I have lived a tumultuous life - most of it a matter of circumstance, some of it by choice. One of those tumult-inducing choices I made was to have a child. 6 years ago almost to the minute, a little boy came into my life and changed it forever. For better and for worse.
While I type these words I feel a sense of trepidation because it has been my experience that if you call motherhood anything but a bliss-inducing dream come true, you will be judged. The reason being that motherhood is viewed as the most important task a woman can have. Therefore, the best of mothers are the best of women. Reciprocally, if you don't experience the exultation at the first sight of your newborn you are a bad mother. And the popular wisdom dictates: bad mom = bad person.
I have a huge problem with this view. Being good in any given field means a degree of natural talent, hard work, and lots of help, support and instruction along the way. Being good at motherhood, on the other hand, is a treacherous and thorny road. There is very little help; no single standard or measure of success; and scores of judgment all of which result in one thing: anxious mothers.
The feminist movement has partially contributed to this anxiety by comparing men and women with little consideration for important biological, physiological and psychological differences between the two (again I cringe as I write this). It is often stated that women have a harder time leaving their children, and when they do they are more prone to feeling guilty about it than men, ultimately preventing them from getting the high ranking jobs. But could it be that this is not just a social construct set out to keep the women out, but rather a result of men and women being wired differently?
Society of course has a lot to contribute by creating favourable conditions for women such as parental leave and affordable child care. Just as importantly, society (including women) has to stop judging. For if a task is so important that you are judged as a person for it, then by the same token, you should receive some degree of help and understanding along the way.
None of this will change unless we are ready to have an honest conversation about what it is like to be a mom. I will be forever grateful to my friend Pascale Dontigny who, after the birth of her first child, told me that she was not "immediately in love" ultimately saving me months of guilt and shame once my son was born (and difficult to fall in love with after a gruelling 72-hour labour followed by a C-section). To her incredibly courageous truth I will also add the following: it is hard and thankless; you have to make plenty of sacrifices; your life and relationships as you know them will never be the same.
Your reward: knowing that you are leaving a footprint for the future. And looking at my kiddo today, I am hopeful that the future will be bright. Happy birthday sweet boy!!!!!