There was an article recently in the Family section of the Guardian entitled ‘I’m not a mother but I’m still a person…’ I’d had the paper about a week before I read it, but hey, that’s because I’m a mum and ALL mums rush round in a frazzled state, right, because all mums are the same. Er…? No actually. Some are frazzled, others frighteningly efficient. They are all varied. Just like women who aren’t mothers.
This article, which was poignant and sensitively written, was not slating mothers. The writer was regretful she’d been unable to conceive. However it still makes the ‘Us and Them’ mistake of assuming all mothers are the same. Yes, we’ve all given birth (except those who’ve adopted and are, just as much, mothers). We all have a baby (or more) and that is common ground. But we are vastly different from each other. The writer relates a party she was at, where the mothers couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying, ‘I saw panic in their eyes, as if they didn’t know how to have a conversation that wasn’t about their offspring.’
Perhaps some new friends are in order. A significant number of the mums I know are delighted to go out, get rat-arsed and gabble on any number of topics. The other misconception is that it’s the mothers who have withdrawn from the freakish barren woman. ‘They bear me no ill will – I have simply dropped out of their world.’
Becoming a mother can be incredibly isolating and many feel it is they who have been sidelined. In a workshop I ran, a participant recalled looking at pictures on Facebook of events she’d not been invited to. She felt ‘conveniently cropped.’
I have a ‘childfree’ friend I’ve known since childhood who has consistently ignored suggestions to meet in the last few years. Perhaps she feels I will only talk about the kids, perhaps it is too painful for her, but it ain’t all beer and skittles being a mum either.
I run Mothers Uncovered, a creative support network for (mostly new) mothers. I set it up because I felt that at all the Mum and Baby groups, the emphasis was completely on the baby. Yes the participants talk about their babies, of course they do, this is their world when their baby is a few months old, but it is in context of the whole person, because behind every mother is the woman she has always been. The participants are from all walks of life, backgrounds, cultures. A lot of them would never choose to be in each others’ company, yet they listen respectively to each other recognising their similarities and differences, as mothers and as women.