Complaining about Motherhood is a Feminist act.

Surprise, surprise the Daily Mail published a horribly misogynistic article slamming a number of parenting bloggers who choose to be honest, and possibly a little tongue in cheek, about motherhood as they experience it.

I can’t link to the article I’m afraid because, you know, the Daily Mail is a force of evil, but chances are if you’ve been on Facebook today you’ve seen it. ‘Why ARE so many women boasting about being Slummy Mummies?’ the Mail asks with faux incredulity.

BECAUSE OF YOU AND THE HORRIBLE EXPECTATIONS YOU IMPOSE UPON WOMEN, YOU ODIOUS TOADS.

Is the short answer.

Women can experience motherhood however they want. It is theirs to own. Women online, in particular, are now telling their own truth rather than toeing the party line of motherhood being a time of pure joy and untainted happiness.

Last year I wrote a post about honest parenting, and pondered the question ‘Is complaining about motherhood a feminist act?’  This seems as good a time as any to give it another airing.

Here it is:

I like to be honest about my parenting experience; by honest I mean telling everyone how hard it is, how tired I am, the impact it has had on both my finances and my mental health. Don’t I sound fun? I do this because I really had no idea about parenting before I had my first child, none of us really do. You can read all the books, go to all the ante-natal classes, but you can’t really prepare for this experience.

When I had my first,  I felt overwhelmed and alone, compounded by the fact I was living away from my own family. My son was an easy baby but as he grew issues began to present themselves which ultimately led to an ASD/ADHD diagnosis – the intervening years had been hellishly difficult as we struggled to understand and manage his behaviour. Throw into the mix a demanding second child and a full-time job and you have one stressed out mother, two stressed out parents.

At the time of having my first child I had only one close friend who was also a mother. She was a natural mother, her child was a dream. I could not tell her how difficult it was me, and felt an utter failure in comparison to her. I was doing something wrong if parenting was this difficult for me.

So I write this blog for me, as I was six years ago. I write it for new mums who are struggling so they know they are not alone. I write it for anyone trying to come to terms with how their life has changed, and how they are coping, or not coping with it. For me, one of the absolute joys of social media, of blogging, of sites like Mumsnet is reading other women’s stories and recognising my own experience in them, being able to say, ‘Yes, yes! This is my life’ Being able to exhale, ever so slightly, with the relief that I am not alone, after all.

A photo by Morgan Sessions. unsplash.com/photos/YIN4xUBaqnk

In the Guardian this week Hadley Freeman wrote, with a certain degree of snark, about how the current trend for writing about the difficult sides of motherhood, is perceived to be a liberating , feminist act.

I realise the current trend is to suggest that it is liberating, feminist even, to talk about how tiring/hard/hellish it is to be a mother. I would like to urge caution with this. Sure, talk to any friends in exactly the same position as you, but to a woman desperately trying to get pregnant your Facebook status update about frustrating sleep patterns will sound like sadness that your house is too big.

Is it liberating to be honest about my experience ? Yes. It is liberating to tell your story and to speak up against the myth of how motherhood is ‘supposed’ to be. It is liberating to tell the truth about your life as opposed to perpetuating the fetishisation of motherhood which has existed for so long, and which helps no-one, the child-free included.

Is it Feminist? Quite possibly. For me, it is certainly done in the spirit of supporting other women and it is true that new forms of social media have given a voice to women outside of the traditional structures. On Facebook, on  Twitter, through blogging,  women are telling their truths – they are using these new mediums to give a platform to a voice which has so often been silenced. Don’t tell them what they should say.

I can’t agree with Freeman’s advice to be cautious in telling your story. She has twins who are one year old and she ends her piece with saying how lucky she feels to have two healthy babies.It’s great that she is having such a positive experience, but many don’t and saying that you can’t talk about it for fear of upsetting others is diminishing the struggle that some mothers experience, particularly those with PND or other forms of depression. This advice, to me , smacks of those who say ‘you have a great life, what have you got to be depressed about?’ That’s not how depression works. You can have two healthy babies and still get depressed.

Of course, those who cannot conceive and those who have suffered miscarriage have experienced terrible pain. I do not belittle it. Pain is not competitive: if some people are experiencing one kind of pain, it doesn’t mean we don’t offer support to others experiencing a different pain. It is also, of course, possible, indeed likely, that there are women who have experienced miscarriage who also find parenting difficult and appreciate the relief  and support that can be found in sharing online.

Don’t be cautious with your story: be sensitive, be compassionate, be honest.

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20 comments

  1. One of the reasons I read every single one of your blog posts is because of your honesty. Parenting is hard. So hard. I blog for the same reason, to be honest with my experiences being a mum. Honest with how my own perosonality has changed, how my relationship with my husband and my family has altered. How difficult and trying life can be as a parent. The change is too huge to comprehend until it happens. I love your honesty. I relate to you and come away feeling thank god I’m not alone

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  2. I speak as a recurrent miscarrier: I WISH journos would stop using our pain to shut up mothers. Because not only is it insulting, but when some of us get our “rainbow baby” this idea we ought to be perfectly happy and grateful or we are letting the side down can be incredibly pressurising and psychologically damaging. Women fighting to have kids need to know the real situation, and frankly yes it feels bad at tge time but then so does the whole situation. If you think it’s gonna be heaven then the guilt and stress when (I hope for most in that situation) you have a baby will hit you like a tidal wave.

    Shutting mothers up to protect us miscarried and infertile women is not only disgustingly problemaric but damaging to the very women the patronising Tiny Timming journalists claim to protect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow – thank you so much for reading and commenting. The pressure to think motherhood must always be amazing and you must always feel grateful – it’s just impossible to live up to that .

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  3. Love this. I used to think the sun shone out of Harley’s posterior. In the last few years…. not so much.

