anything about the experience of being a feminist mum...

(50 Posts)
rainrainandmorerain Sat 26-Jan-13 17:44:23

....please, would be greatly appreciated right now. Any books, blogs, articles etc etc.

I'm not sure what it is I am looking for exactly - but i've had an odd couple of days where I feel like I've been caught awkardly in a few social situations and been expected to kind of join in with a strange kind of mum-bashing, for want of a better phrase.

That's probably too strong. It's just been a stream of off the cuff stuff about yummy mummies hogging cafes, mums with buggies getting in the way, mums being 'stupid bints' with screamy children - mums being entitled or 'sponging' because they get child benefit. And so on. It's hard because when challenged, I've gotten glib responses like 'oh no, there's nothing sexist about that, it's just the buggies I can't stand....' Which is all very well, but then why call them 'silly cows' or talk about them 'needing a slap' etc. I have heard nothing negative at all about dads in this, btw. Nothing about dads at all in fact.

I've realised I've become more sensitive to all this because I've been feeling quite isolated in some ways since ds was born (nearly 3 years ago). like i don't have a lot in common with people, or am missing a niche. I struggle to work out what my own feelings really are about much of motherhood and career stuff. I'm educated, usually articulate - but I just feel like i don't have the right words to voice it all.

I can't be the only mother like this! I have met irl some brilliant other mums, but only one of them calls themself a feminist, and she moved away last year so we aren't in touch nearly as much.

I found my feminism much easier to understand and express when I was a childless working woman. (I'm still working now, and in a career rather than just a job, iyswim). i also found I had more feminist 'allies' among my friends. i do feel with a couple of friends (who I barely see now anyway) that I somehow let the side down by having a baby at all. I had to sort of pretend it hadn't happened when i was around them. Which wasn't really sustainable.

i guess this is all a longwinded way of saying, I want to read some feminist mum experience because without sounding too self pitying, I would like to feel less alone. Any recommendations of anything welcome.

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 26-Jan-13 17:57:16

Don't really know what to say because I'm not sure what you want. We're most of us feminist mums here, so you'll get support and companionship.

FWIW you're not wrong about the mum-bashing just being good old-fashioned sexism. People who claim they've got nothing against mothers, it's just the buggies they can't stand - ask them if they think that would hold up if people said they had nothing against disabled people, it's just the wheelchairs that piss them off. Arseholes.

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 26-Jan-13 17:58:10

Oh I've just thought of a good feminist mum blog - Glosswitch. She sometimes writes about "mum" stuff from a fem perspective.

Will try and think of some more.

Have you had a look on Mumsnet bloggers?

tribpot Sat 26-Jan-13 18:02:24

Facts and logic are always a good place to start. Mums don't get child benefit. Literally in my house - it's paid to my DH. But it can be paid to either parent.

Mums are also not the only parents with screamy children. Who is making these remarks? Isn't it rude to be casually insulting about mums in front of a mum anyway? Never mind the feminist angle - just bloody poor manners.

No feminist lets the side down by having children. How else do we recruit from the next generation smile

rainrainandmorerain Sat 26-Jan-13 19:13:02

I'm not sure exactly what I want either.

I think I just want to hear voices and experience more than facts and figures atm. I can get straightforwardly irate about about that (women's earning power dropping for life once they become a mum, etc). I am missing something more personal.

I don't think I am robust enough right now to share much on a forum, in all honesty. I struggle to say what I feel about this anyway, which is part of the problem. Not great reading. I also got burnt on here a few months back - I can't even remember what the thread was, but I posted about my experiences of working with a very small baby (self employed, I got virtually no time off when ds was born), and how hard I had found it. I really got shredded by a forum regular, who didn't want me to talk about my experiences like I did, because I would put other women off working. I tried to say that one of my problems was admitting I found things hard, as a 'strong’ person and high achiever and all that - but my experience was just written off as melodrama and kind of as my unique failure. I just don't want to do that again (some posters were kinder, to be fair) - I don't think I'm forum-ready. For the personal stuff, anyway.

Yes, all of the anti-mum stuff was rude - some of it was in a kind of 'oh, don't get huffy, we don't mean YOU' way. But it is me, really. FWIW, I did point. that wheelchairs caused the same sort of 'problems' as buggies - and got the 'yeah, but people in wheelchairs can't help being in wheelchairs - mums with buggies should stay out of cafes' etc.

It's all so slippery to deal with. More than once I've responded to some diatribe against mums doing x by saying, look, this is sounding very harsh on women - and got 'I'd say the same if it was a man' response. But they don't, do they! and of course mums are not the only parents... but if I point that out, I get the 'yes, but it WAS a mum with these children...' Because of course most childcare is still done by women.

I haven't checked out mn bloggers though, so will have a look. Also glosswitch.

Thanks for recommendations. More welcome.

