Happy Mother’s Day!
I hope today finds you well, and happy. I know that whilst Mother’s Day can be joyful for many people, it can also be hard for many. Perhaps you long to be a mother, but it hasn’t happened for you yet. Perhaps you are already a mother, but you can’t hold your baby in your arms. Perhaps you are a mother who is missing her own mother, or a mother who is mothering on her own. For many of us, Mother’s Day is bittersweet (and for some, just plain bitter), and if that is you then my thoughts are with you today.
On the one hand, a day to celebrate mothers seems like a wonderful invention. If anyone deserves a day to be doted on, given gifts, pampered, and thanked for all the work we do, surely it should be mothers! But on the other hand the idea of Mother’s Day leaves me feeling a bit uncomfortable, and I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t all a bit trivial, given how little support mothers are given every other day.
Because for all we talk about how amazing mothers are on Mother’s Day, maybe it would be more meaningful if we collectively supported mothers a little better, throughout the year. Starting in pregnancy and following through to the postnatal period, good quality care seems to be a postcode lottery, unless you can afford to choose it and pay for it yourself. In these early day which are so vital, mothers are often left with little to no support, no “village” around them to bring food, hold the baby, and help with the washing. After a few months, when things might be starting to feel a little easier, then she needs to decide if she will go “back” to work - a catch 22 choice, as if she does, she will feel judged for being away from her child (never mind that she is a better mother for feeling fulfilled in her career), and if she doesn’t she will feel judged for “not contributing” to society (apart from raising the next generation, of course). Part time work? She’ll probably feel judged from both sides!
The pressure on modern mothers to “have it all” cannot be underestimated; as a mother, you are supposed to give birth to and raise perfectly photogenic children who breastfeed without complication and sleep through the night at eight weeks, whilst fitting in your pre-pregnancy jeans, Instagramming your perfectly tidy home, and planning your return to work - or better, becoming a “mumpreneur” - without dropping the ball on nursery pick-ups, lunch money, setting up playdates, carrying out chores, being the one who is called home when your child is sick, and being the main provider of practical and emotional support. What’s more, you are supposed to do this on your own - unless you pay for help, although then prepare to be judged for paying someone to “raise your child for you”, a criticism strangely never levelled at fathers.
Being a mother is hard, joyful, messy, exhausting, complicated work. It seems that no matter how much a woman reads about birth or parenting, or how much time she has spent with children, very little can actually prepare her for becoming a mother. Motherhood can provoke a profound shift in identity, and many new mothers end up feeling a little lonely or lost with no real feedback from anyone as to how they are doing, apart from the tired baby crying, or the cross child telling them to “go away”.
So back to Mother’s Day. By all means, let us continue to celebrate it - goodness knows a day for chocolate, flowers, wine and maybe even a lie-in is needed for most mothers! But I would like to ask something of you. Let’s try and make a mother’s day, every day. Let’s remember to send kind texts to friends who might be struggling, and to call the ones we haven’t seen in a while and ask about them, not just the kids. To drop a frozen lasagne round to the one who has just had a baby. Let’s read to our children about all the roles that women can fill alongside motherhood, and be more honest with each other about the imperfections in our lives. Let’s be kind to one another, rather than judging. Next time you see a mother with a screaming baby or a tantrumming toddler, ask if you can help, and tell her she’s doing a good job. Because, chances are, she won’t have heard that enough recently.
Kicki Hansard is a member of Doula UK, however any opinions expressed on this blog are personal views and not necessarily the view of Doula UK.