This blog post has been waiting in the wings for some time after countless conversations with female friends who have recently become parents. I’m now eventually getting around to finishing it. Turns out my multi tasking skills are not what they used be. Thanks for your patience…
Women are along way off from smashing every glass ceiling they reach out for. Don’t get me wrong we’ve come along way and made great strides forward but we still fall short when it comes to equal pay, representation in politics and boardrooms remain dominated by men in suits and women are still getting screwed in the workplace when they decide they want to have a family. The list goes on.
A few weeks ago I met a good friend and someone I can happily call my mentor who has helped me with my career from day one. She is incredibly admirable and loves nothing more than supporting women, helping them to get ahead and achieve their goals. With this in mind I’m reminded we can do so much more when we support one and other, no matter what our station in life is. It’s way more healthier and takes less energy than pulling one and other down.
And the one station in life, which we ought to support one and other a little more is in motherhood.Yes, I know as a result of the internet and the rise of the Instamum, you could be mistaken for thinking being a mum is a pretty new phenomena. And yes I know women have been doing this for thousands of years but the internet does shine a huge spotlight on the supportive (check out @mother_pukka, @steph_dontbuyherflowers, @theyesmummum on Instagram for starters and of course the @theunmumsymum who now has a cult following) and the not so supportive network.
For many it’s a time in their lives, which is brand new. We’re learning the ropes as we go along. I’m certainly winging it. Remember there was no instruction manual when you left the hospital. We’re often exhausted, emotionally drained and sometimes we feel isolated and vulnerable and yet despite all paddling the same boat some mothers will openly judge our choices, adding to that sinking feeling. It happens. It’s happened to me and it’s happened to friends.
Was I planning to return to work was one of the first questions people were quick to ask. Firstly my stitches had barely healed and I’m pretty sure that although I don’t get a pay check very month, I’m still working pretty damn hard. I often think it would be relaxing to go back into the office from time to time, get dressed up and enjoy some adult chat. I’m not currently on holiday.
Every parent is absolutely entitled to their opinion. But it’s important to remember it’s their opinion and an opinion not everyone else will agree with. It’s also important to recognise your not always aware of personal circumstances and the reasons which drive the choices people make.
For the time being I’ve made the descion to stay at home with Otto. A choice which I’m very comfortable with, although there are often monotonous days and my life is certainly not shiny, glossy or ordered. Yet I have had people tell me they couldn’t possibly stay at home all day with their prodigy, as they would be incredibly bored. Why would I not want to go back to work they question.
On the other hand I have friends and family who have decided to go back to work, some as early as four months. Que gasps of horror and judgemental statements. Firstly folks this decision may not have been an easy one or maybe it was. The key thing is to remember it is their decision and what would be more beneficial is to support other mothers with the choices they want to make.
The same goes for how you decide to feed your newborn. Now I should begin by acknowledging this remains a thorny issue and I could easily write an entire post on the issue. But I won’t because quite frankly we all know the pros and cons and most women if they where in control of Mother Nature would likely breastfeed. But, Mother Nature doesn’t always play ball.
If you’re baby has colic, won’t latch on, your nipples are bleeding from trying so hard to do what you think is best for both you and baby and you’ve developed the worst case of mastitis imaginable, leaving you to massage your boobs in the bath to relieve the pain, you’re probably going to bottle feed. Because, quite frankly it’s the best option for all parties in this horrid and agonising situation. And those who tut and shake their heads dissaprovingly at the mother who is already probably wracked with guilt, are propbably not in a position to judge or you’ve been damn lucky that breastfeeding has gone your way.
I was the smug lucky one. My midwife sat with me for over an hour to make sure Otto latched on, he did and continued to suck the life out of me for the next nine months. By the time he was resembling an actual small person and developing razor sharp nashers I opted to stop and claimed back my boobs.
However, it seems we’re stuck between a hard place and a rock. I would happily breastfeed in parks, trains, cafes, restaurants, rugby matches and even an air show but as Otto got older other mothers would ask if I was “still” breastfeeding. It’s not like he was running around and asking to borrow the car keys! And to those women hiding in the corner of a cafe feeding their baby rather than being stuck inside for the fourth day running, you’ve got nothing to hide from. Embrace it.
My list could go on. People will judge on endless issues, when to start weaning and look in disgust as you bribe your little darling with something that isn’t a piece of fruit or bread stick. There will be those who marvel in the fact their child has a full set of teeth by the time their one and are walking by 10 months while your little bean is still shuffling away quite happily on their bum post first birthday. And if I want to shower Peppa Pig and the Jumperoo have been two of my closest allies for quite some time, allowing mothers up and down the country to wash. I’m not going to feel guilty that I’m slowly turning Otto’s eyes square.
Judging and competing will continue but it is pretty exhausting. Supporting each other is less time consuming and so much more rewarding for everyone as we try to keep our heads above water along the parenthood treadmill.