LineRunner Sat 26-Jan-13 19:22:10

I think you have hit the semi-permeable membrane where you can either get new friends, or challenge them on what they say, or let it lie.

I guess in RL most people end up doing a mixture, for a quiet life.

The suggestions on here for reading and networking are really good.

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 26-Jan-13 19:29:46

Actually the more you write about them, the more your friends sound really horrible tbh. I definitely think you need new ones, it is very very depressing to be surrounded by people who you feel are subtly (or not so subtly) putting you down and undermining you. It is horrible to talk this way about mothers and it's fucking passive-aggressive to do it in the company of one who herself is still at the stage where her child uses a buggy - so they are basically saying that you should keep out of cafes and not expect to have a social life if you have your child with you. What sort of friend says that? No wonder you're feeling a bit vulnerable, I think you need a bit more support online while you try and find more conducive friends in RL.

rainrainandmorerain Sat 26-Jan-13 19:34:23

I think it's fair to say that a lot of my friends are anti-rascist, anti-homophobia (very) - and don't see feminism as sitting alongside these things at all. Proud liberals but not wanting to see sexism as a problem.

I've also fallen out of step with a couple of childless feminists and lesbian feminists, who previously were much more kindred spirits. I have tried to have conversations about being a working mum, for example, and been told that this just isn't a big deal because we all have stuff we have to fit into our lives, and anyway, mums have always worked so what are women getting worked up about now? (one of my answers was - yes, they might always have WORKED - but they haven't always had CAREERS, which is a whole other kettle of fish)

Yes, I would like to meet more feminist women who are also mums. I am worried (now) about being 'the wrong kind' of feminist, or not seeming strong or definite enough about my experiences and feelings.

I think what it boils down to is that I had quite a simplistic (but perfectly useful) version of feminism before I got pregnant - and now I am struggling to find one that fits. While being entirely convinced at a gut level that my experience IS a feminist issue.

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 26-Jan-13 19:48:36

Of course your experience is a feminist issue.

Have just thought of another one: Cherryblossomlife. She's good.

The fact that it is via our children that men have most effectively controlled us throughout the whole of recorded history and that it is that ground (among others) that they are now using to pursue the backlash (F4J et al) should give any of your friends who think of themselves as feminists pause for thought.

Must admit I can't stand women who think they're feminists, who don't have a fucking clue about how motherhood and feminism are inextricably related and pretend that it's no big deal. It's becoming a mother that first brings many women back to feminism, because it's then that they notice that structural sexism is still alive and kicking and not looking like it's going to die any time soon.

Melissa Benn's book on Motherhood is good btw.

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 26-Jan-13 19:49:48

Also have you read Kat Banyard's book, The Equality Illusion. It's useful in that it sets out very clearly, why we don't have equality yet - it might help you challenge those idiot liberals who are so emotionally invested in pretending that "we're all equal now".

rainrainandmorerain Sat 26-Jan-13 22:05:17

Thank you for the recs. Yes, the structural sexism has become much more a 'lived' than a theoretical problem since becoming a mother, that's for sure.

I was looking at the Rebecca Asher book 'Shattered' which looks on the right territory.... any thoughts?

I am looking for something personal rather than primarily theoretical - I think that's what I most need right now - I read the Rachel Cusk book and didn't find much that chimed with me at all there, although it was a very personal account. I just think she was depressed, and so it was more a book about depression than motherhood, iyswim (although they may both have been the same thing for her).

LineRunner Sat 26-Jan-13 22:08:09

Or I suppose you could just tell them to fuck off.

tribpot Sat 26-Jan-13 22:17:43

Quite, LineRunner. I think I'd save myself the reading and just tell these awful people to do one.

However, OP, although I think you will find the suggested reading helpful personally, I don't think it will help you articulate your position to these friends of yours. It will undoubtedly be rejected as uppity feminista bullshit. I think if you do want a strategy of dealing with them, zero tolerance is the way forward. Yes, parents with buggies have a choice about whether to go to the cafe. So do people in wheelchairs. If they dislike child-friendly places (and I'm not mad keen myself when I'm out without ds) they can go elsewhere. Keep substituting the word 'mother' for 'parent' - ultimately it sounds like what they object to is parents who stay at home instead of working - as if that has anything in the least to do with them!

rainrainandmorerain Sat 26-Jan-13 23:07:00

I'm not looking for ammo to confront people with - oddly enough I can confront them, but it leaves me feeling so flat and drained afterwards - I want something to help me deal with my own thoughts and experiences. I think to some degree that I have wasted energy in engaging with them at all - and it is stopping me from working out what I truly feel.

I have got into more than a few disagreements with people over mum-related feminist stuff - and each time I have felt isolated and miserable afterwards. Here's a summary -

Lesbian feminist friends (who have tried to have children before and it hasn't happened for them) bitterly disagree that being a working mum is any different from being a working anything. As we all have different demands on our time, mums have always worked so why are women thinking it's any different now, and in any case, there's childcare so what's the problem?

