Mothers: No Right To Moan? (a response)

Here is an article from the Guardian website that I stumbled upon, incidentally while researching “What to do when you can’t cope being a mother” (well, I’m sure we all have doubts) –

Mothers – Stop Moaning About Motherhood. 



Crikey. I had no idea my ‘moaning’ was so offensive! (Well, perhaps I did, but not to such an extreme extent…)

Lordie me, by that rationale, presumably then we are not allowed also to moan about “how annoying it is to have the builders in at the moment” and having to put up with a chaotic dust-filled kitchen with no running water (- wow, I would love to have a large, presumably period, family house to call my own to do renovations on, thus increasing its value and having some sort of economic honeypot!)

Nor to grumble about our “long and stressful daily commute” (- wow, I would love the opportunity to have some high-flying mentally challenging position that didn’t involve changing nappies for a living!)

Nor to moan about the “exorbitant house prices in the capital or our area” (- shut up, I would love the chance to live in a thriving cultural global hub full of economic opportunity, the highest forms of culture, successful people, world class education and liberal ideas!)

Nor to moan about “what ridiculously long hours I have to put in at the office” (- Gosh. I’d love to have your secure full-time job and a regular salary that paid all the bills each month with more to spare for a holiday!)

Nor to moan about how freaked out you are in your freelance job(s) while you try and set up your own business going self-employed (- wow! I’d love to be able to work from home and not have a boss to answer to all day…)

Nor legitimately to moan about feeling lethargic and run-down with man-flu and the stresses of everyday life (- well, be reasonable. At least you are alive! Some people are living hand-to-mouth existences out of a tent in a war-torn zone, don’t you know.)

If you’ve a hyperactive child that’s pushing you to your wits’ end, you have to “pull yourself together and be grateful” that you don’t have a child with a severe disability.

This reasoning is perverse, and online I have noticed seems to be getting worse. You can’t say your true feelings (whether they be joy at, for instance, a new pregnancy, or genuine misery at the prospect of another day’s childminding) for fear of upsetting someone somewhere.

This is not only an affront to free speech and liberal values (actually: just the word ‘honesty’) but also a surefire way of making people even more reclusive and introverted. And more likely to bottle up their society-unenhancing problems. How is that progress? To paraphrase what I thought when I initially read that woman’s article;

“god! Make me feel even more shit about feeling shit, why don’t you!”

Is this approach helpful?

So, it seems, we cannot moan about anything that our ‘own life choices’ have thrown our way, for fear of ‘offending’ someone that doesn’t have that particular thing. The message seems to be: “whatever; get over it, BE GRATEFUL.”

{Internet memes are incredibly silly. The only reasonably good one is the one that says something along the lines of:
“You have no idea what battles the person you are speaking to is privately dealing with. Be kind.”}

Now look, I love my little son to bits. I am grateful he is in our lives. I know that I am indeed ‘blessed’ to have a brain, a child and my health. (There is a far better article written online somewhere all about this, by the way, about being a mum and Being Grateful; far funnier than this. Seek it out.) My son is bright, energetic, smart, outgoing, brave, funny and affectionate. Oh, I’m sure one day he’ll grow up to be a tall strapping ginger-bearded explorer or sportsman or a commanding team leader, I can see all those natural qualities in him already (mainly the ginger-bearded bit), and he’s only just turned 3. What a legend! And that will be our legacy. HOWEVER, that doesn’t take away from the fact that RIGHT NOW the job at hand is absolutely exhausting. Please see me and see how run down I am through CCF (Chronic Cartoon-Fatigue).

You don’t flog a dead (or dying) horse. Any idiot knows that.

Into the Eye of the Storm….
It is relentless, thankless, isolated, emotionally-heated, manual, shitty, tiresome work bringing up a pre-schooler who is energetic yet still not disciplined: emotionally and mentally more than physically. You try doing it alone every day. Then see how you feel. Hhhhhhh. How many times do I have to say this?:

Babies are NOT just about changing nappies and taking those cute naked photos on a sheepskin rug. LISTEN UP. THIS SHIT JUST GOT SERIOUS.

Thinking about ‘happy families’ and the need for people in our lives, I would say it is easy to imagine that the grass is always greener. But we need to stop being delusional and doe-eyed about it all. For every ‘cute snap’ you see of some miraculous ‘achievement’ of the child, or some funny face they made that amused you for 2 seconds, there are probably about 20 hours of utterly mundane crumb-sweeping and mindless cartoon-watching beforehand and after it that nobody wants to know about. Why? Because it’s utterly, UTTERLY boring.

