I’ve been meaning to write this blog for Ella Mag for, oh, two months now. Maybe three.
The reason I haven’t is because I have no time, and the reason I have no time is because I work (three days a week), run my own business (green parenting website and shop www.peas-and-love.co.uk), have two kids (a nearly 3-year old and a nearly 1-year old – both June babies which at least means I can save a bit of time by giving them a joint birthday party) and have pets, a house to clean, cooking to do, friends to see, and all that malarkey.
Oh, and an allotment. I don’t know what the hell possessed me to sign up for an allotment. It’s not even near my house – the nearest available plot I could find was five miles away. All the other plots are neatly planted up with peas and spinach and exotic herbs. I have a few spuds straggling up between the weeds – at least, I did two weeks ago, which was the last time I had an hour to visit. They’ve probably been eaten by slugs by now.
I also have a husband. I should probably mention him, or he might complain.
The problem with having so many commitments is that I don’t really feel like I’m giving any of them 100%. Sticking my kids in front of CBeebies so I can dash off a quick blog probably won’t win me the Mary Poppins prize for Mother Of The Year.
But I am not alone in this – not at all. Loads of my friends are in similar boats, many of them cash-driven – ie, they haven’t got enough of it. Cash, that is. The recession, combined with pay freezes and the desire to work part-time so you get to spend some time with your kids – not to mention having your eggs in more than one basket in case you lose your job – combined with cuts to child tax credits, and soaring increases in pretty much everything else including childcare costs, means that I’m far from the only person running two jobs (and a household) at the moment.
My friend Alex describes it as a ‘portfolio career’ which makes it sound wonderfully organised and intentional, when the reality is that it feels like trying to spin lots of plates very fast – and accidentally smashing most of them.
I guess one of the reasons I can’t seem to give anything up is because, since having babies, I’ve struggled with the idea of being ‘just a mum.’ Being a mum is the best thing ever, but I don’t want to be solely defined by it.
It’s strange; as a woman today, you’re raised to be independent and have a career, but the second you get pregnant, you’re told very firmly (by everyone – mums, friends, books, magazines, random strangers, The Daily Mail) that nothing you’ve done in your life, or will ever do, is as important as the child growing in your womb.
Doesn’t matter whether you’re a Nobel Peace Prize winner or have found a cure for cancer (or both – why the hell not?), this rule still applies. Of course, as a mum, your children do always come first, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a life too – and you never hear of men worrying about being ‘just a dad’ do you? That’s because society doesn’t judge them in the same way – this is very much a woman-centric phenomena.
In case you were wondering, one of the side effects of motherhood has been to cement my feminist beliefs – you don’t realise quite how patriarchal and downright sexist our world is until you get knocked up! But I am veering off the point, which is that many women, like me, take on all sorts of challenges in order to prove to society – and, weirdly, themselves – that they’re more than just a walking womb.And, of course, it’s also all about the money, money, money. Most families depend on two incomes.
Quite a lot depend on three! Motherhood has also made me determined to become filthy rich, by hook or by crook (well, not by illegal methods – as Ice-T once said, pimpin’ ain’t easy) so that, whatever kind of world they grow up in, my kids will be all right. It’s strange, as I’d consider myself to be a bit of a hippy, but that’s motherhood for you, it alters your whole outlook on life.
Someone much wiser than me (nope, I can’t remember who it was – I’m still suffering from a bad case of baby brain, I’m afraid) once said ‘women don’t have it all, they do it all.’ (It could have been Alex again. She’s full of wise phrases like that.) And that’s pretty much the truth of it. I don’t know a single person who ‘effortlessly’ juggles childcare and a successful career, while maintaining perfect highlights and nails at all times. I don’t think they actually exist, not outside novels written by Rachel Johnson (Boris’s sister, she edits The Lady) anyway. Most of the mums I know are suffering from at least one degree of a kind of hysterical madness – myself included, of course. But, you know, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Most of the time, anyway.