Gay male friends who are very sensitive and politically active about homophobia don't see sexism as really existing - or only in a 'rape in India' way. 'I don't know what YOU'RE complaining about/you think YOU'VE got problems...' is their attitude. I think in some ways they see having children as a kind of aggressive heterosexuality.

Childless friends, male and female. Fine as long as I don't really mention I have a child or discuss any of the difficulties of being a working mum. 'Just get childcare!' again.

just some of the people I have argued with and alienated recently. It's all very well saying 'dump them' - I may not have to be that active, i seem to be shedding friends quite rapidly. the icing on the cake recently was off the back of an argument on facebook (oh, i know, facebook.... but it seemed to me someone was not just mum-bashing but actually mum-baiting about something). after I had posted about attitudes towards mums (we aren't all Jocastas from Hampstead, although even if we were, so what), about people making all sorts of assumptions about you once you were behind a buggy, and how mums got singled out for this but dads didn't, etc etc.... I was already in a very small minority, and then a woman I know very vaguely turned up to post 'Well, I've had 3 sons and never encountered any of this, I think some women are much too sensitive!'

And I gave up at that point.

Other mums I know - they come in lots of different flavours! and actually I really like that. One encouraging thing I cling on to is that there do seem to be different ways to skin a cat... I know one woman who is a sahm with 2 v young children who intends to go back to work at some point, quite a few who are working part time/compressed hours - a few freelancers like me who just sort of seem to busk it through various arrangements -

BUT that said, there are a few depressingly common themes. It is the mum who seems to make the most adjustments in her life, not the man. All the women who have remained very career focused are adamant that the only way to do it is full time childcare from a very young age (why can't the dad compromise here?) and basically, everyone is so defensive of their own choices that it is really, really hard to have a kind of general conversation about it all.

I'm overstating it a bit - there are a couple of mums who I can have fairly informed discussions with (though one has now moved to another town) - but I often feel afterwards like we have only talked about certainties where what I more often feel are doubts.

Maybe what I need is just a bloody counsellor, tbh. So I can fumble my way through all of this without being part of some combative debate that's wearing me out.

LineRunner Sun 27-Jan-13 23:59:35

Is it attitudes to arrangements and workloads that hack you off? Or attitudes to the ingrained structures?

I too get very annoyed with the 'Just get childcare' brigade. (Single parent here, not by choice.) But I've found trying to tackle things at the core of the problem really therapeutic. The great thing about MN is you can come on here and tell it to government ministers on webchats, or take part in surveys, or have proper debates and discussions.

luisgarcia Mon 28-Jan-13 00:27:39

It's becoming a mother that first brings many women back to feminism, because it's then that they notice that structural sexism is still alive and kicking and not looking like it's going to die any time soon.

For what it's worth, and I realise that in context what it's worth is not a lot, I would say becoming a father has made me a feminist.

BUT that said, there are a few depressingly common themes. It is the mum who seems to make the most adjustments in her life, not the man. All the women who have remained very career focused are adamant that the only way to do it is full time childcare from a very young age (why can't the dad compromise here?)

According to the latest census, this is changing. Nearly 10% of stay at home parents are men now compared to around 2% last time.

and basically, everyone is so defensive of their own choices that it is really, really hard to have a kind of general conversation about it all. Agreed

TinyDiamond Mon 28-Jan-13 01:13:08

.

notcitrus Mon 28-Jan-13 02:11:44

Seeing as you asked for experiences - sometimes I think that doing anything in public with a child is a feminist act. Going to the doctor, for example - I have baby in tow. Either the medical system works round that or I as a woman get inferior medical care. If someone says the baby should be 'in childcare' then who should do the care and who is going to pay for it? Many childless people think parents should cover it all... Until they realise the costs, at which point maybe fewer people should have children... but then who will work to pay into their pensions...

Thoughtlessness can be countered; wilful 'ain't it awful' combined with 'you are no longer one of us' probably not, and sounds like you're getting more of the latter? Much sympathy.

It's taken me a few years but I've now got a good group of friends, mainly with children, varied sexualities, relationship structures and working patterns. One theme has been how unexpectedly hard it's been for men wanting to work part time, as it's never been on their boss's radar, and there is the real fear that they have become a breadwinner and are scared to jeopardize that with a family to support, whereas the women in mixed-sex couples tend to be lower earners pre-baby and the parents can see her income as a bonus rather than vital - leading to all the other bits of the woman changing her life while the man's life stays the same. Childcare has definitely convinced me that the personal is indeed political, as have the myriad ways boy and girl babies are treated from the start - I've ended up being really quite rude to a baby classe leader who every session comes out with 'boys are like this, girls are like that' that I just can't let lie, especially with my older child there listening. I'm heartened that most of the other mothers seem to support me. Though making mummy friends on mat leave is way harder with an older child in tow as the first timers find mobile strop verbal kids terrifying! Have had success meeting parents via local Twitter groups so that might help you?
Course there's plenty of feminists on MN who say I'm not one, but there you go. Not going to argue that at this time of night, esp as this baby might be asleep...

madwomanintheattic Mon 28-Jan-13 02:27:15

www.motherhoodinitiave.org

They used to be the association for research on mothering (ARM) until their funding was cut by that most patriarchal of institutions....

