In the future, conversations with new mums will sound like this.
“So, how’s it going?”
“Oh, well, just really, average, you know? Erm, normal parenting stuff. She does a bit of – ah – sleeping – and em – feeding. Makes baby type noises.”
“So is she an easy baby? Is she sleeping through yet? Doing controlled crying? What about her appetite? Are you breastfeeding?”
“You know, every day is – er – different. Feeding – well – I’m mixing it up. Settling – gee – I don’t want to put a label on it. Hubby and I are experimenting with a few things to see what works.”
“And schooling. Do you have her on a list yet? Or are you going public?”
“Ahem. I should be going now – ah – I think I can hear her making those – erm – baby noises again.” (Runs away.)
It’s no wonder women won’t speak frankly about motherhood.
Every word is analysed, categorised, and packed into boxes marked Not Good Enough.
The latest skirmish in the so-called Mummy Wars (I hate that expression) was sparked by an interview with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.
The superstar of Silicon Valley said her baby was “way easier than everyone made it out to be” while being honoured as one of Fortune’s most powerful women.
This online assault follows the same trajectory as that following her shortened maternity leave.
It makes me want to scream, “Enough!”
Where’s the outcry about men who are back at work “too soon” after the birth of their kids?
Certainly, women need time to recover from the birth, establish breastfeeding, and bond with their babies.
But every woman is different; every baby is different.
Some women need weeks; for others it’s years.
Of course money makes it easier. Marissa Mayer is among the one percent. She does not represent the average mother.
According to one blogger, “She’s showing great disrespect to women who don’t have it as easy as she does, and are certainly working harder to raise their families. She stuck her silver plated foot in her mouth, now she has to deal with the blowback like a grownup.”
But she hasn’t criticised other women; she’s simply spoken of her own experience.
Imagine the backlash if she’d said it was “hard”.
“Women can’t have it all,” the headline would have read.
On the other side of the coin, Mitt Romney’s wife Ann – a stay at home mum – copped abuse for tweeting about how tough it was to raise five boys.
(If I had five boys, I’d be rocking in a corner with pencils stuck up my nose. But that’s another story.)
This a war in which no one wins.
One of my colleagues at Sky News, Jacinta Tynan, was shocked by the response to her article about baby bliss after the birth of her son, Jasper.
She received hundreds of angry emails, comments and tweets.
Later, she wrote about the challenges of juggling two kids.
Despite admitting she was blessed to have healthy babies, she was peppered with contempt.
“Heaven forbid that you suffered from post natal depression or had a child (with) birth defects. Would you still gloat about how wonderful your picket fence life is?” one of the comments read.
For most of us, parenthood is far from perfect.
If I had to resort to labels, I would say I had a “hard” first pregnancy because we both almost died during childbirth.
Funnily enough, he turned out to be an “easy” baby who slept through the night within eight weeks.
The second was an “easy” pregnancy followed by a “hard” baby who screamed for months on end, and refused to take the bottle after I had five bouts of mastitis.
I know plenty of women who do it a lot tougher: living with a violent partner; not enough money to feed the family; caring for children with disabilities.
Perhaps we should be using our energy to help these women, instead of judging others?
In the words of Jessica Grose on the Slate website, “To the commentators whining that Mayer calling her baby easy makes you feel bad about yourself: Get a backbone and stop comparing yourself to her. If you want to make a difference, fight for non-CEO ladies to get real leave and benefits so that their babies might also be easy, or in any event, easier.”
Let’s give new mums the freedom to talk about their experiences with openness and honesty, and without jealousy or judgement.