Thursday, December 17, 2009

Be Brave

The responses to my last post have got me thinking. I love them all but this one in particular I want to share. Thanks Lulu.

"Docile?! She's got to be kidding! It was once the norm to look after your own kids. Nowadays, it's only for the brave. Women's Lib was all about giving women equal status, but in real terms all they did was give them more work to do. Jobs AND parenting. And social security for women post childraising disappeared, which means when the kids are grown and the husband dies or leaves, the women are forced to scrounge a living somehow. I admire women who raise their own children. To do it properly takes a lot of time and effort. And hats off to the men who make it possible for them."

The real subject of my last post has been on my mind a lot since becoming a mother:
the struggle of women in motherhood - the struggle to find your spot as a mother and sit comfortably in it.

The comments in my last post, I believe, emanate from a pervading and intense dissatisfaction with motherhood that worries and saddens me often.

In response, I considered writing an ' In Defence of Motherhood' essay stating the pros and cons of stay-at-home motherhood and the pros and cons of being a working mother, in order to encourage women to make a choice and be happy in it. But a more superfluous document I could not conceive of, in the end.

But this is what I want to say.
After hundreds, maybe thousands of conversations with and observations of mothers in all situations, this is what I have found. This is the truth as I see it:

If mama ain't happy, nobody's happy.

I think that finding your own comfortable spot as a mother, what ever that may be, is not only your right but is actually your obligation. If you are wallowing in dissatisfaction, if you are not actively working towards your own satisfaction, it impacts enormously on those you love the most.

Perhaps your responsibility is to find a choice and make it. The right choice for you, for now. Because if what you need is to stay-at-home with your kids then do it, accepting that you will struggle with all the difficulties and demands that go along with it and you will celebrate the joys. Or if you need to work to receive affirmation, adult company, achievement, career, contribute to the working world, then do it, do it, do it. Or if you want to do a bit of both - sista, go straight ahead. I am not saying that the odd whinge isn't well warranted either way, but, couldn't you celebrate the privilege of your choice and position rather than disparage and despise it.
Feminism has given us choice. Wealth has given us choice. Let' s not fool ourselves, this is a wealthy and middle class dilemma. Most women are without choice.

And then there are the mums who don't stop to consider their choices. I see them roll along the path of 'how they think it has to be' when, in reality, choices and opportunities abound and I watch the dissatisfaction creeping in.

Follow your instincts. You do know what the right choice is for you.

Time passes. Your choices will change. Your circumstances will change. The children will grow and you will wonder why you spent their early years locked in battle with guilt, boredom or absence. Your children may not remember that you went to work every day or that you spent every day 'being there' with them, engaging them in educational and developmental activities and feeding them wholesome organic food, but they will remember how you were.

Motherhood requires 'presence' and dissatisfaction robs you of presence. Physical presence is not the issue here. Its about sitting present and comfortable in the moments you are with your children and partner, not wishing you were somewhere and someone else.

Motherhood is a struggle. Couldn't we consider loving the struggle? Celebrating it in all its forms and styles? Supporting our own choice and encouraging our partners and families to support it too, purely on the basis that it is the right choice for us and us alone. Couldn't we acknowledge what a great job it is? What a hard-ass, 24/7, domestic-tasks-nightmare, glorious, nurturing, family and community building, challenging, endless, awesome job it is and how bloody good we all are at it most of the time, working mothers or stayers-at-home!

And Lulu is so right, hats off to those partners who give support to a mother's choices. Their support is essential.

So Mama get happy. Get intellectual, get docile, get working, get out, what ever, but get happy. Because you can. Your choice is the right one for you and for your family. Enjoy the struggle while it lasts. One day it will be only a faded memory.


Raewyn said...

Thank you Georgia xxx

Selina said...

Fabulous post. I particularly loved the sentence "Your children may not remember that you went to work every day or that you spent every day 'being there' with them, engaging them in educational and developmental activities and feeding them wholesome organic food, but they will remember how you were." Just spot on :)

Gina said...

This is an absolutely wonderful post and summary of the issues. Thank you. You're right, this is the struggle we middle class educated wealthy women are blessed with! And it's all about owning our choices (and the pros and cons that come with them, because NO choice is going to be without both).

By the way, for a docile mother, you're pretty articulate.

Lulu said...

You say it so much better than I ever could. Well done.

clare's craftroom said...

Well done ! So right but so simple , get happy !

D said...


SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I can remember , 40-odd years ago , opening my own bank account , having had a joint one since we married with The Breadwinner . The bank manager kindly ( ? ) filled the form in for me and when he got to " Occupation " , he looked at me and said , "You're just a housewife , I take it ? " .
I should really just have signed with an X .

Karen said...

Your post was just what I needed. I am a mum of 2 boys (7 & 5 yrs). I have always worked full time since my eldest was 1 yr old, I had a few months off when my youngest was born, but went back to work again full time not long after. Its not until this year that I have decided to stay at home and be here for my boys. I realsied that I had kids for a reason and have missed alot of things (Christmas concerts, Easter Bonnet parades, school parades etc) My husband is fully supportive of me staying at home and for that I am grateful. I am working part time (as I have an obsession with craft and fabric's). I thank you agin for your post, it reminded me that, for me at this time, I am doing the right thing for my family.