Run by Andrea o'reilly out of York University in Toronto (where slutwalk started in response to a university figure telling female students not to dress like sluts for their own safety)

They are linked to a publishing house - Demeter press. Anything out of there (books available on the website) is a good place to start.

madwomanintheattic Mon 28-Jan-13 02:28:37

(Oh, and if anyone is vaguely interested, they are looking for contributors to a slutwalk collection at the mo. Tis probably on their website)

TerrariaMum Mon 28-Jan-13 10:27:24

The blogs I like are blue milk (an australian mummy), PhD in Parenting (Canadian) and The Feminist Breeder (American). They do all address mothering and feminism.

I get frustrated too, OP. I have had to adjust my own feelings a bit. I used to try terribly hard never ever to use a buggy if possible so as not to inconvenience anyone. But the problem becomes that you become so concerned with this that you inconvenience yourself. Lately, as I am 26 weeks pg with DC2, I have decided 'Feck 'em. If people can't live with the mild inconvenience of a mother's existence, then maybe they are the ones who should stay home.'

But I wonder if this in itself is a feminist issue. Women are taught (well, I was, I can't speak for ALL women; we are not the Borg) not to take up space and, well, frankly, a buggy does take up space so by using one a woman is in essence asserting her right to take up space. This gets labeled entitled because we are so conditioned to think that women should not take up any space at all.

Where are you OP?

LaraInTheSky Mon 28-Jan-13 12:46:54

Dear OP, reading your posts has been so refreshing. I feel a lot like you in so many ways. I love being a mum but I feel the whole motherhood experience has made me more vulnerable in some ways, stronger in others, but much more isolated on the whole.

I do think these issues you talk about are feminist issues and that’s why since becoming a mum, I became much more passionate about them. The fact that parenthood affects women a lot more than men because they’re still the ones expected to do the primary childcare has opened my eyes to a reality I knew nothing about before. The fact that men generally seem to be perceived as a “helping hand” in the house when it comes to childcare and the domestic work that it entails.

I’ve read Melissa Benn and Rachel Cusk too. Love these authors as they bring to sharp focus a reality that is usually very private, very personal, so it’s so hard to bring it up to a political and social agenda. The experience of being a mother, the day to day lives of these women who have to give up so much on a personal and professional level to raise their children, is usually ignored by the rest of society. And sometimes, if not ignored, attacked in subtle and not so subtle ways, as you rightly pointed out.

I find complaining about the challenges of being a mother is deemed as taboo among women. It feels like biting the hand that feeds you, sort to speak, so you have to be very careful when you “moan”. Even friends with kids are very reluctant to admit the more challenging or negative aspects of motherhood, marriage and the whole new world they’ve now become a part of.

Motherhood is quite isolating in that sense. Friends who don’t have or don’t want children do not fully understand you or empathise with you. Friends with children are not ready to talk about certain issues you would like them to be more open about.

The feminist ideas of my youth were dramatically challenged when I’ve found myself 80 per cent reliant on my husband’s salary for a living. I still hang on in there though. Feminist readings have helped me keep my sanity and I’m so grateful to have access to that. Although I have to say that I have no feminist friends I could walk this path with, and that also saddens me terribly.

FastidiaBlueberry Mon 28-Jan-13 19:29:36

"a buggy does take up space so by using one a woman is in essence asserting her right to take up space. This gets labeled entitled because we are so conditioned to think that women should not take up any space at all."

Yes yes yes

Writehand Mon 28-Jan-13 20:29:18

I've felt a lot of what you're feeling, OP. I've just posted on another thread:

I'd never experienced serious disadvantage as female until I became a mother. The mild denigration and sexual harassment I'd had before was nothing compared to this. In my workplace mothers had the lowest of all positions, regardless of job title. A mother = unreliable, not committed to her work, unpromotable, a liability. I was bullied and sidelined, by my male boss but also by other women. It ended with a 3 day discrimination case funded by my union.

Pregnancy and childbirth were pivotal experiences. There's so much I could say about its effects on my sense of self. Before I had a baby my body was whole and solid, like an apple. Afterwards I felt more like a crumpet or a stew. Everything leaked: blood, milk, tears. Due to my specific obstetric issues, my vagina was unaffected but my belly was seriously damaged, the muscles cut and sewn up badly, and a vertebrae mashed. My body was damaged and left open, or that's how it felt. The process was irrevocable, universal.

