Yesterday I read the Guardian interview with Lucy Ellman and quietly seethed as I read *that* paragraph. The one where she essentially assigns mothers to two decades of being vapid airheads after giving birth.
I probably shouldn’t be writing this post, particularly given the fact that I have another eighteen years to serve before I’m released from this sentence. However, I actually wanted to thank Ms Ellman for her comments.
You see, I have an extremely complex relationship with motherhood. And up until that point in the interview, I was completely with her. I have two children, aged six and two and whilst I love them fiercely, being a mother is HARD. A period of postnatal depression with my first child left my confidence – in both my sense of self and my abilities in every aspect of life – deeply shaken. Since then, the knocks have kept on coming, and the latter half of this year has seen the wobbly self-confidence that I fought so hard to build throughout my MA year, be completely destroyed by an employer who treated me heinously, and used my role as a mother against me.
They left me on the floor and the dark days I’ve been experiencing have been reminiscent of those early days of motherhood. I’ve admittedly shrunken into myself. I’ve avoided going out, I’ve stopped seeing people so much. I felt I had nothing to offer. Nothing to say. My writing had all but dried up. Even my reading has slowed and become almost without pleasure. The reviews I have loved to write so much becoming more a chore than a joy.
Lucy’s comments played on all my fears. That as a mother, I am less. That somehow, the act of pushing mini-people from my vagina has expelled brain cells in such a way that I really am nothing.
However, with those thoughts came a spark. I became incensed that this woman, who on her lofty platform as a ‘feminist’ has chosen to, in answer to the same question, both lament woman-on-woman anger, and assign a sentence of vacuous behaviour to those who have chosen to be a mother. It’s a brand of feminism that I’ll never understand. That in so fiercely advocating for women, comes some sort of rulebook of what womanhood should be, thus eliminating free choice. I’ve often pondered how that is any better than a patriarchy.
I watched the Tweets rolling in, all of these incredible women, who despite the challenges of motherhood, have achieved mind-boggling things. And it got me thinking. What I have I achieved? And you know what, I’ve actually done alright. For one thing, life has dealt me some hard knocks in the last six years, and every single time I’ve picked myself up and kept on going. Despite feeling low in confidence, I’ve actually made some pretty bad-ass and brave decisions, not least being the one to go back to university and actually try to live the dream I’ve held since childhood. I graduate with an MA in January. I did that. I’ve put myself out there with this blog and kept it going. I’ve written stories that people have read, I’ve written poetry that has actually been published. I’ve got up on a stage and read my work out. It’s something pre-child me would never have done in a million years. Being a mother has made me vulnerable, but sometimes with vulnerability comes strength beyond anything you could have previously imagined.
I do think that perhaps, within her words, was a missed point about the suppressed role of the mother and the crippling weight of responsibility so traditionally and heavily tipped toward the woman. That is a point I’m on board with. More balance is required. However, it neither read nor came across that way, and as a writer, she should know the power of her words. Unless of course, her true point was to gain notoriety through controversy, in which case, bravo.
So, thank you Lucy Ellman. Because without your badly-chosen words I would never have found the spark to lift me. Today, for the first time in weeks, my fingers have been desperate to type. I never write posts like these, and yet, here I am. Indirectly, and weirdly, you’ve made me realise that perhaps I am worth something a little bit more than I’ve been giving myself credit for. Not only do I have something to say, but I also have the voice with which to say it.