Things are different from what I imagined. Not just moving to Italy. My life right now, it’s different from what I imagined. I think this moment in life - getting married and starting a family - is one of those we picture again and again from an early age. It’s one of the images that make up the ‘when I grow up...’ complex of images. Like having an office job or buying a house or being an air pilot or whatever dreams and ambitions make up your goals that you constantly build and work towards in your head.
Motherhood is different from what I gathered based on the collective imagination I grew up influenced by. I thought it would be wholesome. I thought it would be my choice. I thought it would be fulfilling. I thought it would be okay.
It is and it isn’t. And, if you know me and my Myers Briggs results, that’s not a place I’m comfortable standing in. I don’t like grey area. I’m a judger: decisive, controlled, organised, assured. And I’m none of those things right now.
Motherhood is hard, but not because of what I thought might make it hard. Not because of the lack of sleep. Not because I’ve had two children in two years. Not financially. Not because I’m not only responsible for myself. Not because of the struggles. The struggle is where the love grows. Only out of love for your children do you deny yourself again and again.
What’s hard is something else. It’s my surroundings. It’s not the children, it’s my peers. It’s not how mindless it is to be with little ones all day - it’s how mindless it becomes when you are told it has to be all day, every day. Those are the choices given to women today. Be with your family, or be with your colleagues. We don’t have colleagues in the work that is carried out in the home. That is no longer ‘work’. ‘Housewife’ listed as one’s occupation is code for ‘unoccupied’. Not least because it takes a level of wealth to forgo being a two income household - so we easily stumble into the stereotype of a woman with two grown children and a nanny and a cleaner who in fact spends most of her day in and out of yoga.
When my first born was nine months old, lots of my new friends I’d made on maternity leave were returning to work. The phrase ‘looking forward to using my brain again’ was thrown around a lot. I thought to myself - what do they mean? I found it so challenging to be with Francis. To understand him, respond to him, engage him. I was using my brain more than I did at work (which was less than I’d done at university anyway).
But slowly, it has started to become brainless. Not because Francis has become less interesting himself - but because being a stay at home mum is increasingly isolated. Other people’s children grow and start school or people with babies go back to work and each time you have to start from scratch and find new people.
Of course my children will grow too. Of course it’s early days. Of course the older mums I know are right when they say it gets easier.
But my question is - what happens when you don’t want to delegate childcare, when you have your heart set on doing it yourself, but you don’t want to do it alone? Sometimes I wish my son’s daycare didn’t ask me to leave. I wish I could just take him somewhere where we can all be there and take care of our children in company and in a structured way that specialists can support us with, but not merely because the mother has to go to work, just because that’s a more human way of raising infants than going for endless walks.