Beachcomber described the experience as "being radicalised by motherhood". I know I was more of a feminist as a mother, and more committed to my work too, as we needed the money far more than when it was just me to think about. My time management got better too. My husband gave up work as soon as I could afford to keep him. It's nice for all of you if one of you can stay home, or at least that's how we saw it.

Your gay and lesbian friends don't sound very supportive in this instance. But then I know I was a terrible friend to women who'd changed course and had babies while I was single and totally involved with my career. I know when I was in my 20s I found their baby talk boring, and just moved on, fairly heartlessly. You change friends a lot when you become a parent. Some of the old ones become irrelevant, or you become irrelevant to them. S'just how it goes, I guess.

rainrainandmorerain Tue 29-Jan-13 09:35:22

Only just catching up with all of this, thank you so much for responses - I'll be back later when I've got more time. writehand, your description is brilliantly put (what other thread were you posting on?) - lara, the whole isolation thing chimes greatly with me - I feel strongly I have lost a lot of former feminist 'allies' by becoming a mother but (on a personal day to day level), while I have gained a lot of mum friends, and I don't for a minute want to underplay how valuable they are, and a big comfort, I am in a category of one as a feminist mum.

I have to run now but will be back later.

LaraInTheSky Tue 29-Jan-13 12:55:20

OP, forgot to mention. Another book that I found extremely useful to understand the difficulties of motherhood and marriage (the two are very much linked) was:

Silencing the self by Dana Crowley Jack

It looks at the situation of women within a social and economic structure that leads to lots of depression in women. In one word, it explains that depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are not just a “personal” problem but in most cases, they arise from social and economic circumstances, of which women have very little control of.

Women often choose to silence themselves as a coping mechanism to adapt to a situation that is beyond their control, or that otherwise will cause conflict. I think this relates to your comments of not being understood, or having to bite your tongue not to offend or upset various people.

I truly enjoyed reading it. A big eye opener.

rainrainandmorerain Tue 29-Jan-13 22:19:56

ok, I'm back in the room....

there is much that is helpful here, thank you. I want to pick up on a few things, and guess what, it's the end of the day and I'm tired, so I hope it makes sense.

I think my own feminism pre-motherhood was very tied up with work, success at work and equality of opportunity, and just the basic feeling that if you work hard, you should get reward. Yes, other things like sexist attitudes in adverts, confronting gender bias in work roles (work again) - but mainly work, and what it represented. Financial independence, identity, visibility in the world, a feeling of achievement.

It's worth acknowledging that as an educated middle class woman, work had a lot to give me, btw (I don't think this is the case for everyone). I wasn't just working to live, I've worked mainly in creative/media roles, and felt very rewarded, overall.

I think I was, pre-dc, certainly unsympathetic to mothers - I resented it when they left early to do something child related, or wanted a lot of time off over the summer, as I tended to get left with their work. i don't recall that ever being issue with the dads, who of course didn't need to leave work early if their wives did... But I think I was also a bit dismissive of mothers because I saw children as a 'lessening' of their ambition, in work terms. A retreat into the domestic sphere.

All risible stuff, I know, but I'm being honest. And you'll be glad to know a lot of that has come back to bite me on the arse anyway.

Since having ds, a lot of my thoughts about work no longer make sense to me. Are my choices (a) return to full time work asap, using full time childcare from a very early age (b) return to work full time and get dp to be a sahd (c) try and negotiate some sort of deal where we both work a bit but not as much as before (tricky - we are both self employed in a precarious industry, there isn't really a part time version of what I do, and I earn more anyway - dp could not support us both) or (c) take longer off work, and either resign myself to the hit my career is taking and adjust my expectations, or just hope that somehow being off the work radar for a few years won't be so bad.

Why is any of this a problem? well - the structural sexism of work in general, sure. Someone upthread said that in a way, doing anything in public with a child is a feminist act, and I agree - I don't want to keep mentioning children in a work context, but then neither do I want to be asked to keep to insane deadlines, or be asked at midnight to do an 8 am meeting. The truth is, yes, I DO want concessions from work because I have a child (and another on the way). I don't want to put small children into fulltime childcare if I can possibly help it. This is an emotional and intellectual decision - I don't feel like I SHOULD be ever present as a mother because I am downtrodden and have internalised maternal ideals, it just goes against every feeling I have. I never did controlled crying either, what can I say....

Before I had children, I really tried to give myself leeway to be whatever kind of parent it turned out I was - I thought, you might hate it and want to be back at work asap, you might find yourself utterly given over to earthmotherhood - you don't know, can't know, so wait and see and deal with it then. I had no 'political' objections to full time childcare for small children - but once I had one, I knew I didn't want to do it. That's as clear as I can be.

