I’m not often gobsmacked- I’ve seen and heard a lot. I’ve worked on an acute psychiatric unit, and in retail- I was probably more shocked by what I experienced in the shops than on the wards to be honest, but that’s not the important thing…
The point is, people come out with all sorts. Sometimes without thinking, sometimes in malice, all understandable and human. But what really bothers me is when people make sweeping judgements, and something I heard this weekend genuinely floored me. A woman caught sight of my DO IT LIKE A MOTHER sweatshirt (get yours here…) #shamelessplug and she said, shaking her head and rolling her eyes, “Do it like a mother- have a baby, stick it in nursery and go to work”.
Just all kinds of WOW. Now neither of my kids have ever been to nursery, so this isn’t about this triggering my specific personal guilt etc. (In fact, my desire to keep my kids at home with me alongside building my business has almost killed me- maybe I would do things differently in another life). This is about me being outraged on behalf of all of us, all the mothers, doing our very best, every day, every night, every moment to do it all right, and dealing with that kind of crap.
And what the hell is doing it right? Who knows- except you? Only you know the specifics of your life, your family dynamic, your financial situation, your support network, your needs, and your baby’s.
I felt pissed off because she had taken this phrase, which for me is about recognising that it takes SO MUCH to mother. I mean it takes EVERYTHING, right?! It takes courage, resilience, ALL the energy, strength, love, sacrifice, commitment, selflessness, flexibility, I feel I could go on forever…A phrase that unifies us in our challenges and our pride, and she had turned it into a narrow minded slight against a particular segment of mothers.
The choices we face are not easy or straightforward. Going back to work is not easy. (Neither is staying at home and giving up your job. Or working from home.) I doubt that any mother merely ‘sticks it in nursery’, but instead spends hours, days, weeks, agonising about her choice and whether she has selected the right environment for her precious little one.
Who knows how many mothers facing this predicament, and possibly dreading it, have been in earshot of this sort of judgemental rhetoric, and felt utterly wounded by it? All of her circumstances and efforts, dismissed, as if meaningless.
Equally troubling, I remember shopping in the M&S store that I used to manage in my pre parenting life, and someone saying to me, “Oh you didn’t come back to the business? So you’re JUST A MUM now?” In a patronising, yet approving tone. Like, ok I can relax around you now- I know which box you fit into.
Although we are utterly changed by motherhood, and it often feels as though we have lost the roundness (word?! no…) of ourselves and our lives, we are more than mothers. And we are more than employees. Or entrepreneurs. We can be all of these things and more. We are still women, individuals, and let’s face it, absolute fricking legends. We have given so much of our bodies and ourselves and our LIVES. We are not looking for a medal, we simply want to be left to it, to navigate our own unique path that only we can see.
Our motherhood should not be defined by whether or not we return to or begin a job or not. How bizarre when you think of it. (Do you ever here the term, ‘working father’?)
So what DOES it mean to DO IT LIKE A MOTHER? It means to do it (pregnancy, birth, motherhood, work, life, whatever) like a person who knows her own strength. Like a person who knows her own worth. Like a person who has the confidence to notice that she has performed a MIRACLE of sorts, and yet struggles to achieve even the smallest task from time to time- and is ok with that balance. Like a person who finds a way to make it work for her family, time and time and time again, on her terms.
In my mind, when we become a mother, we arrive at a crossroads. We have many transformations available to us, and we don’t always realise we have a choice. Rarely, in our society, are we immediately thrilled and fulfilled. BUT. One direction that seems entirely grim initially can turn out to be an adventure of sorts, a pathway to the greatest version of ourselves, as we learn about all of this stuff within us that we can draw on day by day.
What stops us from realising our innate brilliance is the small minded bullshit like this. The stuff that provokes guilt, and second guessing, and confusion, regret, overwhelm. There is just no place for it- it’s oppressive and unkind.
We MUST reclaim the term, and demonstrate that being a mother is far too complex a thing to be so briefly summarised. That we are SO uniquely placed to make our own way, and yet we share these communal yearnings, frustrations, desires, pains, losses, joys, this all encompassing love like nothing else that drives it all. We are a team, a village, a community. Let’s do it together. Do it like a mother.
If you wanna wear the vibes, you can get them here. If you are pregnant and want to start this journey feeling lifted and informed, you can find out about our courses here. If you need some help with your mindset as a mum, to find more happiness each day, to cope better, it’s here. And if you’re a mother in business (how dare you?!) looking for some support, join our facebook group here. #doitlikeamother