while I have always imagined I would at some point in my life try to have a child, I haven't heard any convincing accounts of it actually being an enjoyable undertaking
In a moment of desperation, I recently issued a tweeted request to my followers to tell me what is good about having kids. The reason being that while I have always imagined I would at some point in my life try to have a child, I haven't heard any convincing accounts of it actually being an enjoyable undertaking. My mum, of course, tells me it was wonderful, that coming home to see me after work was the best part of her day, and judging by the extent to which I was (and still am) spoiled by her - she used to let me eat snacks in the bath and go out in public dressed as Pocahontas - she's telling the truth.
But perhaps not the whole truth.
See, she would say it was all rainbows and roses and mini cheddars in the tub, because a) she doesn't want to upset me by letting on that being a single mum was actually very tough at times, and b) now that I'm all grown up her brain has helpfully erased the more intense moments of bone-aching exhaustion, frustration and loneliness, as human brains are wont to do.
Fair enough, but the accounts I get from the media aren't much more reliable. They tend to split across the opposing poles of being-a-mum-is-the-apex-of-a-woman's-being-and-imbues-everything-with-deep-everlasting-meaningfulness and motherhood-is-nothing-but-massively-expensive-drudgery-stress-and-career-suicide. I get that Motherhood Is A Nuanced Ever Changing State Of Being Which Differs Person To Person isn't a catchy headline, but I often feel that younger women (and men actually) are being done a huge disservice by the lack of honesty around this subject.
Commentators, and even people I know irl, seem incapable of discussing the subject in a manner which could in any way aid in the decision of whether to have children or not. The title of 'Mum' is so revered, so untouchably angelic (consider the criticism so often levelled at female celebrities: 'How can she dress like that/do that/say that? She's a mother') that people either toe the party line that is it all wonderful, all fulfilling, and all magical all the time, or they react against it by claiming that it is all drudgery and all stress, all while making frequent, unpleasant references to being peed and puked on by their offspring.
I would like to hear the middle view from someone. Please.
Otherwise what on earth am I supposed to go on? Asking friends or relatives if they ever regret having kids is very likely to be misinterpreted as 'If I were you, I would wholeheartedly regret having your kid'. Probs a no go then. But it's a shame that the more nuanced areas of parenthood are such a no-go area, that the conversation around kids and what its like to look after them is still such a judgement minefield that parents of any kind don't feel able to express even the most basic inner conflicts about it.
I would like to hear the inner conflicts.
To be clear, it's not like the decision as to whether to have kids is something I am focused on right now. It's just that, while it once felt so distant as to be totally irrelevant, I'm now (aged 26) becoming aware of it looming on a distant horizon as a very real decision to be made, with very real impacts on my life.
Right now, I'm not at all convinced I want to be a mother, but I'm also aware that the unrelentingly bleak, vomit-soaked, career-killing picture that has been painted for me by my favourite feminist-leaning media outlets (ehem BBC Woman's Hour) is likely sacrificing accuracy in the name of an attention-grabbing headline.
But that said, the prospect of motherhood scares me because of the very inability to achieve nuance in discussing it. I have a nagging suspicion that having a child will unceremoniously dump me into a box I do not want to be in, wherein people's perception of and reaction to me will be shaped first and foremost by the knowledge that I am 'a mum'. I'm scared that, in the social construction of motherhood-as-higher-state-of-being, I'll be forced to contend with the kind of preconceptions of my gender that we were supposed to have done away with decades ago, that I'll be judged at every turn, and that ultimately I'll lose my individuality in most people's eyes. And that's a lot worse than being puked on.
If you're a parent, please do give me your two cents in the comments below. Right now I feel like I know nothing at all, so all viewpoints are welcome.