It’s been almost a month since I posted on Instagram. I have also been silent in the Facebook group and haven’t sent any emails to you lovely lot. So I wanted to say thank you for sticking around!
I also wanted to share why I’m not always online, quite apart from the benefits of taking a ‘social media break’.
I have congenital heart disease and had open heart surgery 5 years ago. I struggle with episodes where my heart beats erratically up to 170 bpm, on and off for the whole day, sometimes for several days at a time.
Think running an ultra marathon without actually going anywhere.
After a bad cold last month and the sheer cumulative fatigue of the pandemic, I’ve had these episodes much more often.
I’ll say at the outset that this is not a cry for help, although stoicism is overrated among mothers. We maintain a front of keeping everything together. Professionally, personally, publicly, and even privately. Since when did you admit to YOURSELF that you are finding it hard to cope?
Because if we admit that there are limits to what we can cope with, the whole edifice of motherhood might crumble.
I’ve been learning more about the ‘perfect mother' myth from a sociological perspective with Dr. Sophie Brock (@drsophiebrock) on her Motherhood Studies Certification. She uses the analogy of a fish tank to describe how mothers (the unsuspecting fish) are trapped in the goldfish bowl of societal expectations and norms about how we should look and act.
Most of us try - without even realising - to live up to the ‘perfect mother' myth.
Modern mothers are expected to
- be present, loving, available for their children and partner
- seamlessly manage the demands of a household and paid work
- change or hide a body that isn’t meant to look like it has carried and nurtured babies.
It may take many years before we realise that this is impossible and we are set up to fail from the outset.
And yet because the myth is so pervasive - even when we KNOW that being a ‘perfect mother’ is unattainable and unhealthy - we still beat ourselves up for not having it together.
We reinforce the walls of our own fish tank.
So here I am. Sitting in a house which is not just untidy but also pretty filthy. With a child who is online a lot of the time. With meals that come out of plastic packets. With a dog who is becoming neurotic from not being walked. With an unfinished building project of a house mouldering away. With emails and messages unanswered. With work that simply doesn't get done.
If I am brutally honest, it’s like this a fair bit of the time. But the 'perfect mother' myth demands that I at least need a reason for the fact that things are not up to scratch.
And in a way I’m grateful for the defective nature of my body which stops me from living up to the myth.
But wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where none of us felt like we needed a reason to stop and rest?
In the context of the 'perfect mother' myth, rest is an act of resistance. Smash the patriarchy. REST.
You don’t need a reason.