And, I would be cautious of using the mild jovial term used to describe mothers, “moaning” (you know, the low-level background hum of Twitter and Facebook feed that really grates with folk who don’t have kids, I would imagine) when, what we probably mean (at least sometimes) is actually, “struggling to cope”. Rearing a kid is not a job, it is a huge irreversible responsibility you take on that won’t ever leave you. Even if you want it to sometimes. You can’t just hand in your notice.

But this activity of procreating and home-making has being going on for generations, as kindly mothers like to keep reminding us (- why thank you, I hadn’t noticed! I really did think I was the first mum ever to find it a real struggle!) So what’s different, why are we special? (or demanding more attention?) Well, a few factors.

Now here is our 21st century reality for western humans. We live increasingly in social ‘pods’ (ah, the Life Online), frequently physically isolated from other working mums and dads and stay-at-home people and extended family and relatives to help share the burden of bringing up youngsters. Meet-ups tend to be more social than help-ful. All seemingly in the name of ‘progress’. That much is different from older generations. Some poor soul online once commented (truthfully, wisely) that it takes “a whole village” of people to bring up a child, yet today frequently that burden can fall primarily to just one. Or, maybe, that is just our own self-imposed, proud, folly, expectation. We are just unrealistic in that regard, it would seem. In a traditional community a baby would be seen as an asset to that community; now, it is a discrete lifestyle ‘choice’ of the individual and we pay out through our noses for services accordingly. Very few parents I know of have a child so they can keep the family business going. Right now I would swap all the trappings of my affluent western society for any village, however remote, as long as there were entertaining faces and enough pairs of kind hands to take turns with my child. Hee-hee!

I don’t see people without children as being any different from those who have had them. I don’t think they’re lesser beings. I hope they don’t think that of themselves either. Unlike what this poor woman thinks, I don’t ever play the “you don’t understand, you’re not a parent!” card. Stress is stress, whatever the cause, and to dismiss it as being inconsequential or non-existent is, frankly, bizarre logic as well as being rather immature and petty. Not to mention arrogant. It is as tasteless and insensitive as grading grief.

What I would say to this woman who doesn’t like to hear people moaning about their own offspring is this (and I’m sure she was just trolling): If you are lucky enough to not feel easily stressed out and like you always feel that you can somehow summon up the moral courage to meet your day’s responsibilities with good humour, then good for you! – you are strong and deserve an MBE for services to Jolly Hockey Sticks. Hoorah! Likewise, if you have a great ‘system’ that somehow works and a great support network to cover all bases of your childcare, then bully for you! However, don’t judge others who are less well-equipped and who may be struggling, either now, sometime in the past, or sometime in the future.

Along the way I have learned some seriously hard lessons in life, simply by listening to other people: you can’t just go around dismissing and “categorising” people’s bad patches in life by saying, oh but they’re rich, oh but they’ve got lots of help, oh but they are really clever/smart/physically fit, oh but they’ve got lots of friends, oh but they’ve got a great job to fall back on, oh but at least they’ve GOT kids, etc, etc, they don’t have anything to worry about. If people are struggling, they are struggling.

Is moaning more of a social thing now? I think possibly yes, it is. I think I do realise that grumbling and psycho-analysing and endlessly discussing the whole parenthood thing is a rather Middle Class pursuit. (I avoid Mumsnet. It scares me! Everyone on it seems to be called JollyHockeyStickFee73 or something which makes me want to run a country mile…) It seems to me that the trad working class / lower income groups and younger mums don’t feel inclined to participate in this navel-gazing self-pitying pursuit quite as much. Where I came from the norm is to have a baby aged 18 and by 21 you’d be considered late to motherhood. There, the expectation is – like their practical and stoical parents beforehand – to just “get on wi’ it”. Without much hoo-ha. They love their kids. You see them in the street, and online, they are great mothers.

Now, having moved away to the big bucks of the big city, I see a whole industry built up around middle aged, middle class mums endlessly worrying and discussing the trials and tribulations of late motherhood in posh coffee shops.

Such is life.

We must “get on wi’ it”.

(Hypothetically, if this woman from the Guardian article did somehow become a mother, I’d like to see how she coped being a mother and whether she was able to “resist” all temptation to moan!) 😉

Annie x

(who is incredibly lucky, blessed and grateful! – AND coughing and spluttering through this article, with man-flu and general winter-related toddler-related exhaustion…)

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