As a child I never dreamed of a white wedding or being surrounded by kids. I was consumed by the singular goal of becoming a professional horse rider. As a young adult, the realities of supporting that goal hit hard and I had to ‘let go’ in order to pursue adult life – getting a full time job, eventually a mortgage and paying for my own health insurance. Read more here
Becoming a first time parent last year has been a fundamentally life changing experience. I adapted well to the lack of sleep and the change in lifestyle; coping well with the changes I think because we had such a rough start. Read more here
I’m interested in writing essays on expectations but I am conscious of how the topic has been covered by so many writers. I read ‘The Year of Yes’ by Shona Rhimes recently and found her refreshing viewpoint resonated with my changing views about motherhood. My aunt gave me a copy of a book called ‘The Stay at Home Martyr’ which initially bristled my feathers but upon reflection, I recognised her good intentions. I don’t feel like a martyr but then again, I could identify with a lot of the points of the author.
My generation (borderline X and Y) were brought up to believe that you can have it all as a woman. You can have the career and the baby, travel and be successful, have money and volunteer to help the needy. The reality is so far from the truth.
As a couple we have found our way financially in terms of home ownership and have a good start on a lot of people our age – but our house is filled with second-hand furniture, mostly things I’ve picked up on eBay for just a few dollars. Our clothes, kitchenware and artworks are almost exclusively from op-shops. There is nothing wrong with this, and of course there is a certain creativity to it, but sometimes I visit a friends house and see a beautiful Marimekko wall hanging and I start to dream…
But of course, most things are like demand and supply, yin and yang; you can’t have one without the other. Because I don’t have beautiful and expensive things, I have less debt. But it is hard, I’d really like to buy a caravan or go on more holidays but we just can’t afford it. But luckily, I can afford to work very little and rely on Centrelink at this stage of my life – when working with a child who is so up and down, and in and out of childcare, so that is a wonderful situation to be in.
But at the end of the day, while Ben excels in his university course, I am playing the role of mother, stay at home parent, homemaker. Not a role I see myself playing permanently. One way of balancing my need to use my brain is through my blog and I also do a bit of volunteer work for the reflux association we are a part of – http://www.reflux.org.au.
Longer term I do see myself working again amongst co-workers, talking and laughing and setting plans and having deadlines. The endless days as a mother blend into one and provide a feeling of never accomplishing anything. It is that exact feeling that is so dangerous. As a mother, you are accomplishing something every second, of every day. You are keeping someone else, or multiple someone elses alive. Little, tiny or not so little and tiny, humans that need your love, support, to be fed, clothed and cuddled, holding hands and singing songs, walking to ease them into slumber or cuddling and feeding at 2am.
But for the generation who were raised to have endless choices of career, to be encourage to attend university, to work in corporate offices that are so focused on sales targets and promotions, to slow down to the snail pace of a baby or toddler is so jarring.
Women of my generation now have the choice of what type of mother to be; a stay at home, crafty and domestic goddess (which is essentially impossible anyway, especially with a refluxer), to work from home (another difficult choice), or a blend of everything. If you have the funds, hiring a cleaner can provide more time for other things; such as playing with your child, or pursuing a hobby while they nap (if they nap!).
But it’s not at all a bad thing to admit that you are not fulfilled 100% by being a mother. Some say that motherhood is a full-time job, others don’t want to define it as a job. Shona Rhimes says being a mother is “who she is”. She doesn’t see it as a job – she writes hit television shows for a job. But others see motherhood as the only job that matters. I’m not sure what I think; I just know that for me to be happy, I want a balance of brain usage and time with my son. Back to playing for now…
You’re writing an article for a publication while listening to The Wiggles music on your computer so your toddler keeps playing happily…
If you are following along from home you are probably seeing a trend to my thoughts and rambling. Thanks for reading by the way…
For reasons that are vast, personal and difficult sometimes to discuss, I am as an adult very tied to the concept of expectations. Sometimes expectations are helpful, but a lot of the time, they are not.
From the moment a woman reaches an accepted age to have children, society places an inordinate number of expecations upon them.
- You must want to have children
- You will feel joy when you have children
- Children complete your world
- A family is made of husband / partner and children
We know from the way society has changed in just the past 60 years that the dynamics of families vary greatly.
With these expecations and societal pressures has come for some women a set of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ in themselves which usually results in a strong sense of guilt or anxiety. It’s very easy to see that a lot of mothers feel they are not “doing” motherhood well enough. I use the verb “doing” because it’s not enough to just ‘be’ a mother, you have to also ‘do’ all the right things.
From generation to generation, the accepted parenting practices that are generally adopted by families have changed. When I was a child, there was more of an emphasis on formula feeding, a lack of information around a child’s personality and a lack of parenting education.
Now, due to the Internet, there is a wealth of information at ones fingertips. While this can be helpful, and should make us all feel well informed, it’s all too common to see that many women feel completely unable to decide on a parenting style. In fact, the superhighway of information has elevated motherhood to an unattainable level of achievement.
Dr Regev, a psychologist and family therapist says:
The Myth of Motherhood is our society’s notion that a woman achieves her uttermost fulfillment as a woman by being a mother and, as such, should always be happy and strong. It places an unrealistic expectation on mothers to be fully functional and happy, to be a Super Mom, if you like, despite exhaustion, lack of support or isolation, let alone depressed mood. In fact, many people cannot understand how a mother could be depressed; after all, she has achieved her ultimate calling in life…
I’ve decided to do a series of blog posts on expectations following on from the topic of baby sleep a few days ago.
Coming up I will talk about my own experiences with expectations and how they relate to career, family, marriage, friendships and more.
I am getting so much better at saying no. It requires a lot of effort for such a simple two letter word. I don’t want to be busy, I don’t feel any need to adhere to anyone elses expectations of how my life should be. I’m not a mirror to anyone elses life, and I don’t have to explain my life.
I don’t want to be busy. I don’t want to attend events I’m not interested in. I don’t want to be around people who make me sad, anxious or judge or not support me.
I do want to be around real people, people i can talk to, who cares. They know who they are. I love the idea of saying no to things. It’s not rude, it’s self preservation and we are all entitled to it. Be gone obligation.