This morning, on Mother's Day, I read a very powerful piece in Sunday Life magazine that originally appeared in The Guardian. Written by Bibi Lynch, a childless 40 year old, it is entitled 'Mothers, Stop Moaning', and implores women with kids to, well, stop complaining about how hard it all is and start appreciating our good fortune.
The article was quite a devastating read. Ms Lynch, to me, has experienced two tragedies; 1) her inability to have a child when she so desperately wants one, and 2) her belief that her life is pretty much meaningless unless she becomes a parent. I know how intensely I longed for a baby, and I can only imagine how painful it would have been to not have that dream realized. I don't, however, believe that life is only meaningful when and if one reproduces. I know several women who are childless, either by choice or accident, and they live lives as fulfilled and happy as anyone with kids, just in different ways. I'm sure there are times when they miss that particular experience, perhaps with a fierce sadness, but each of these women lead lives filled with love and significance.
But still, it's very easy for me to say that, as a mother of three. And I acknowledge my incredible good fortune at having my beautiful, healthy children (just see my previous post). Having said that, I strongly, passionately believe that this good fortune does not and should not preclude me from also acknowledging how hard motherhood is. From 'moaning', if you will.
To an extent, we women are victims of the innate desire to reproduce that so many of us feel. If it weren't for biology, why on earth would we do it? Sign up for a life of responsibility, of worries, of chores, of caring for another person and putting our own needs last? Motherhood can be the most rewarding thing in the world, but it is also, variously, frustrating, boring, upsetting, anxiety-provoking, exhausting, maddening, and overwhelming. Some kids are incredibly challenging, and mothering them can be terrifying and demoralizing and - at times - utterly thankless.
Telling mums they shouldn't moan is like telling kids not to talk about their feelings. It simply forces women to swallow down their emotions, forces women to pretend everything is okay when they might be dying on the inside. The best thing to happen to women was for the walls to come down, for permission to be given for us all to talk about our experiences, and share the difficulties - as well as the joys - of the hardest job on earth. Doing so doesn't mean we don't love and appreciate our kids. It just means we're human.
I feel desperately sad for Bibi Lynch and I hope she can find some peace with her situation. But telling mums not to moan isn't going to help her one bit, and it could do other women a whole lot of damage.