My blog doesn’t have a huge following. I’m all good with that. This was never started as a means to make my fame and fortune and escape my life of drudgery as an emergency physician. I have had some odd encounters though since I started. A male, childless colleague who I’ve never had a personal conversation with, and don’t really know well at all, telling me how much he’d enjoyed reading it. Another ex-colleague who I hadn’t seen or worked with in years, happened to bump into and he told me how much he loved it, and how it really resonated with him and his small kids. One person congratulated me on how BRAVE I was to write a blog like this, and it freaked me out for a while. What had I written that was so brave? What unspeakable taboo have I broken by writing about being a mother? I sometimes get worried messages from people who have read it, or been told about a particular post, to make sure I’m ok, to check I’m not mid-breakdown or anything.
I do worry sometimes, not for long, about how the things I have written, accessible to anybody, will be interpreted by people who don’t necessarily know me so well, or at all. I worry about the amount of information and photos of my children, in this age of online availability, of new humans having an internet history available from their 12 week scan photos, to their first moments as new separate creatures on the planet, with their lives available to find for anyone with some internet knowledge. I have friends who have managed to keep photos and information about their children entirely absent from social media, and I admire them hugely. So far I have not had that level of self restraint. I hope that as they grow older, and they can choose what they want to be available, that I will honour that, just as I (more or less) honour my husband’s wish to be as anonymous as possible on the internet.
I do consider what I write about my family and how they may feel about it, now and in the future. Is it acceptable to write on a publicly accessible forum that my son is still breastfeeding at two and a half years old, that my daughter still cosleeps at five years old (though not bedsharing since she was three if that helps anyone). Will future employers find this information one day and interpret these facts as a lack of moral fibre? A questionable start in life?
And these thoughts bring me back to my very first reason for wanting to write a blog. The idea that I felt so wholey unprepared for motherhood. The fact I had no concept at all of how mind-blowingly hard I would find it, the amount of conflicting thoughts and feelings I would have, the overwhelming guilt I would feel for finding things hard, for feeling like the only one failing all the time, the only one who felt relieved to be leaving for work sometimes and not having to look after an irrational two year old all day. And I wonder how when the majority of females on this planet are, or become, or have, mothers, how can it possibly be that I still felt so unprepared? And how can it be that so many others I speak to feel that same way?
I don’t want my children to grow up in a world where breastfeeding is taboo, where it is unseemly to talk about connections between family, where it is a character flaw to have been loved and nurtured and supported. I want them to feel able to admit that life is not always easy, to feel able to admit when life is hard, and to be open about their struggles. A world where mental health issues are taken as seriously as physical health and not seen as a character flaw.
Admittedly me putting some cute pictures of my kid on a potty, on an unread blog, are unlikely to change the world, and maybe I should be more cautious about the photos I choose to share, but I don’t feel brave or wrong for trying to put some of my thoughts out there for the world. We need to know that the lives we lead are complicated and varied, that we do not all have the exact same experiences but that are different experiences are valid and worthwhile.
I don’t know. I’m rambling a little now. I have had very little sleep whilst on night shifts these past few days. I have just been listening to an old Women’s Hour episode on my phone, with the most magnificent poet Hollie McNish, who so beautifully articulates these ideas, much better than I can. So I once again urge every single human to buy her wonderful book “Nobody Told Me” which says some quite fabulous things about the reality of becoming a mother.
And I will keep writing, just in case that one person reads and feels less alone and more prepared one day, and hey, just coz I really enjoy writing it. And here’s a photo my two year old took of me, to even things up a little: