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.
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.