Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Motherhood Slackrope

I read 2 blogs this morning - actually, I read about 10 blogs this morning, but 2 sort of reminded me (while hanging out the washing, if you must know) of a rant I once wrote . Tracey was discussing the guilt of not volunteering, while Beth had a problem with dealing with and 18 month old's naughtiness - and the guilt of using the TV.

Now, I am a solo mother, and have been for quite a few years now (although that status may change). There is a LOT OF GUILT associated with being a single or solo mother!!! How I actually got into using the internet as a community was through a messageboard for and by single mothers based in North America. Finding a community was a godsend, as it helped me to look at myself and empower myself and realise that I was not an island, other people had grief and issues (and frankly, some had much worse stories than mine).

Anyhow, this rant I once wrote was in for a woman who had become pregnant and decided to have the child and go straight back to work - as her ex had expected of her if she did not do whatever the alternative he wanted - which is not the issue.

She was finding it hard dealing with a baby on her own, working, childcare, trying to get some support from the father - hard enough to deal with - without the added stress of WHAT OTHER PEOPLE EXPECT - or more importantly, WHAT OTHER MOTHER'S EXPECT. And I am sure most mothers out there would agree, the most judgemental people in the world are mothers... Other mothers, that is.

Anyhow, thought I would find the rant and update it a little.

I remember how judgemental I found other people (and especially other mothers) when I had a young baby.

No matter what aspect of motherhood you look at, there are MAJOR judgement calls being made.

Do you breastfeed? Do you formula feed? Are you using fast or slow flowing teats? Do you use a dummy? Do you let your baby cry? Do you pick your baby up at the first whimper? Do you carry your baby everywhere? Do you leave your baby in the pram? Do you let your baby have the required amount of tummy time each day? Do you put your baby in the sun? Do you put sunscreen on your baby? Do you dress you baby warmly enough? Do you give your baby nappy free time? Do you use cloth or disposable? When are you going to toilet train? Can your baby roll/crawl/walk yet? Is s/he still using a dummy?

Can s/he climb stairs? Has s/he said their first word? Do you use a sipper or a cup? Does s/he like the water? Can s/he swim? Are you going to lessons? Do you get in the water? Does s/he sleep in a cot or a bed yet? (Your bed?) How come you separated? Is his/her father in his/her life?

Do you get child support? Do you have a job? Do you use childcare? A centre or in home? (A relative?) Do you go out at night? Have you got a good babysitter? Are you drinking too much?

Is s/he still using baby language? Are you toilet-trained yet? Do you leave a light on at night? Does s/he sleep in his/her own bed all night? Is his/her father in his/her life? Does s/he miss him much? You're still single? Are you going to have any more? Can s/he stand on one leg? Does s/he like The Wiggles or Hi-5? Do you let your child watch videos? Can s/he concentrate through a whole movie? Are you still giving him/her baby food? Do you feed your child junk food? Do you let your child have lollies?

Do you give your child softdrink? Do you let your child go on the rides? Do you have a pet? Does your daughter/son want a sibling? Oh? Is his/her father in his/her life? You're still single? Why did you separate? Does your child go to kindergarten? Do you work? What do you do for fun? Do you get to talk to any other adults? Do you reminisce about the old days? Do you recognize yourself in the mirror?

Is s/he swimming yet? Can't s/he control her anger/crying/words/body? Does s/he recognize the alphabet? Can you chase away the monsters? Do you know about Jesus? Why do people die? Can I have a new mummy? Does your child go to preschool? Are you on a committee? Do you work? What do you do for fun? Why do old people have wrinkles? Isn't it sad your family aren't nearer? Why can't you accept help? Do you always make your quiches runny? Why did you separate? How did he die? Does my nose twitch? Is Black Beauty a boy or a girl? Can I marry you? Why can't sons/daughters marry their mothers? Have you ever gone camping while s/he was younger? How do you do it?

