I have had two conversations in the last few days that have made me stop and consider modern, millennial motherhood. It’s a subject that, due to the nature of the blog, I spend a lot of time considering but, as we draw to the end of a mega year, I can’t help but stand here, two years after making the transition to ‘parent’ myself, and let my jaw hang in awe as I realise that we are witnessing a huge, seismic shift for parents but especially for mothers and that even better we are making it happen.
So, back to the conversations. The first one was with a young man – perhaps 19 or 20. We had started chatting as I trawled Carnaby Street looking for willing people to chat to me for an article I was writing. Not many were willing and, as I had my Small with me, I was losing my love for my trader. But then along came this guy and after we’d chatted for a few minutes he suddenly said, “You don’t seem like a mum.” I’ll clarify at this point, dear reader, I was stone-cold sober and not dancing on a table in my underwear. In other words, there was no discernible reason that he would look at me and assume that I was not top-notch mother material.
In fact, as I looked at his face, I started to smile. He was paying me a compliment. He was looking at me and listening to what I was saying and he was comparing it to the stereotypical version of motherhood and telling me that my version was pretty cool. My version was (largely thanks to the wonderful Dress Like A Mum) wearing slight sweat-inducing (p)leather Topshop trousers, animal print trainers and a bright red lip. But more than that, more than what I was wearing, I was telling him passionately about all the cool shit that awesome mothers were doing. I was telling him about Selfish Mother, Mother Pukka, Don’t Buy Her Flowers, The Double Mama, House of Mamas, Tiba+Marl, Sarah Baily Bags, Gas and Air, Mother of All Lists, The Yes Mum (there are so many more…just not enough time) and, of course, the networking mothership that brought us all together, Mothers Meeting.
He was impressed. At least, I think he was. He could just have had some cougar fantasy. Whatever, I’m taking it.
The second conversation I had was with another mother at my local suburban music class. She had two Smalls under three and used to work in the city. She was saying how she and her friend had decided that it was simply impossible to have it all. She was annoyed and frustrated about it and said that between her and her friends there was an awe-inspiring wealth of experience and talent and yet, none of them could fulfil that because they couldn’t have a job and raise kids.
I had to say something. I had to. I needed to make her feel a little more positive about the whole experience of motherhood. I wanted her to see it as I had come to see it: as an opportunity that has forced me (sometimes quite painfully) to discover the very best version of myself. I don’t mean in a “I-had-a-child-and-suddenly-felt-complete” bullshit kind of way. I mean in a “it-was-the-hardest-fucking-learning-curve-but-it-forced-me-to-pull-on-all-my-resources-and-find-a-new-version-of-my-life-and-career-that-I’m-happier-with-than-I-ever-have-been” kind of way.
You she was right in one thing: the working mama doesn’t look much like she used to. Especially in London, the cost of childcare is prohibitive and even if it isn’t, I’m still yet to find a job that allows me to turn up at 9am and leave at 4pm to be back in time (just) to pick up the Small from nursery. But, what I discovered after meeting all the awesome women above and more was this: it doesn’t have to look like that. Make it work for you. It’s not easy – good lord, it’s not easy – but it’s possible and it’s yours and if you’re struggling then there are incredible mamas out there ready to help you out, hold you up and give you a glass of booze when you need it most.
“But how? What? What did you do?” she said.
“Oh,” I said. “I didn’t do it by myself.”
“Well,” I said, “Let me introduce you to the sisterhood…” #proudtobeasmallpartofit