Bad Mothers

Claire Riley is one woman who's sure she'll never go 'warm, mushy and gaga' over motherhood, and here she argues that feminism needs to bust the 'perfect mother' myth.

Clare Riley, 16 September 2002

Out of all my old classmates, I'm one of relatively few who hasn't had children yet. I still live in the same area and if I bump into one of them they always ask if I have kids as a matter of course, some seem surprised when I say no.

Considering I'm only 23 years old. I don't see what the big shock is. We all came from similar backgrounds and had the same chances at school. Taking into account what happened to my mothers' generation, I can't see what's so appealing about kids anyway:

you'll be left in a squalid broom cupboard of Dickensian proportions

Lets start with birth. Unless you're loaded to the eyeballs you're likely to give birth in an NHS hospital. So that means you'll never see the same consultant/ midwife/ nurse twice, and you'll be left in a squalid broom cupboard of Dickensian proportions as you slowly bleed to death, neglected, petrified and without dignity. Okay, I'm exaggerating slightly, however chances are you aren't going to be spoon fed through this experience. You are at the charity end of consumer healthcare and there's a very high chance the in-house spa and relaxation lounge playing whale music won't be an option.

You'll spend the next few months trying desperately to recover and cope with a new baby. It'll probably be screaming its head off day and night and your partner (if you have one) will start to feel isolated and spend more time away from home. He'll be under pressure to provide more money and work harder - perhaps he'll pretend to take up golf and wear action slacks to accommodate his growing paunch.

By the time the child is five you'll be wearing outsize clothes from Etam, have a binge-eating disorder and a nasty perm. You'll be climbing the walls with boredom by the time he gets home and talk at him incessantly, causing him to turn to alcohol to blot out your neurotic warbling. Finding your husband unresponsive, you'll go the Doctor citing depression, he'll prescribe you with happy pills and you'll spend the next five to ten years in a Valium-induced haze which will turn daytime television into one long acid trip of DIY makeovers, Kilroy and QVC shopping.

You'll possibly squeeze in a couple more kids, thinking it will 'bring you closer together'

You'll possibly squeeze in a couple more kids along the way, thinking it will 'bring you closer together'. They go on to become anti-social scallywags who spend their evenings harassing local shopkeepers, kicking in bus stops and mugging other kids. Deciding you need to be more independent, you try to find a job. Your skills are out of date and you've got nil confidence. The only work open to you is catering, cleaning or shop work, which doesn't seem worth it once you consider tax and the expense and inconvenience of childcare.

The final crunch comes when someone cuts you up in the car park of the local Matalan store and you see red. Using the Yellow Pages you find a lonely hit man, take assassin lessons, have an affair and finally you brandish an AK47 in Marks & Spencer food hall - the luxury of which has always eluded you.

Okay so the last bit isn't that typical of anyone's generation but I thought it sounded exciting, which is more than I can say for a life time of looking after kids.

Unless you have money, you're basically on your own. And regardless of whether you have money and support, there's no more option of chasing glory or having adventures.

Shock horror I hear you cry, who would want to chase glory or follow their own ambitions when they have a child? Don't we all go warm, mushy and gaga once we have one? Well, personally, from the people I've seen and grown up around, you don't. As much as we try and impress it upon people, looking after babies is suitable to a very few patient and caring people. Going through nine months and then labour doesn't turn an ambitious professional thrill-seeker into a cake-baking, PTA obsessed homemaker.

But society doesn't reflect this. Childcare is a huge obstacle in feminism. It's like the umbilical cord is never cut. When a child is sick - the mother is called. If she doesn't want to stay at home with the baby then she's made to feel like an unfeeling bitch.

Unfortunately, some mothers aren't nice.

Bob Geldolf rightly pointed out that not all women are ministering angels. By proclaiming that mothers are the best option for the children in every case, they are set up for unreal expectations. Unfortunately some mothers aren't nice. And the more we do to perpetuate the myths surrounding motherhood, the more unbearable we make the cross to bear for those who don't find it all rusks and baby bottles.

How many spreads to we have to see in Hello where C-list celebrities bleats on how 'complete' and 'content' they feel now they've spawned. How their new addition sleeps through the night and is as good as gold. How come none of babies scream like a banshee and puke over the nearest porous surface? I want to see celebrities wearing ill-fitting leggings, bags you could swing over one shoulder and frizzy hair that stands on end. Just like normal women look when they've had a baby.

Apparently, there's this special bond between a mother and child. You see it in all forms of media and its accepted in a society that is otherwise cynical and jaded. You only have to watch one advertisement break to see the old stereotypes reinforced: A kid is ill, mum is up all night searching for the remedy to make him, and herself feel better. Please, he's got a frigging cold not Dengue Fever.

Then the possibility of being asked whether you'd like to 'tear naturally or be cut'?

Recently, there has been a lot of press about the rising rate of Caesarean births. Okay they've gone through the roof and It's healthier to have a natural birth. But given the state of the NHS service I'm pretty sure which method I would go for if one option was a clean operation under careful monitoring or a natural labour that could last days, in pain with a succession of stressed-out people looking after you - then the possibility of being asked whether you'd like to 'tear naturally or be cut'? Er, what's option C please?

There was even a report that suggested that some women were 'forced' to go for a C-section by their husbands for 'sexual reasons'. What they meant by sexual reasons is up for interpretation. It could mean that there are some cads out there who get hot and sweaty about the thought of their wife in a paper gown, or it could be about vaginas! I have scanned the web for features that cover caesareans and actually mention the one issue that all my female friends have: Personally, I can't see how you can squeeze out an eight pound baby and not have a twat like a collapsed balloon.

So It's husbands who demand Caesareans for their own wicked gain, as a woman would never put her sexual pleasure at that level of importance would she?

Once she's a mother she has been transcended to another plain, devoid of the decadence of sex. She wouldn't care if she had a bucket the size of Wookey Hole - she has her children to live through. Well sorry, but there are very few things in this world that are enjoyable AND free and I'd like to avoid pissing myself when I sneeze for as long as possible.

There's simply too much pressure on one person to be saintly. Women are not all natural carers and its time that we didn't elevate everyman's drive for opportunity and achievement above everywoman's.

So maybe It's time for a real revolution - the distribution of responsibility and childcare.

About the author

Clare Riley

Clare Riley is a 24 year old loser who drinks too much and smokes too much, relies on heavily marketted products to keep her looking young and has already started lying about her age. She has no hope or motivation and can barely drag herself out of bed to go to work in her directionless job every morning and is probably very angry because she is short. Her pet hates are: men who turn into violent mysogynists when they have a drink, posh people who live off their parents, work in media and have no sense of what its like to be one paycheck away from homelessness and Darren Day.

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