Are you going to home-school? Can your child read? Can s/he sing? Play a team sport? Play chess? Play? Do you let him/her watch The Simpsons? Do you let them bathe and dress themselves? Do you make him/her cut the sandwiches? Do you give him/her full cream milk? Do you still have his/her bottle? Do you give him/her logo'd clothes? Does s/he tie his/her own shoelaces? Do you use velcro still? What do you do for fun? Have you ever wanted another one? Are you still single? Why can't the whole class come over to have a party? Why can't we have a kitten? Why is that man so short? Why can't I come in your bed? Do you work? Do you use Before and After School Care? Are you on a committee? Can you make something for a stall? his/her father in his/her life? Does s/he miss him much?

How come you know those people? Have you ever seen a triple rainbow? Do you speak English at home? Is your family close? Why did you chose that school? Should I say something? What should I do? Did you ever hear from that guy again? Why can't I have an icecream now? Do you let your child eat icecream? At 10 in the morning? At 9.30 at night? Do you have a bedtime? Can your child read? Can you spot a bully? Is your child a bully? Is your child being bullied? Are you a bully to your child? Do you let your child bully you? Is that the same outfit? Is that new? Can you afford that? Do you work? Are you on a committee? What do you do for fun? Do you drink? Do you find yourself drinking more? More often? Alone? Do you talk to strangers? Why can't we talk to strangers? Do you know that stranger? Do you recognize yourself in the mirror? Does your child do drama? Do ballet? Play team sports? Run? Exercise? Watch television? Talk to him/herself? Bite their nails? Pick their nose? Cry at a pinprick? Never laugh? Are you overprotective? Do you know where your child is? What is your child doing?

It doesn't necessarily get any better - but you train/trade in your friends, you ignore the obvious scolds and you get selective hearing.

Of course, these days I could add about a dozen more questions! What ones do you run up against?


strauss said...

I am a SAHM. It is assumed, over here, that one works. I ALWAYS get asked "what do I do?" SAHM as an answer is an immediate conversation stopper, an opportunity to passed over - interest lost. I obviously have no life, opinions or anything remotely intersting to say or add to any conversation. I am a minority here and I do look forward to the day I can go to work, but right now I can't. I actaully find that a woman is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't work. Lazy if I don't, selfish if I do..can't win.
The breast feeding thing was a huge issue for me. I couldn't do it. I was told by midwives that I didn't try hard enough, breast feeding mothers acted like they were superior and I felt that they thought I had copped out. Man, ther is so much crap out there, you just have to do your best. That is all you can do. There will always be someone who seems to do it better - bully for them, I can only do my best.

Tracey said...

Classic, Jeanie, you've covered nearly everything.. oh.. except, given, I guess, different circumstances, I can add a few more that come to mind... "When are you going to get married? Oh, you're getting married?... You don't want an engagement ring? Oh, you'll regret it, make him buy you one... When are you having children? Are you having any more children? .... Have you got another baby in there? [answer to some other 6 yr old: No!]....

And, yes, Straus, I reckon it is a 'damned if you do work', 'damned if you don't' thing. Only I'm a recipient in the damned if you don't one, so of course I think I'm the one copping it.

Funny, I was commenting on exactly that on another blog today!

And, oh yes, the breastfeeding thing, it's unbelievable the shite you have to put up with, even from within the post natal support services. ... Could write screeds on that. (Suffice to say that although I managed, it wasn't easy, so I get really cranky with the breastfeeding nazis...)

[Cheers for the link!]

jeanie said...

I think that is what I was trying to get across to my friend Lin - being a mother you have a special target, and no matter which way you turn you are in the firing range.

Tracey - do you have the link for that blog?

I was lucky, in that my daughter, breastfeeding and I sort of clicked easily - but I can assure you, I was never a Nazi about it. I think if you can and want to, excellent - if for whatever reason it doesn't work, the most important thing is to have a relaxed and happy mother - there is enough to lose sleep over!!!

Tracey said...

This is the post. - not exactly the same slant on the topic.. but definitely related.

jeanie said...

That is so funny - I had also read that post and could not work out a way of slotting it in, because it was also part of my "whirring" at the clothesline!!!