KIDS LIFE

Are You Maternal?

This was something that played on my mind last week, after the ‘assumptions tag’ video I filmed. Enough people suggested that I wasn’t maternal or that motherhood didn’t come naturally to me that I started to wonder what that meant. I asked instagram and twitter ‘what does maternal mean to you?’ and the responses were so different.

Some people considered someone to be maternal who would live their whole lives just for their kids, some thought it was just to want/have kids. Some thought it was the instinct to mother/nurture, others that they were full-time parents or just entirely selfless when it came to family.

The definition of maternal is “of, relating to, belonging to, or characteristic of a mother” – so even the worst mother in the world could be called maternal because she is, by definition, just that.

I know what people meant, though.

I do not live for my children. I am not fulfilled solely by being a mother. I need more.. and that strikes people as odd for someone who wanted children as desperately as I did.

I never had any ambition or idea of what my professional life would be but I always knew I’d be a mother. Had I not been blessed with my own, biological children then I’d have adopted, no question. I’ve always wondered whether having Ella as young as I did (19) affected the way I felt about motherhood. I think it must have but we’ll never really know, will we? I never had a moment’s pause about the choice I made to have her but I was acutely aware of the judgement that came with being a ‘teen mom’ and I was determined to challenge the stereotypes.

I couldn’t stay home with her, it wasn’t even on the table. We had a mortgage to pay and (again) I wanted my independence. By the time I had Milo, things were different. I was 26, I was blogging (which was bringing in some pocket change) and Ella was at school.. it was harder to go back to work.. I think I could have leaned in to the ‘Mummy’ a little more but again, bills to pay and I  wanted my own money.

I don’t think I have the temperament to be home with kids all day long and I appreciated the ‘respite’ work allowed me without any guilt. I always assumed I’d be a little resentful as a stay at home mum because I’d be losing my income (and some independence) but again.. does that come from being a young mum? Had I been in a settled relationship, having proved my working worth and built a life before kids, maybe I wouldn’t be as desperate to hold on to my own identity. Perhaps I’d have been happy to give away more of myself?

Either way, I love my children and would be bereft without them but my needing something more than my family shouldn’t be a point of criticism. It’s the equivalent of saying that you’re not happy in your marriage if you also require the company of friends. I’ve known people content with their choice to dedicate themselves to their kids and I’ve known people lose themselves once they leave home because they’ve forgotten to have a life of their own. Nobody is doing it right, nobody is better or worse, there is no one way to be a parent.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that men are never accused of not being ‘paternal’ or a ‘natural father‘! Or asked (in a very pointed way) how they ‘juggle it all’..

I think the comments niggled at me because of those latent insecurities of the 19 year old me, trying to ‘prove everyone wrong’. They assumed it would all be downhill from there and I’d end up ‘just like the others’ and so to comment on my ability or drive to be with or to love my children does touch a nerve. It’s annoying, I wish it didn’t and I know it wasn’t malicious but it stirred up these thoughts.. and I delivered them to you.

I wonder if I’m alone in this.. it’s popular to be the ‘honest mum’ these days but sometimes that seems like a new kind of ‘show’. Real honesty is hard to come by and so we’re comparing ourselves (and others) to a reality show reel. If you don’t post the happiest moments of your lives on social media, did they really even happen? If you don’t force your kids to smile for a photo and put in on instagram (when perhaps they’d rather you didn’t) are they even really happy?

I post what I want to share and as my kids get older I realise, some of it isn’t mine to share. That seems to be an unpopular choice among bloggers with kids but I’m not a Mummy blogger and so for future reference.. if you don’t see one of my kids for a while, I haven’t sold them for a handbag.

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6 thoughts on “Are You Maternal?”

  1. Found this really interesting to read!

    I can totally understand why multiple assumptions of you not being maternal would get you to because the idea of being maternal comes with being a loving mother that’s to some extent selfless.

