Mums-to-be look away now.
I felt pretty depressed when I read this title.
My heart sunk a little more when I saw the highlighted quote “it’s the best time in history to be woman – until you get pregnant”.
Written by Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts in the July 2014 edition of Red it was her take, not so much on motherhood itself, but the word “mum” and how, when adults talk to adults, we use if so negatively.
Her statement that “..all women, once they are mothers, are automatically syphoned into one of two groups: stay-at-home mums or working mums. In both cases, the associations are primarily bad. If you’re a stay at home mother, you’re liable to be labelled lazy, unambitious, frustrated, vapid and dull. Working mum? Try selfish, neglectful, greedy, frazzled – and probably no great shakes at your job either. The message is clear: if you’re a mum, you’re doing it wrong. Definitively.”
Who are these people that are supposedly making these statements and assumptions?
They’re not people I tend to come across and I hope I never do but a conversation recently with a very successful woman in business and a strong advocate for women’s issues shared her maternity leave experience of informing fellow party goers that she was currently a mum (choosing to not mention her career) and had them turn away to someone who was deemed more interesting: and on another occasion shared her role, explaining she was “just on maternity leave”.
Different response altogether.
My work celebrates pregnancy and supports new mums. I aim to help women feel confident and strong, to make an informed choice on how and whether to return to work, at the time and in the way that is right for them.
To empower them to be both aware of their legal rights but also their emotional needs.
To recognise that being a parent is, is many ways, the hardest and most thankless of tasks, monotonous and exhausting on some occasions, but blissfully brilliant moments later.
And to recognise that having something other than your children to talk about is vital too.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy can equally be, all Mum and no “You” a similar story.
Personally I enjoy most of the stories from my clients, friends and family about their little ones development. I find human behaviour, nature vs nurture and child development fascinating.
I work with women who generally do go back to work and can feel like they aren’t doing either role as well as they would like, but equally can work in supportive teams and with supportive partners who help them realise that is not the case.
For me this is simply about better education. About raising generations who value mothers and fathers equally. Who value choice and opportunities and see that a happy, healthy world requires women, just to be themselves. Mothers, non-mothers and mothers-in-waiting. Mothers not of their own offspring but hugely nurturing and warm regardless. Ambitious, introspective, extroverted, focused, creative and kind.
I work with an amazing virtual assistant who also happens to be a mum. I would be lost without her superb organisational skills and structure, honed no doubt, from having little ones to juggle her career around. The producer of my hangouts is a tech genius who simplifies the mysterious and also happens to be a mum of 4. She has developed her skills over time and now has found a work/life balance (in Lanzarote no less) which blends her personal and professional needs perfectly.
I see friends raising their babies and look at them with awe and respect. But I know they do the same to me.
We all recognise each others strengths and gifts but I also see them growing, learning and keeping themselves abreast of current affairs, as well as the best cream for eczema or which vegetables have the most nutrients and are most easily disguised.
It’s derogatory to assume just because you talk about one aspect, you don’t know about the other. It’s also important to note that there will be times when you are more consumed by one topic or another. That your focus and needs will shift. And if you weren’t that exciting and interesting to talk to at parties before you had children you’re not suddenly going to be a magnet now, unless becoming a mum is your absolute calling – in which case you may radiate warmth and ooze confidence like never before.
When I was in the first year of my clinic business my sister, not so kindly, told me “I was boring”. And she was right. To her I was. I was all consumed by “my baby”, my new business. But as she proceeded to share the minutiae of my nephew and niece I did have moments of glazing over too. I still know she’s the best negotiator I’ve ever met. And she knows I have a multitude of skills too!
Justine ends by saying “It’s time to shake off the oppressive associations of the word “mum”. Mums are quite simply what we become when we have children, but..we fully remain all the things we were before too. And isn’t it time we celebrated both?
Justine, I agree. But I see this celebration daily.
I encourage “mums” not to succumb to any labels. To be themselves. To shine. Brightly. And to raise their sons and daughters to do the same.
If more “mums” stood up, celebrated themselves and valued their own contribution, however that translates, the negative connotations would lose their power of persuasion.
Let me know your thoughts? Have you been treated differently since you gave birth? As a mum-to-be is it something that concerns you? Love to hear from you.