I think I have felt a bit more despairing of late because I have a job I can do from home, and be flexible about my hours almost all of the time. I keep reading about how this is the answer for working parents. Clock off to do school pick up, bed and bath etc - then sit down and work til midnight and get up at 5 am to do more before the kids get up and you do the morning run.

I tried that. I was exhausted and miserable. I neither felt happy spending time with my son, nor connected to or proud of my work. I just felt KNACKERED and ill. So I feel like even though I had the dream work/life situation that so many mothers want, I couldn't make it work.

At heart, the clearest I can be is that I would like to be relatively happy! and that means being able to enjoy having children, and to feel proud of the work I do. Not be knackered and do both badly. I don't so much feel a need to 'prove' something workwise - I'm over 40 and can look back on some decent achievements - but I want to continue to grow and explore what I can professionally. So it's not just structural - it's me. I literally can't spend all day working without getting an ache in my bones about not being with my son enough - and if I don't get time to focus on work and give it my all, I get a restless, unhappy 'craving' feeling.

My plus points (that is all a big moan, isn't it) are that I have a dp who also works from home and who willingly takes on his share of parenting. Not so much domestic work or household planning, although after a lot of friction and rows, he has significantly changed his ways and improved a lot. I am already better off than most women I know in that respect.

Maybe all this boils down to is that I had 40 odd years of living one way, and now it's taking me a while to get used to the change. But I do feel like I am lacking a template - or just the words to describe it all. When I have tried to articulate this, I quickly feel like it all gets away from me - people respond by identifying one problem and trying to 'fix' it, or giving me words that are a bit like what I mean... but also not, and take me further away from what I want to say. I loved what writehand said about going physically from being an apple to a stew or a crumpet. It was a perfect articulation.

I definitely feel like I have moved from a very 'theoretical' feminism (where gender identity was almost entirely a social construct) to a more 'lived' but muddier and more 'primal' feminism. I also feel there is more at stake, somehow.

To add to a ridiculously long post - I've been thinking today about why other mums are sometimes so defensive about their choices. I wonder if it is because they have all made choices or found themselves in positions that they are not that happy with - but don't have a better way of doing things. So their task them becomes to reconcile themselves to a very imperfect life - accentuate the positives, play down the negatives - and not open up a can of worms with any discussion about other ways of doing things. In a way, it is painful to feel there might well be a better life to be lived, if one could just work out what it was! better perhaps to say ' this IS what it is...' and just make the most of it.

Anyway, it's late, I'm tired and this is rambling. Your posts have been helpful, I will try and come back with some shorter and better organised thoughts.

madwomanintheattic Wed 30-Jan-13 03:47:01

Well, whenever I get all like that ^ , I just reread the feminine mystique.

None of this shit is new.

rainrainandmorerain Wed 30-Jan-13 09:28:19

I'll add that to my list then. Read it about 20 years ago - obvs it wouldn't have had the same resonance for me then.

I'm sorry that none of this shit is new. It is is new to me. If it bores anyone else, then ok but given how isolated I feel anyway, maybe you don't need to tell me. I said upthread that I didn't feel robust enough for a forum in some ways. I kmow the rule is 'if you can't take it, don't post' - But I don't have many places to talk.

TerrariaMum Wed 30-Jan-13 11:58:44

I don't think that madwoman meant it in a nasty way. I think she meant that this is not an uncommon situation. Your feelings are totally understandable precisely because they aren't new. Women have been dealing with this for ages.

Keep talking. I can't speak for anyone else, but I am listening.

madwomanintheattic Thu 31-Jan-13 01:35:08

Quite, terrarium.

It was a comment on the age old and and everyday nature of your feelings, not a protestation of boredom.

If it is the first time you have felt like this, then it hits you like a truck.

But, sadly, you get used to the fact there really is no blindingly obvious solution. Hence, trying to hang out with like minded women (if only online and via feminist mothering research institutes) and reread the stuff that resonates.

It's both reassuring and tragic to reread the originals and realise that women have got pretty much nowhere from a mothering and domestic point of view, and in some cases (think 'having it all/ doing it all' rather than 'sharing it all') it's got a damned sight worse.

Tone is always an issue on tinternet though.

Post away. Noone's disagreeing with you. But you aren't a lone voice in the wilderness, you're the latest in a long line of generally dissatisfied women who have tried and failed to find a solution.

I'm all ears, but I suspect the real answer lies with men, not women.

Facelikeafriendlyapple Thu 31-Jan-13 11:11:13

Hi OP,

Just wanted to say thanks for posting this. I really relate to a lot of what you've written and appreciate your honesty. I'm just about to have my first child and have been thinking through a lot of the issues you've raised.

