Motherhood is a job many of us apply for but for which none of us has the same skills.
Pregnancy is our nine month application process spent dreaming of what motherhood will bring – a year off from our ‘real job’, cute baby clothes, educational toys, and whiling away our days drinking coffee and gazing adoringly at baby in the modern equivalent of the traditional perambulator at our local Parisian-inspired café.
When the time comes and we give birth it’s just like that phone call saying we’ve got the job – we feel elated, until reality sets in. Yes, the clothes may be cute but they (and ours) are christened with vomit and/or other bodily fluids on a daily basis; the toys tend to scare us in the middle of the night with their motion activated noises or otherwise become an obstacle course during the day as we learn to navigate what was once just our abode; and as for days spent in the local café, well early on we might luxuriate over coffee and a croissant in between feeds but very soon the visits turn nightmarish as baby wants out of the pram, drink is spilt, food must be consumed in the blink of an eye, and we spend much of the time staring longingly at child-free couples.
Too soon we realise the differences between a ‘real job’ and motherhood are many. There is no physical office, hell we might find our office is mobile when at 2am we’re forced to drive all over town to try and get baby to sleep; there is no start or finish time, motherhood is undisputedly a 24/7 job; and provided we love baby there’s no right or wrong way of doing anything required of us, yet, funnily enough, everyone’s got an opinion, and those that don’t keep it to themselves when they haven’t been asked become the annoying colleague we do our best to avoid.
In a job we’ve never done, where so many are doing it at the same time as us, and many others have done it before, we’re bound to feel like we don’t know how and so seek justification in whatever form we can find it – by reading myriad parenting books, searching online forums, and asking friends and family.
It’s a job in which we’re all afforded the same title but in which we’re responsible for very different projects – our children. No matter their commonalities, in the middle of the night when we’re all alone with a crying baby, or in the middle of the day when we’re in a public place with a tantruming toddler, they’re all ours and we do whatever we can to make it to morning, or the car, whether that be giving baby a dummy and rocking her until she falls asleep, or yelling at a toddler with threats of leaving him behind if he doesn’t stop right now. Later, when the guilt sets in, we call on that justification to defend what we did, and more often than not we turn to our mums group, like a good office support team we know they’ll support us.
There are many types of us in the job – stay at home mums, working mums, angry mums, tiger mums, mafia mums, happy mums, and then there’s the mum featured on the Channel 4 documentary ‘16 Kids and Counting’ who has 12 children and wants to pursue a self-sufficient farming life in a remote part of Ireland where she can raise her family on her own, away from the negative aspects of society.
No matter the mum we strive to be, and whether we become the best in our field or simply meet the base requirement, which is to love our children, the job description for motherhood does not list ‘sanctimoniousness’ as a desired characteristic.
So, in accordance with any HR policy worth its weight, this is my recommendation:
If we are found to display moments of righteousness we should be warned and after three strikes banned from the office of motherhood. It just makes a whole lot of mums, who are simply trying their best, feel a whole lot of bad and that’s just not what motherhood should be about.