As printed in My Village News August 2019
“Do you like being a Mum?” So often the person who asks this question does not expect an honest answer. So when I, the shameful asker in this case, did get the truth from a friend recently I was taken aback. She said, “Um, yeah but you know I just didn’t realise how ‘on call’ the role would be.” I found her honesty brave.
A previous full time career woman she had worked in a role that even required her to be ‘on call’ some weekends but here she was admitting what many of us won’t publicly, “This is the toughest job I’ve ever had and some days I just can’t cope.”
Many of us don’t love all the parts of anything we do. Jobs have upsides and downsides. Marriages and relationships certainly have their peaks and troughs. So why is parenting expected to be any different when we talk about it outwardly?
Why, when a mother is asked if she loves her new role, is she expected to answer with unbridled enthusiasm and euphoria? “Oh yes! The unexpected middle of the night wakes are a real treat. As are the food stains that appear on everything in our home making for a live modern art installation. Oh and the nonsensical tantrums that steam in like a freight train and are just as quickly gone? Well of course I cherish them most of all.”
There’s a fear if parents, especially mothers, don’t give a glossy answer to this question we will be silently diagnosed with a kind of depression or, in my opinion the worst insult, “She just can’t handle having kids”.
So let’s talk about how much us Mummas can handle. I can now handle applying make up while doing my hair and getting dressed for work at the same time as tidying up uneaten breakfast, scattered toys and cuddling my beautiful tantrum-maker. I can prepare dinner for a toddler from scratch then do it all over again for two adults. I can work a full day then like Clark Kent to Superman make a speedy transformation to ‘Mum the book reader and pretend tea party host’. It’s just that parenting is the most “on call job” I’ve ever had or, as Oprah Winfrey best explains, “Being a mother is the hardest job on earth. Women everywhere must declare it so.”