Thanks as well to the people who posted ideas about blogs to take a look at - I'm enjoying the Glosswitch blog a lot!

LaraInTheSky Sun 03-Feb-13 13:17:01

Thank you too OP for your comments. You're not alone in feeling alone. I don't know how much that helps, but it certainly helped me hear from another relatively new mother trying to articulate a whole range of feelings and thoughts that, as you said, usually lack a formal template.

I'm also reluctant to fall into the old dichotomy of SATH mum vs work outside the home mums. It only creates unnecessary conflict and antagonism among women. A middle ground is probably the best for all.

FrancescaRS Sun 21-Jul-13 21:29:07

Hi there, I'm a mum of two and thought you might be interested in my blog 21stcenturyfeministmum.blogspot.co.uk/ Please do comment and let me know what you think!

TheDoctrineOfAllan Sun 21-Jul-13 23:21:25

Bit of a promotional bump but at least a relevant one!

OP, how are you doing?

kickassangel Mon 22-Jul-13 13:43:14

Another one in agreement with you op.

I too apparently have a perfect set up. I teach and dd is in the same school. I get free after school childcare. How perfect is that?

But I still have that awful feeling of being torn both ways and constantly knackered etc.

In fact, I think how good my set up is is a bit of a problem. Cos it means that ALL childcare and interaction with dd is through me. Dh works the other side of the city and that means that it would be ridiculous for him to pick up dd when I'm in the same building as her. So by default everything goes through me. So I have to finish work in time to pick up dd, but dh can work as late as he needs. I just kind of want people not to assume that I will be home with dd if she's sick, or that I will be doing the parents eve for dd, or whatever it is.

And moaning about any of this makes me sound like an ungrateful cow. People turn round and say that I chose to have a kid. Well so what? Why can't I make that choice and still have a career and moan if I feel tired? Who took away my right to any of that?

I think that a lot of people lurk here but rarely post, so feel free to do the same.

kickassangel Mon 22-Jul-13 13:58:01

Oh, and right now I am getting a pasting on another thread about schools not making it possible for working parents to attend things. I haven't even mentioned the f word and that this affects mothers more than fathers. I've just said that schools should have some flexibility about times of day for having things on so that all parents can get to something. Apparently, though, if you work you should just put up with it, and your kids have to put up with it.

<Channels Peter Andre> but what about the children! Will no one think about the poor children?

TheDoctrineOfAllan Mon 22-Jul-13 23:05:41

Yes, when does deciding to do something mean you can't moan about it - except when it comes to kids.

I moan about my carpets being badly fitted - no one says "well, you chose to buy that house". I moan about being hot and pregnant - some wiseass says "well, you chose to have a baby"

I don't get it.

Getting on this for later.
I am always astonished at mothers who actively refuse being labelled as feminist. They are generally privileged in all ways apart from being female, and I think they are happy with their place in the structure, so don't want to do anything which may rock the boat.

kalidasa Tue 23-Jul-13 14:02:19

I see this is an old thread, but I'm very sorry I missed it the first time. I feel like a seething mass of these feelings (DS is 8 months, I went back to work full time quite early after an awful pregnancy) with few people to talk to about them. Are you still around OP? How are you feeling now? (You're not in North London are you?!)

NeedlesCuties Tue 23-Jul-13 16:17:44

Sorry, I haven't read anything apart from the OP yet (busy day!) but just wanted to say that I'm currently reading The Mommy Myth and it's a great book. Quite American, but apart from that it's ace.

I got it for 1p plus p+p used from Amazon, couldn't believe what a bargain that was for a book approx 200 pages long!

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 23-Jul-13 19:13:34

needles That book looks interesting.

kickassangel I too have an "ideal" set up - work part-time, all squeezed into school hours (but unfortunately no summer holiday!) etc etc, just like you. In fact I nearly thought you are me. grin People either assume I'm a SAHP because I'm always at drop-off and pick-up, or they think I'm a slacker and don't work as hard as them. hmm Not sure how that works... confused

Not very coherent atm. Must go and make myself a cup of tea and herd end-of-term children.

kickassangel Tue 23-Jul-13 20:30:48

I may well buy that Mommy Myth book.

I'm very wary of the whole 'aren't mums wonderful' thing. I do think that any parent who pulls their weight deserves respect, but somehow it's got twisted into being something that ONLY women can do, and that dads can't.

There are more SAHD now than there used to be, but it can still be a very isolating experience for them.

rainrainandmorerain Tue 23-Jul-13 20:34:11

I'm just coming back to this thread to say hello and thanks, and a quick update - I'm (unusually) mostly off internet for the next few days so will read and post more when I am back.

