Do you ever feel like all the problems of the world would be solved if only we had affordable childcare? OK, well maybe not all the problems. Do you ever feel like gender equality would definitely be achieved if we all had access to affordable childcare ? This is the message that is presented to us by liberal feminists, mainstream media and neoliberal politicians alike.
Sometimes I think it’s like a tap, not tightly enough wound, dripping in the next room. Sometimes you notice it, sometimes you don’t, but you know it’s still dripping because no-one has turned it. Sometimes it makes you really mad, but still you wait for someone else to turn it.
There’s a show on Netflix where 5 beautiful men go into someone’s life and breathe love into it. It’s pure and joyful and will make you cry in a way that cleanses your soul. I watched an episode recently where a young widower, now a single father to two young boys, spoke about his late wife. “She squeezed every drop of joy out of life.” I cried for him, and his beautiful wife and children, but really I suppose I was crying for me, in a roundabout way. It made me think, self-obsessed as I am, if I died would anyone be able to say that about me? Am I squeezing the joy out of life?
This is a summer of endings and beginnings, of lasts and firsts, as my youngest child leaves the creche she has attended since she was 11 months old, to begin school at the end of August.
On the eve of our fortnight in the sun; notes from the Algarve.
As I drag my tired body along the landing at 1.52am, muttering angrily about the nightly bed swapping, I feel a wave of guilt for not simply throwing a welcoming arm around my son and ushering him into my bed. As a mother, I am supposed to always put my children’s needs above my own desires. His need for comfort and company at night, is greater than my desire for an uninterrupted night’s sleep. For maternal love is selfless; children have needs which must be met, and mothers only desires which can be cast aside and, if met, have been selfishly pursued.
Two stories about mothering in the headlines this week. One on breastfeeding, or rather bottle feeding, based on the news that updated advice from the Royal College of Midwives stresses that new mothers should be given appropriate support if they make an informed decision to bottle feed. The other on ‘working mothers’ and how they’re total slackers in the workplace.
There’s a quote I’ve repeated to myself many times over the last few weeks, and it comes from an unlikely source. Those of you with young children may be familiar with the cartoon Daniel Tiger, and the wise oracle like figure of his mum. She has a song,
“ Sometimes you feel two feelings at the same time, and that’s OK.”
It has become my mantra.
Pro-life , or anti-choice to give them a more accurate descriptor, campaigners like to cite the fact that many women who have abortions come to regret their decision. Despite evidence not supporting that claim, it’s reasonable to assume that for some women it may well be true.
As I hear the car door close heavily behind me, I take a deep breath and steel myself as I walk down the path to the after school facility where my 8 year old son spends his afternoons. I hold my breath as I enter the building and hope I won’t be approached by any of the staff reporting an ‘incident’. I see my boy, and I smile expectantly, the triumph of hope over experience, that today my smile will be returned and he will tell me cheerfully that he has had a good day. More often than not this does not happen. Generally he is angry, frustrated, upset or just plain cranky. Sometimes my smile persists, sometimes my shoulders sink to meet his, and we slink back to the car in sullen silence.