in a general sense!) I take a small issue with this comment as I don’t think it’s necessarily true. I think we would all – mothers and non-mother alike – be better off if we didn’t always try and put ourselves into different camps and set up this ‘I have it worse’ war between us. Do women who don’t have children get a lot of crap from people because of it? Yes. Do working mothers have a crappy time of it? Yes. Do women who want kids but can’t have them have a crap time when they see their friends having babies? Yes! But one crap is not worse or better than the other – they are all symptoms of how shitty things are for women generally, mothers or not. We need to support each other no matter our situation, that is how things would improve (and as brave a Bibi’s piece in The Guardian was it did come across and unnecessarily unkind to mothers who have a hard time in places)

    This is a great blog piece by the way – and you are right, people should be able to use their twitters/blogs/support networks however they see fit without being told to shut up. Without being told that they don’t know they are born. So thanks for it, very interesting to read 🙂

    • Yes, you are absolutely right. I made a fleeting generalisation based on my experiences and should’ve considered that not all women without children feel the same! I think I allowed myself to get too emotional when writing this and as a result wasn’t as balanced as I should have been.

      There does seem to be a divide between those with and those without and I agree that we should stop fighting about who has it worse and not let jealousy or bitterness stand in the way of us uniting as people!

      Thank you for your comment 🙂

      • emotionalcynic

        I completely understand why you got emotional, and I know that you didn’t mean it in an all-encompassing way, I only felt the need to comment as I saw some similar themes in some of the comments in your comments section and kind of wanted to let you/others know that some non-mums out there are supportive of mums even though we haven’t chosen that path for ourselves.

        Thanks for taking it the right way – I was concerned it may have come across like I was telling you off and I really wasn’t trying to do that!

      • emotionalcynic

        Duh, I said your comments section, I meant the comments section of the original article, and other articles that linked to this one.

        Hopefully you know what I meant 🙂

  4. The article pissed me off to be honest. If she had been unable to have children for a medical reason I might have had more sympathy but if she wanted children so badly she’d have tried to adopt or gone to a sperm bank or anything over leave it until 40 to look into. Maybe that sounds harsh but I found the whole piece whiny and bitter and totally missing the point of mothers that ‘moan’. As @emotionalcynic put it, we should be more supportive of each other in general rather than attacking mothers or non mothers for their rights to complain about their lives. One thing that goes against the writer Bibi as far as I’m concerned is that she’s talking from inexperience. How can she possibly know how hard it is for some mothers some of the time if she isn’t one. It just seems petty and mean of her to sling mud. No one has the right to say their pain is worse than someone else’s, isn’t everything in life all relative after all? I could be a starving refugee but I’m not. In fact my life is a billion times better. But does that mean I can’t complain about something that affects my life? I wouldn’t say so.

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