But fwiw - I am cheerier now than I was in January, you will be glad to know. since then I had my 2nd baby (another son, to be raised in a feminist household as a feminist like his brother!) - I dumped 1 male friend who was constantly fucking sniping about feminism under the guise of 'debate', which caused no end of a ruction at the time. I was very blunt and told him I was tired of his shit and it wasn't my job to endless tolerate stupidity and ignorance. He was VERY shocked. I felt a lot lighter, and haven't talked to him since. Result. I've also kelt my distance/been cooler with friends who just aren't with me on this journey (motherhood/work/feminism). I can't keep engaging with them, it is too draining.

I have worked out a few more views and so feel a bit more 'settled' in myself. It is a bit fragile and can be easily derailed - I have given myself permission not to engage in ALL feminist related or mum related issues that arise around me - only the ones I have the strength and energy for at the time. I can't win every battle, there are too many - but I do want to win the war.

Reading this thread back, I am struck by how little I talk about MEN. A big change for me has been thinking about motherhood and work as a feminist experience where men's behaviour is crucial. I look around me and see how feminised the world of parenting is, and how little fathers compromise their lives when they have children, whereas mothers reorganise so much.

One idea that just wasn't working for me was the 'we need to be more like men' phrase with reference to work and motherhood. Don't get me wrong - in many respects I think that's true, in terms of ambition, putting ourselves forward in a work context, being assertive etc etc. But when it is used to mean 'if you want a great career, put your kids in full time childcare from an early age, and don't feel guilty - men don't!' then I think - no. Fathers SHOULD be accepting they need to be more hands on parents, do MORE in terms of time and reponsibility. And take more responsibility for running a household and family life. And if necessary, compromising work - asking for part time, flexi time, taking a career break etc etc.

If men did it, it would be far less of a problem for women. Until they do, whatever choices we make in terms of work and children will always be unsatisfactory, because it's not much of a choice. Women have made great inroads into the world of careers but men have made so few changes to their own lives. Overall, I mean. I know there are individual exceptions. Most careers are still only doable if you fit the template created by a man who, if he has kids, does very little hands on parenting. It's the template that is wrong, not the mother trying hard to fit into that template, and finding it knackering.

I don't like the idea that the only way for me to have enough time and energy to be successful in my career is to hand over childcare to a professional who is most likely to be another woman, but less well educated/qualified and less well paid than me. That's not a victory for feminism, that's a victory for the class system. Someone else pointed that out to me - and I thought, YES! my feelings articulated, hallelujah!

So basically, until men and their roles/attitudes change, and I don't know how that happens, then what the fuck do we do? No wonder I struggle - it's not ME that's the problem, all of my imperfect efforts are actually pretty good going when the set up is so fucked.

I have also been honest with myself about not wanting this 'juggling' (hate that word) lifestyle that having children and working gives us. No, I don't enjoy being a 'busy' mum, always 'on the go'. I want time to do things well, and to feel as healthy and happy as I can. 'Hectic' lifestyles can fuck the fuck off, I'm afraid. I think as a classic high achiever, I bought into that idea for a very long time. If anyone actually enjoys it, good for them - I don't. I want time to be a parent to my children, in a hands on way - and I also want career fulfilment. I want to enjoy both, not feel I am simply 'coping'.

Bit garbled but I am typing in haste. I will try and post a link from a guardian from a father who says much of what I feel about work and parenthood. I thought it was interesting and unusual to hear it from a dad.

rainrainandmorerain Tue 23-Jul-13 20:39:33

"Childcare - why don't men pull their weight?" (he means 'hands on parenting' by 'childcare'). I thought this was fascinating.

www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/05/childcare-men-pull-weight?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

KateCroydon Tue 23-Jul-13 20:40:37

I'd add 'What mothers do...' to the bookshelf.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Tue 23-Jul-13 22:53:27

Good art

TheDoctrineOfAllan Tue 23-Jul-13 22:53:47

Good article, rain.

kickassangel Wed 24-Jul-13 00:27:40

Haven't read the article, but this thread has really focused my thoughts on why I don't like those "women can make it to the top" books etc.

Not only is it ludicrous to think that everyone can be at the top, but I also find it morally wrong. We should respect and value individuals for their inherent worth and integrity, not how much they earn or getting a promotion at work. That's why the role of parenting should be non gender based and fully respected; because it is a valuable social role.

If we focus on women by high flyers at work, we lose sight of that. We should be discussing how to integrate family and work needs, so that both parents, the children, and the economy are able to function.

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 24-Jul-13 07:30:29

But the "woman can make it to the top" books (actually I'm only thinking about lean in which I haven't read but have read about) are about a specific thing that some women face. I've got a book about why women in academia don't progress. It's just a book about a specific area of life because women are everywhere. smile I read another article somewhere that said if a man wrote the book it would just be another motivational book, but if a woman wrote it it's got to apply to all women across all sector. That's not fair.

Some people want to make it to the top. Some don't. Those who do, lean in. Those who don't, still lean in, but in other ways. grin

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