The truth about mothering is that it's a different type of truth for every mother. Many people told me many things that felt more like threats than advice. You know who I would've listened to for hours, though? Me. So here it is, pure wish-fulfilment. The letter I would've loved my pregnant self to read. If only she'd actually read it and not those blogs on how to decorate the perfect nursery.
How are you? Good, good. Ok, let's get down to it.
Why are mothers so damn self-indulgent these days?
Oh Nat. I'm sorry but you're about to become exactly like them. Let me explain.
In 1991, 23% of new mothers were over 30. But by 2011, that had risen to 43%.
My point is, if you have a kid in your 20s, you've had some fun. If you have a kid in your mid-30s - as you're about to - you've enjoyed life at a premium level for a while.
The shock is not all about the sleepless nights and the screaming (mostly your own). Rather, it's the switch from one luxurious staycation punctuated with occupational duties to an actual life of work - with less pay.
For generations, women married, wiped off their marketable youth, and knuckled down to raise kids. I mean, many were dangerously depressed but they carried on!
These days, with more money and autonomy, women marry later. They don't have as many children. Some of us don't even have vaginal births (Caesars are now almost 30%).We've edited our lives down to doing whatever we want (within a patriarchal system) and then, just when we have it all in place, along comes a life rupture in the exact shape of a baby.
Meanwhile, what disposable income you have gets channelled into industries devoted to mother and bebbe marketing. This is not new, but the ferocity is. Don't sweat – it's merely a Capitalistic demand that you both look hot at all times. Your new life comes as a shock so rude it borders on the obscene. Nope, you're not going to handle it well. Am I suggesting you're spoiled? Yes! Here's a list of who else is spoiled:
The dessert that was massaged on a TV cooking show
Mums claim to love their kids, so why do they pollute the internet with their complaints?
Working from home with a small human is akin to skidding over a semi-frozen lake in the wilderness - at dawn. Tricky? Uh-huh. And fearful. And still breath-takingly beautiful. Wait - is that a seal bobbing its head above the ice? I'M WITNESSING A MIRACLE! But there's no one to tell. It's just me, alone with my thoughts, quiet as breath.
But even on a semi-frozen lake, your time is still your own. Oh, you could run your life as before. Let's watch how a tiny human reacts to that. BAHAHHA! OH nothing.
So when do you get down-time? Nat, sweets, almost never. What this means for an extrovert like you is embarrassing. You start blabbering on the only place that can't tell you to shut up: the internet. The web is weird, yo. Everyone whinges about jobs, relationships, hangovers, and the crime of slow bandwidth. But if mothers vent, it's a socially leprous Yummy Mummy problem that needs a time-out in the corner.
What's up with the helicopter parenting?
Yeah, it's mostly fear. But in the wise words of Billy Joel, "We didn't start the fire".
From the moment you pee on that stick, every health professional you'll encounter is helpful but their tone tells a different narrative. It's partly because you're an "older mother", Nat. And it goes like this.
'There's a hovering possibility from now until you see that tiny bruised face pop out from your own body that you could ruin another human being's life.'
The almost intolerable pressure only intensifies with every passing year as more experts weigh in on everything from the wrong sippy cup to the best school. You'll be fine, just go with your gut, Nat! But, good luck, yeah? Because the never-ending canal of info streams live from specialists, doctors, nurses, childcare workers, teachers, strangers, grandparents, the internet's 'latest research', and of course the media.
Will people conclude that society as a whole is now more paranoid? Ha! Not a chance! They will just keep blaming 'Tiger mothers' or 'Bogan Mums' who 'indulge their kids'.
Society loves a good group-shame. People used to openly dump whatever self-hatred they'd had drilled into them from their own parents straight onto the next generation. Didn't matter if you were related to the kid - you shamed them good and proper! But you can't take it out on kids anymore or people think you're a criminal.
The solution is surprisingly simple: all that shame just gets transferred onto mothers! And the weight of it is so crushing, we sometimes aim it at each other.
You must breastfeed! Stop breastfeeding in public! Stop mollycoddling your kid! Do not leave them in the car! Do not take them to a café! How dare you take them on a plane! HOW DARE WOMEN PLONK SCREAMING BRATS IN MY FACE! Do you care about anyone besides yourself?
The truth is that right now, you don't. But the kid thing is going to rip you open. Yeah, dads don't cop it the way mums do. It's funny but people don't expect them to be perfect. Isn't life weird? You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry - you will.
This article first appeared on Daily Life.