This week columnist and mother-of-three Jennifer O’Connell revealed on the Cutting Edge that parenting is not that hard.
A Facebook post detailing the chaotic morning routine of a mother who O’Connell felt was moaning, sparked the debate. Under the guise of being ‘real? they were just looking for affirmation, the columnist argued.
?I find it really tiresome,? she continued. ?It’s a massive seven paragraph moan about their amazing life. And it’s not really a moan, it’s actually look how great I am, look how much I’ve given up for my kids. The reality is I have three kids? parenting is not actually that hard!?
On Facebook, she was dubbed the Irish Katie Hopkins for her comments which is obviously the kind of completely histrionic response Facebook does best. However, the statement was to my mind, a complete clanger. And just to be clear, I am a creepy sycophantic JOC fan-woman who devours her writing and would really like a blow-by-blow account of just how the eff her hair is so perfect.
What JOC was offering a?critique of is the culture of mumplaining that’s arisen in the last few years, the kind of Mumsnet ball-aching about sleep deprivation, the pervasive stickiness that coats your entire life for the duration of having young children and the terminal, crushing, soul-sapping loneliness of the baby days. And I can totally understand her ambivalence towards this trend. JOC started making babies a decade ago when mums had less of a platform for moaning.
Presumably before mummy blogging and forums and mum-influencers, people were just sucking it up on the whole parenting is hard subject. However, since that first painfully sincere Facebook post about rock hard boobs and the hormonal assault of the postpartum fog, a dam was bust on the whole keeping mum about the realities of being a mum. We starting moaning and being real. Mothers started talking about the struggles of postnatal depression, and the garden variety, day-to-day struggles that may not necessarily be a medical problem but can still mean you have some pretty frightening, low days. And I genuinely think that our moaning is medicinal and beyond apparently boring people like JOC, is it hurting anyone?
I have written very openly in my book (shameless plug alert), Recipes For A Nervous Breakdown and in columns online and in print about my mental health struggles both during pregnancy (I was not glowing, I was having a scary and quite phobic reaction to the idea of an impending infant) and after my first baby arrived. And sure maybe lots of people were rolling their eyes and thinking ?booooring? another mum complaining about how haaaaaaard parenthood is, but the people who got in touch with me largely were expressing their relief.
?Thank god it’s not just me,? was the single sentiment all the correspondence had in common. It was the same thing I thought when a friend confided in me that she was hating motherhood. ?Oh grand, maybe it’s normal to hate some days and love others?? I realised. Maybe that seems like a ridiculously basic realisation but I was a very young new mother and I needed to hear that.
Before the days of ‘slummy mummy? culture, it seemed like there was some kind of tacit agreement between women to pretend motherhood was a magical time of unending joy and near-constant euphoria. This ridiculous approach was surely hurting women, making us feel isolated and inadequate.
Sure, it must be frustrating for those who’ve been there done that to listen to the moans on Facebook but maybe just scroll on by rather than accusing mothers of being tedious when they are simply looking for reassurance, and here’s where I feel JOC’s words had a possibly unintended edge. For mothers listening it sounds distinctly like: If you find it hard, perhaps you’re failing in some way. In terms of optics it possibly didn’t help that, at the time of these comments, the JOC mane was totally on-point – seriously, her hair is spectacular.
A side effect of parenthood is amnesia; it is truly amazing how we can forget the all the angst and hopelessness and exhaustion and yes, beauty and delight too, of the early days with our babies. We know the amnesia is real because people have siblings. I even went back for round two. Me, a woman who two weeks after having her first child, composed a hysterical letter, sealed it in an envelope and wrote across the front ?To be opened in the event of considering another baby.? I had a very hard first year, yet still two years later I weed on a stick and felt that ecstatic disbelief at the whisper of a new life. Of course, nothing’s been ?easy? since.
I think the mood among the older generation (sorry Jen;)) could largely be summed up with: ?Why do you have to make such a big deal out of everything, Snowflakes?? Our tendency to over-share, inspires a kind of ickiness in the older generation at what is basically us being needy. Every time we post online, we’re seeking approval or validation to make us feel better. However, the moaning mummies could also just be trying to forge connections and to cut the crap during what is a hard time.