There have been some posts and articles recently suggesting women shouldn’t change or be defined by becoming a Mother. It’s a topic that most people seem to be unable to resist commenting on and I’m no different – so here goes.
I reckon it’s fair to say a lot of this narrative focuses on the negative – that it’s a bad thing to be changed by Motherhood. I remember very clearly being told by an ex-boss that ‘you’ll struggle to develop now that you’re a Mum’ – it was day two after maternity leave and all I could think was that my only struggle was going to be getting through the day without bursting into tears now that I knew my career had been written off. The conversation went on a little more and what he was getting at was that I wouldn’t be able to put in long hours (because obviously that’s the only way to be any good at your job), go on courses that last a week away from home, be in the office five days a week and always be on high alert for the call from nursery to pick up an ill child and that ultimately people would now look at me and see Mum first and foremost, Charlotte second – like the two people were divorced from each other. Even now a few years on from hearing this I couldn’t tell you what made me more angry – the fact that he’d said it or that he was probably speaking for a lot of people who thought they were ‘right’.
Being a parent has changed me in ways I anticipated and in others that I didn’t see coming. I knew I’d be terrible when I was sleep deprived (correct) but I didn’t think I’d be into routines (hello Gina Ford). I thought I’d go on long walks and be out and about, when in reality I’ve done that about 20% of the time with the rest of my days focused around surviving and getting things done. I’ve become more efficient than I ever thought possible – time away from them is good / a must for me / my normal, but I don’t like it to be for any longer than necessary. I have to put everything down on paper or on some sort of list or I forget EVERYTHING that should be in my short-term memory (didn’t see that happening but it means stationery so y’know..).
When you’ve got a child/ren, however you have them and whatever the family set up, you are responsible for that little life. You should be there to make sure they’re fed, watered, kept safe, taught right and wrong, get an education and all that’s in between. We all have different approaches to tackling the above, but the long and the short of it is this tiny person (that doesn’t stay tiny for very long) is dependent on you to be brought / dragged up. There will be things that you become more tolerant of, less tolerant of, your patience will be tested and you learn more about yourself than you thought humanly possibly. Oh and the negotiation skills you pick up from the toddler years – well that’s a money can’t buy experience.
I’m using these examples not to say that parents are any better at their jobs or just as a general member of society than somebody who doesn’t have kids, but instead that they have their own things to bring to the table. People will change when they have kids – they might not even realise it themselves to begin with but they do. We have to start being ok with that and figuring out the good that it brings. I’m not living in a rose tinted world so I realise this is likely to go on for years to come, but we’ve got to start somewhere haven’t we? So next time you find yourself thinking you or somebody else has changed since having children – pick a positive one!