Friday, December 17, 2010

Motherhood is a gift...or not

I was at a wedding earlier in the year, talking to a pregnant person in the line for the loos.  We were talking about when she was due and then talked about my daughter and the son that she had already. 

As the conversation continued she looked in to my eyes and said something along the lines of "It's just such a gift isn't it?  It's just the best thing in the world.  It's just a real gift".   I nodded and smiled, looking like I was agreeing with her, all the time thinking, "Is she really serious?  Does she really really believe that?"

I have heard a few people say this now.  And I don't...get it.  It does not resonant with me, but even more, it makes me feel squirmy.  Very squirmy.

I understand that just because it's true for me, it doesn't mean that it's not true for other people.

But a gift is free, without pain, effort, cost and comprise.  It comes to you with joy and doesn't take from you. 

And I love her, but the Strumpette is not a gift.  She comes with pain, effort and compromise. Confusion and frustration.  Tiredness, every-day-grindiness.  She is awesome, and smart, and funny, and oh-so-cute, but a gift she is not. Gifts don't snot on you and shit in the bath.

And it makes me squirmy - because by framing Motherhood in this way, we erase all that stuff that makes Motherhood and parenting so bloody difficult and consuming.  And that does no one any favours.  You can't complain about a gift, say you're struggling with a gift, that you need help with a gift.

And that is really problematic.  Because then people don't voice their problems.  Don't mention that they're having trouble coping.  Don't explain that sometimes it ain't all baby cuddles and soft skin. Because there is nothing wrong with a gift, amirite?

I'm not saying that there isn't a lot of awesome when it comes to parenting. Because there is.  It must be for the human race to keep breeding as it does.  But a gift it is not. So I think we have to be careful about the way we talk about parenting to others.  So we can leave the lines open to commiserate, share and debrief.  Which is really the gift now isn't it?

Maybe if I had struggled with fertility and really really went through hoops to get a baby, I might feel different.  For those of you in that boat, I apologise and allow you your feelings!


  1. Well said. I struggled and didn't cope well etc etc and felt like I couldnt SAY anything or people would think I was a terrible mother. By the time I did speak up I was in a very dark place.

  2. Thanks for commenting Jen. I wasn't sure if I was being too cynical so I'm glad this post resonanted with you. I hope you got the help you needed and are in a better spot now. This whole motherhood thing = martyrdom is really sucky!

  3. as someone who hasn't gone though it it seems like the stereotype to me. motherhood is promoted as a 'gift' and any alternate is against the norm and shameful. yet another standard that women are expected to but may not be able to attain.

  4. Thanks for your comment MrsClarke :D. It's interesting that the childfree feel that 'pressure' as well. Maybe the promotion of parenthood=gift means for those who dont want to be parents are being ker-razy - it's a gift how could you not want it kind-of-thing. If parents were only viewed as people first.

  5. christmas came with the obligatory 'when do we get grandchildren' from my parents. I just said 'be careful what you wish for' and looked meaningfully at 18yo sister...