On her oldest daughter’s tenth birthday, Director of B’Opera and Motherhood Activist Zoë Challenor reflects on what ten years of motherhood has taught her:
“The personal is the political” - Carol Hanisch
Mothering has been made invisible. Which is dangerous. The invisible can be devalued, taken for granted and erased. Think of how you need to pay someone to look after your children when you go out of the home to work. Yet when you do it, it's "free".
You’ve been conditioned to believe it’s your fault when it’s all going south. “Mum guilt”, “burnout” that messy house, depression, exhaustion, the sense of dread that it's just you ruining your kids and never getting anything done. But you’re actually living in an ecosystem that is spectacularly failing to give mothers the support they need.
Everyone has an opinion on mothering. Oddly enough, they don’t try to tell CEOs of companies how to do their job. Practise your “It’s nice of you to take such an interest in how I bring up my children. Being the actual expert on my family, this is how I’ve decided to do things” response and create some boundaries. Everyone will be happier.
Having children makes it impossible to maintain the illusion that you’re a nice person.
Parenting is full of Catch 22s - one of them is that children cost money and yet looking after them stops you working and therefore earning any. Go figure.
“Gentle parenting” is a great idea, but it does leave you in a bind when you start to experience the complete and utter rage that can strike when you are depleted, exhausted, burned out, unsupported, and left to fend for yourself with a small human.
Remember SMART goals? (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound?) “Trying to keep everyone happy” is not a smart goal. You’re welcome.
Children are like the sea - it’s beautiful and inviting and tempting to wade in and completely forget yourself till you’re so swept away by the waves and currents that you no longer know how to get back.
Withdrawing a little and connecting with the forgotten child - the one inside you - is absolutely essential.
Children don’t want you to have time for yourself. They will bitch and moan every time you have a conversation with anyone who’s not them, let alone condone you going out without them. Never mind. Walk through the onslaught of sharp pointy words, fists, screams and wails, moans and admonishments with your head held high and your earplugs firmly in.
Come and explore your own experience of motherhood with B’Opera as part of MotherVoice here: https://www.bopera.co.uk/mothervoice