It seems nowadays it’s politically incorrect to refer to someone as just a mum. In fact if you were to refer to yourself as just a mum, it’s pretty much bordering on committing a heinous crime against motherhood and whichever wave of feminism that is at peace with women allowing their womb to be used as baby vessels.
I used to berate my friends who would refer to themselves as just a mum. Hell no, you’re not just a mum. You are responsible for the most precious new lives. What you do is 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. It’s such a huge role that its worth is immeasurable. Now pull yourself together, wipe that milk posset from your shoulder and mind, you’ve just garrotted your left nipple with your nursing bra while I whizz off to my next meeting.
It is the mother of all myths. A new underhanded way of undermining women. Boo hoo. Being a mother doesn’t fulfil you so you just can’t help but prefix it with just. Shame on you that motherhood in itself is not enough to make you feel like a whole person. Where working mothers were and still are made to feel guilty for going out to work, we now have the added guilt trip for not being doped up blissful and Prozac fuelled happy for being a stay at home mum.
In my mind, there is such a thing as being just a mum. It is a title that is bestowed to you. It’s a state of mind. I’ve come across women who go out of their way to remind you that they are not just a mum, they’re actually mum or mother. However, it doesn’t stop them from informing you that in their past life, before babies, they were high flying lunch meeting Manolo Blahnik wearing, twice monthly manicured and business weekends in New York barristers / executives / financial advisers (delete as appropriate). Why mention it, if the status of motherhood is that esteemed? How could what you were professionally in your past life have any bearing as to what calibre of a mother you are in this present cycle of life?
Because, I can’t help but think that you can be (not can in that you decide to be, but more in that relegated to that fate sense of the word) just a mum. Because despite having been brought up indoctrinated with the belief that heaven is on the soles of a mother’s feet, I have been that just a mum.
And it is mind numbingly abysmal. Because to most mothers, being a mum is about making lunch boxes that fits the current trend of school life, standing at the schoolgate sizing up other mothers and playground mentality, traipsing around town steering a buggy with one hand, trying to mentally work out dinner, stealthily checking out the new beauty products without eliciting the interest of the super eager sales assistant who would no doubt scrutinise your unkempt eyebrows and still try to entice you into a makeover even when your baby is screaming the place down. Do all this, pretty much day in day out, most weeks of the year while simultaneously being part of that invisible mothers brigade that the general public just don’t see. Even when they bump into you on the streets, in their smart suits rushing everywhere, smiling curtly at you when your toddler rams the wheel of the buggy into the back of their heel.
And just so it hits home with you, you do all this 24hrs a day. 7 days a week. Unrelenting. Unpaid. And invisible.
So, I’m actually ok with women feeling that they can only refer to themselves as just a mum. It’s these just mums who are raising the next generations when in their heads they’re in Honolulu having sordid affairs with Daniel Craig (personally I was in Sweden under a duvet catching up with sleep with room service being the only indulgence I required). Because life isn’t all about the experience and the self fulfilment all the time, is it? Sometimes it is about the selflessness, and the downtime and seeing things through and
accepting believing that this is not it.
But I say this with no intention of implying that I wished I hadn’t had children because I do believe that people should be allowed to feel exasperated and shortchanged by the choices they’ve made. It’s what they then do about it and how we, as a society see them that matter.
Because maybe, sometimes, just is simply good enough.