    I think maybe the problem is as we have progressed as a society while some terms and viewpoints have stayed the same. So this idea of what’s maternal and what’s not is totally out of date and was used ‘back in the day’ for women without children to be judged as ‘non-maternal’ along with the woman with child that went to work. Along with the term maternal to be praise for the women that ‘selflessly’ stayed at home with the children and basked it in, while in reality were tearing out their own hair! haha All very 70’s housewife and on the same level as getting dressing with the child and standing at the window to wave to your husband as he arrives home from a hard day in the office.

    But somehow it’s stuck! So if you are the judging kind or have traditional views it could be easy/indulgent to think because you have a good home/work balance and you are supported and happy enough to go on child-free holidays sometimes that it makes you less maternal than those that don’t do/have those things/

    Maybe writing an essay now but I feel this is a topic an entire documentary could cover! But basically as humans, we love to have a little judge and assume the worst in people, especially those who seem to have a healthy and realistic approach to life like you do.

    Fee xo.

    1. Yes! completely an outdated idea of women in the home.. and yet the most modern of women/men ask me frequently about my work/life balance. Funnily enough, these are the same people who ask me when I’m going back to work full time.. as if I was part time for the kids. They know my situation and yet still they expect everything I do/every choice I make to revolve around my family. Madness

  2. Hello

    I find it frustrating – the need to explain yourself. I personally think that you are coming across as a really good mum – you are giving your children freedom, teach them responsibility and by the fact that you do have a life beyond them – you teach them respect. Respect for other people’s ambitions, right to have me time, and right to be an individual. It doesn’t matter if that is through job or hobby – but the fact that you are mum and you have a life makes you multidimensional human being.
    I don’t have children – personal choice – and that’s why I think I’m not the maternal type. But it baffles me that women need to choose between “life” and being a mum. I grew up in a communistic country – most of my friends mums were working – so the idea of staying at home mum is a completely alien one to me. But I got snarky comments even from my husband’s family (maybe they weren’t supposed to be snarky, but came across that way) that I choose my career over my family. And I don’t even have a career – I have a job I like, and I put a lot of effort to get my qualifications. Why anyone should give it up? If you are a doctor or a nurse – people are judging you less harshly – they almost expect you to go back to work. But anything else? Not really. And if you decide to come back full time – really often you can hear comments like – I’m really surprised she did that, she has children, you know…. And as you mentioned – no one would even blinked the eye if it was a guy.
    I fully expected to be told off for some of my views – but what I don’t understand is the judgement. I don’t judge women who decided to stay at home. But I always wonder if they feel lonely – as so many research points out that this is one of the most lonely periods of women life…. I have couple of friends who are stay at home mums – and again – I wholeheartedly support them. I just wish people would allowed other people to be.

    Have a lovely day and enjoy being YOU. You got this 🙂

    1. I think that for some they are truly fulfilled staying home with their kids.. but for others, not so much. I love the IDEA but I need something to be doing that is just mine or I’d go absolutely crazy!

  3. Really interesting post. It got me thinking about why women are defined (or feel like they are defined) by having or not having children.

    If you have children, are you a good mother? Do you work/not-work/work from home?

    If you don’t have children, why not? Is there something wrong with you?

    We don’t ask these questions about men.

    I don’t have children (through choice) but last year I developed a medical issue which meant I couldn’t have children. It made no difference to the end result, but somehow I felt more justified in not having children, I have an excuse now. I’ve no idea where that is coming from. It’s so ingrained that I didn’t even know I was feeling guilty about not having them!

    Every mother is maternal (as you pointed out) and every woman should feel free to make choices about her life without having to justify it.

    As I said, such an interesting topic.

    1. I have 2 friends who don’t have children.. one by choice (which I have learned not to question but does concern me – because she used to talk about having them and I worry about regret) and one who has been trying for 10 years

      Neither of those women would appreciate the question ‘why don’t you have children’ and yet, as you say.. such a standard topic of conversation because we just expect something from women that we don’t from men

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