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    1. Same – disappointing but kind of inevitable

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  4. Hadley! My phone had clearly never heard of her. Heheh.

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  5. Ohhhh love this- it is a really thought provoking one. I agree with you – and also Perdita has hit the nail on the head in her brilliant comment above. I think it is a feminist act to be truthful and open about our experiences as women and mothers.

    Although conversely I actually wish people had been less honest with me when I was pregnant as I felt they all tried to make me dread becoming a mother as it would be such a shock and so hard… I personally don’t think dread is something a happy, expectant mother should feel! Having said that I completely applaud honesty and try to be honest on my own blog. I have found sometimes though I feel uncomfortable sharing the positive parts of my experience as a mother – the fact breastfeeding has been simple for us etc, as I worry about it coming across false or smug, or upsetting those who have had difficult experiences. I guess the point really is that in an ideal world we should all feel able to share the truth about our lives, be that good, bad or a bit of both as is usually the way! Either way I don’t think anybody should feel silenced. #fortheloveofBLOG

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kate Orson · · Reply

    This is a wonderful post. I think that staying connected as mothers and being honest with each other, is so helpful. I teach workshops for parents, and I know that every single parent that comes feels better, because they know they are not alone with the struggle. Some parents come thinking something is wrong with them because they can’t do it all, but actually it’s our situation and our world that is making parenting hard. #fortheloveofBLOG

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  7. This is a wonderful post. You so sensitively handle a difficult topic. It is popular online for people to say you musn’t act an ungrateful parent, or wish your babies to grow up too fast because it’s so hard. But we have a right to feel how we feel. That doesn’t mean that people with different feelings or experiences are being diminished!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – I was a bit worried about posting it. I’m glad it’s come across OK.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I often feel worried about how my posts come across!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a great post. I wish blogs like this and many others were available when I had my children. We all struggle in different ways and it is so good to know that there are others feeling the same as you and that you are not a failure. These blogs are also a great support network and bring people together.
    #fortheloveofBLOG

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post! I think it’s wonderful you are honest about it. I don’t agree with the quotation. To say we need to be cautious about what we share is like telling an athlete not to complain about their training for fear of offending someone who has a broken leg. Okay perhaps a silly example but you get the idea. Everyone’s life is different. Everyone has the right to share their story. If you started saying how lucky childless women are then perhaps there would be some truth in it, but you’re talking about you perspective! #fortheloveofBLOG

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  10. Your post is so true and exactly how I feel after having my first child 8 weeks ago. I felt awful that I didn’t feel the wave of happiness you were “supposed” to get, and angry that all the classes and advice I had said that it would be hard but that the baby would make up for it all. Not everyone feels that way and sugar coating the experience helps no-one

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  11. Irritating piece from Freeman. First off I get the impression that she doesn’t know whether to have a shite or get a haircut: she seems to be desperately trying to win approval from both parent and non-parent demographics of the Guardian’s often super-judgey audience. She’s keen to convey that she is still chaotic and cool rather than ‘mumsy’ (“….given that I have got through a whole year without forgetting either (or both) of the babies on a bus, I have exceeded my own expectations.”), and seems a bit embarrassed to have left the childfree ranks (“I…..still find childcare more boring than, say, getting stoned on a beach by myself”). The grim old fart in me wants to say grow the f*** up and own your situation.
    But that’s all beside the point. Regarding her comments about moaning about your disrupted sleep patterns /difficulties with children on social media, here is my opinion as someone who found out they couldn’t have kids when I was the age that Freeman actually gave birth to hers. Everything that parents post on Facebook annoys or offends you when you are undergoing infertility treatment or can’t conceive. It’s kind of unavoidable. But then it’s always true that someone somewhere will not like the thing you post for some reason. But you would never presume to actually stop people from posting annoying stuff – we’re talking about Facebook, right? You make copious use of Unfollow and Hide and the irritation eventually blows over, or you unfriend the person and suffer the fallout of that.
    I can say, though, that back then the most annoying things weren’t the parent friends complaining about the dreary stuff. Sometimes that was comforting. The fact that Freeman thinks that moaning about lack of sleep on Facebook is more hurtful to an infertile friend than signing off that she feels “absurdly lucky” to have her babies says a lot. It does not make you feel less unlucky when someone tells you they know they are ridiculously lucky to have what you cannot have. It makes you feel a bit shitter. It’s up there with #blessed and a scan pic on yours news feed when you’ve just failed ivf.

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  12. Brilliant post. I feel as women and Mums we can’t do right for doing wrong. What on earth happened to freedom of speech?! I love this post. Sharing right now! 🙂 #fortheloveofBLOG

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  13. No matter what you say or do when you become a parent, other people think it is their right to voice their opinion (usually the opposite opinion) about your choices/behaviour/values. I’ve never known a subject as contentious as motherhood and I can never quite figure out why. Even the Mums who make it look easy, have rubbish and difficult days in the same way as the women who are open about their struggles so why do we all feel the need to judge each other? I hope someone gets to the bottom of it one day and it can all stop! Great, thought provoking piece. Thanks for sharing on #fortheloveofBLOG X

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  14. I agree with you, it is better to be honest. I was one of the last of my friends to have a baby and it was not a shock as they had all been quite honest about how physically and mentally tiring it can be. Painting the perfect picture isn’t helpful. There are amazing highs but also a lot of drudgery days in parenting

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  15. […] via Feminist Friday: Is complaining about Motherhood a Feminist Act? — Feminist Parenting […]

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  16. AMEN! I have absolutely no room for mom-shaming. Absolutely. No. Room. Diminishing the experience of a woman in any way is to suggest that she is nonessential by comparison. I’m over it. Thanks for a lovely read!!!! ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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