By Tamara El-Rahi
So here I am, two kids in, one aged three and the other aged one. And I think it’s the most drained I’ve ever felt on this journey that is motherhood. Don’t misunderstand me – I am fulfilled, my life is full of meaning, and I am happy. But I am also tired to the point of exhaustion with no full night’s sleep in the foreseeable future.
However, this is okay. I chose this path and all of the physical and emotional fatigue that comes with it. And the beauty of feminism is that I have the option of choosing this path. What is not okay is the drain that comes from the judgement and misunderstanding of others.
There’s the feeling of being considered not good enough when someone finds out you’re a stay-at-home mum and there are no further questions. As if I couldn’t possibly be intelligent, creative, savvy or interesting because I spend most of my time with little beings. As if I wouldn’t have any other interests or be aware of current affairs because I am busy feeding and changing nappies and putting to sleep. As if motherhood isn’t a profession in its own right and I would argue a most important job – which nourishes the next generation of decision-makers, influencers and leaders.
There’s the judgement you feel when your child is noisy when they shouldn’t be, throws a tantrum in public, or is not listening to you. Probably because they’re tired or hungry or just keen to explore as little people should be. There are the people that throw you dirty looks or look down their nose at you, as if you’re making your kid behave badly on purpose. Believe me, I’m not. They’re a work in progress and they’re getting there.
And the sad thing is; the pressure can be so great that it’s even deterring women from having kids in the first place. A recent ABC article talks about why more women are choosing not to have kids:
“…it's mostly, for a lot of women, about what the ideal of motherhood is like and what the standard is like — the perfectionism around mothering. It's not just that there isn't support for women to 'have it all', but that there is intense social criticism of mothers that makes it a particularly unattractive option."
While I don’t agree with a lot of what else this article has to say, there’s no doubt that this is a worrying trend.
There’s a meme around called ‘How to be a mum in 2019’ which says the following: Make sure your child’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional and social needs are being met while being careful not to overstimulate, underestimate, improperly medicate, helicopter or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, plastic free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-story, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard. And don’t forget the coconut oil.
It makes you want to laugh but unfortunately, the expectations are this high! Not to mention the trendy outfits they should be wearing, the Insta-worthy bedrooms and parties they should be having, and oh – make sure mum gets some regular me-time too, otherwise how could she function as a good parent?
The pressure is huge, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that mothers are trying their best. An encouraging smile or comment goes further than you think. Let’s encourage the mums who are trying hard and inspire the women who want to be mums one day.
Tamara El-Rahi is a full-time mother of two and freelance writer from Sydney.
Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.
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