Today there is an article here from the Guardian. It is written by a woman who has no children, wanted children, and resents the fact that SAHM's complain about their children and wanting 'me' time.
Today there is a blogpost from Melksham Mum which writes about being exhausted, needing 'me' time, facing going back to work and still being the main carer and how she has every right to moan about the things that are difficult in her life, and if that is parenting, then that is parenting.
Yesterday I spent time with a mother of 3, aged 6,4, and 3, discussing the physical impossiblities of keeping up with their untidying abilities and how the men in our lives Don't Understand.
Yesterday my son asked me what it was like to be a big sister.
So where do I sit? I have my beautiful son, who has gone through more in his life than most children. Unlike the miserable and bitter woman in the first article, I did make the effort to find decent men, and I did find them - they are out there. Rich and I had a gorgeous future planned, with children and loveliness. Getting pregnant isn't a problem. Keeping the baby apparently is. Whilst Rich and I lived together I had at least 3 miscarriages. When I was still with the AC's father, I had 2 miscarriages. Rich was prepared to work through it with me, to do anything for us to have a family together. But he died.
J doesn't want more children. He has his son. I have mine. Whilst I would like us to have a child together, that's not something he has ever wanted. I don't know if I can bring myself to go through the hope-and-disaster that pregnancy means for me. Perhaps him makling the decision for us is the way forward, I don't know. I know it hurts though.
After all, millions of mothers have families. Millions of second and third and fourth and more babies are born every day. It's not that I'm infertile - I can get pregnant fairly easily. It's not that my body can't grow a baby - see the 8 year old coughing and snugging on the sofa for evidence. It's just........ I don't know.
So where does that leave me in terms of these two articles?
I have the utmost sympathy for Melksham Mum. She reminds me of Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy. (Not that she is an elephant.) I want to take her children to the park whilst she has a bath and a cup of tea or what ever else it is she needs to do. I want to drop by and leave her a shepherds pie in the oven so she doesn't have to cook for one night. At the very least I want to go round with my son and a tin of biscuits (sometimes a packet is not enough) because he is good at entertaining small people and I can make tea. Yes, she chose to have those children, in the same way as I did. Yes, she's finding it hard work to have small children and it'll be harder when she goes back to work in some ways, but she is living her choices every day and making them work - even on days when it doesn't feel like she is making them work, she is. I know the joy and the tiredness that pregnancy and birth and toddlers and growing up brings. I know her world.
I have some sympathy for Miserable and Bitter Woman in the article. She made her career choices. She made her relationship choices. She did those things without thinking about the consequences later on. She is now living with those consequences, and not enjoying them. She's finding it hard to be childless and manless in a world of families. I know the pain of not being able to have children, of being told you're too old, of wanting and not being able to have. Whilst she has never been told, as I have, "Your baby died about 2 weeks ago." it doesn't mean that either of us has the monopoly on pain and loss. It is glorious to have the AC, but it means I know what I am missing with not having more children, both the good and the bad.
The difference between the two, is that Melksham Mum is tired. Miserable and Bitter Woman is miserable and bitter. MBWoman is blaming the rest of the world for her misery, for rubbing that misery in her face and garnishing it with our perfection. She is so caught up on the idea of children that the reality of it is out of her understanding. Melksham Mum lives with the reality every day, and some days might be too tired to see the idea of the children, because parenting, when done properly, is hard work, is perpetual, is utterly never ending. MBW could adopt, could have private IVF, could find ways out of her misery if she put her mind to it. MM just has to wait, and time will take care of it for her, but I suspect there are days when she wonders if she will survive that long. (You will honey, you will!)
The thing is that with all situations it depends how one thinks of it. Cousin Helen (Another literacy reference - What Katy Did!) said that everything has two handles, a rough one and a smooth one. If you pick something up with the rough handle then it hurts your hand and is hard to carry. If you pick it up with the smooth handle, then it comes up easily and is light.
Melksham Mum needs someone to help carry the box. Motherhood can get you to the stage where you are too tired to reach out for any damn handle and you'd only have to be the one who put it away anyway. That's why children should have two actively involved parents. Single parenting can be ridiculously hard - having done it once through divorce and again through bereavement, I know what it wa like for me. I know Rich was as involved as he could be - after all, his daughter was taken thousands of miles away. The AC's dad alternates between good dad and not-interested-dad. J is an excellent dad for the AC, and the best dad as he can be for a child who is 2.5 hours away.
MBW needs to reach for the smooth handle. It's difficult, it's not always enjoyable, it's not easy to do, and sometimes you think you have the smooth handle and it turns into the rough one mid carry. Yesterday I thought I had the smooth handle on not-having-more-children until the AC swiftly turned it into the rough one with "What's it like to be a big sister?" She needs to think about more than just herself, to think about reality as opposed to the fantasy that she is creating. Yes, she needs to mourn for the children and relationships she will never have, yes, it hurts her, but it isn't our fault. She chose.
MBW needs to get over her choices and take responsibility for her choices. Melksham Mum needs a quiet five minutes. MBW could do her thing with therapy and with applying herself. Melksham Mum needs to wait around 16 years.
Me? I need to clean the kitchen and not think about having the best and worst of their two worlds.