Friday, 14 April 2017

The Strength in Solidarity

Above is one of my favourite photos of me with my Mum, taken when I was 14 months old. Many years have passed and as a full time working mother with two children, life is very busy. It is demanding trying to spin the plates of a busy job, nursery and school drop offs and pick-ups, keeping everyone in clean clothes, a (semi) clean house and everything else in between to ensure that things tick over. The magic fairy is amazing with all the unseen work and planning that goes into this and I have a new found appreciation of all that my Mum did for me since I have had children of my own!

I take my metaphoric hat off to those mums who choose (or don’t have a choice) to stay at home with their children every day. They are truly remarkable to have the incessant demand on their time and sanity! I am very glad to come into work and have a child free few hours on weekdays. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my kids and have a massive guilt complex for not being with them but this has got easier over time. I hope that in addition to the benefits I receive both in financial and mental health terms, they will see their Mum going to work every day and aspire to the same. Also I feel that my concentrated time with them is shorter but of a higher quality and we are able to miss each other a little bit in the interim. I do feel guilty for leaving them in nursery and school /afterschool as long as I do each day but with a 45 minute commute through rush hour traffic each way, each day, I have little choice. I wish I could collect my eldest from School each day, but the times when I can are all the more special as a result. I think all mums try to be Supermum. We just have to accept that we can’t do it all and stop beating ourselves up!

One of the sadder sides to being a mum is in seeing how women judge other women and the choices they make. It starts early on with birth choices – natural birth or caesarean? Breast-feeding or bottle-feeding? Stay at home or return to work? And it happens a lot. Where we should be supporting each other and the choices we make, we are often being critical of other parenting choices. Our choices are personal to us and our circumstances, our expectations, experience and often the influence of previous generations. Our choices are not for other people to judge. We do the best we can with the information we have and the experience we bring. And it is enough! We are enough. But we have to start working together and stop bringing each other down. Our choices allow us the opportunity to learn and grow – we may not get it right every time, but that’s life.

I have recently witnessed two very strong acts of womanly solidarity recently which touched me. I am a member of a closed Facebook group of local mums and one of these Mums heartbreakingly lost her baby 5 days after giving birth. She shared a picture of her feeding her newborn baby and commented how the memory of such closeness was a comfort to her in the days following her sad loss. It struck a chord with us all I think and the number of posts and messages of support in the days following her initial post was overwhelming. Some of the other mums had gone through a similar loss, but all of us had a shared experience of having newborn babies and shared some of her pain. It made all of us hold our little ones a bit closer and appreciate them even more. I hope that the posts were of some comfort to her during such a sad time.

The second act was during a women only Yoga Workshop which I attended. It was on Valentine’s day and the theme was (not surprisingly) Love. The final act of the workshop was to come together and for each of us to light a candle and publicly dedicate it to someone. People shared very personal circumstances of grief, loss and sadness with relative strangers and it was an extremely powerful and emotional experience as we gathered together.

A close friend once referred to Facebook as “Bragbook”! And she was right; we don’t show our messy houses and misbehaving kids. We show them dressed up and having lots of fun adventures – aren’t we fantastic parents?! Well yes, we are fantastic but it isn’t the whole picture or a balanced view. This really doesn’t help us to support each other as women and mothers as we continue with the never ending plate spinning and to do lists.

However, there are people out there who are supporting each other and making it real! Hurrah for Gin Facebook page is testament to the need for lots and lots of gin (in my case wine is a much preferred option!) and offers a humorous view on parenting, I have been reading her first book and it’s just spot on. Caitlin Moran's honest take on life as a woman is amazingly laugh-out-loud refreshing - go and look her up or read some of her books. I also found a blog about 12 months ago (when I first wrote this piece and am finally getting to post it!) by Constance Hall who is very much “keeping it real” if you haven’t read her blog already, I suggest you go and find her - Queen of Constance, especially if you are having a bad day. Her following has grown and grown and she has been able to support many projects with the help of her “Queens” (by the way, that’s all of us women – we are Queens!). She encourages a virtual Village and for us to all support each other instead of tearing each other down. She is amazing, as are all of you women and mums out there!

Please keep supporting each other and show the strength we have in solidarity. Together we are far stronger than apart and can achieve amazing, wonderful things. ♥