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.