Imagine you are a highly qualified professional.
Imagine you have a job you are passionate about.
Imagine you earn lots of money, which allows you to have the lifestyle you always dreamt of.
Imagine you feel you are respected and recognised.
Imagine you are financially independent, which means your relationships with other adults are free and healthy.
Can you imagine that?
Now, imagine you become a mother.
Imagine your plan is to enjoy those weeks’ maternity leave, to then continue with your splendid career, since you can afford to pay the best person in the world to look after your baby while you are not around.
Imagine that moment arrives and you feel a mixture of relief and sadness. Relief, because you find maternity harder than your 10-hours-a-day job, surrounded by corporate and financial sharks. Then sadness, because you do not want to leave your baby with anybody else.
Imagine you are in your office and you feel that is not what you want to do.
Imagine you decide to give up your job, your status, your independence, so that you can be a mother in the way you freely choose to.
Imagine days, weeks and months go by, maybe even years, and you feel happy you are present in your children’s upbringing. Happy knowing you are investing in something nobody else can give them. Happy because your head, used to analysing everything in a cold and objective way, is telling you that you are indispensable for your children in this stage of their development.
Imagine that, despite all this, another side of you feels tired, exhausted, annoyed and susceptible, because for your emotional side, knowing the benefits of bringing up children is not enough.
Imagine you have not had a full night’s sleep in years, nor have you been able to hold an adult conversation without interruptions such as “Mummy I want booby”, “wee-wee”, “hold me”, “I don’t want”, “I want” …
Now imagine your income does not come from you, but from your partner, your parents, or a public welfare system.
Imagine you realise that nobody around you appreciates what you do. They take for granted it is your responsibility, and that is it.
Imagine you would love for your children’s father to get involved in their upbringing, and all you get when you talk about it is something like: “I work all day long so that you can stay home playing with dolls”.
Imagine you are criticised for being an anti-feminist, “slack”, “snobbish”, “a hippie”, a fundamentalist… You are criticised for one thing and then for the right opposite too, because it seems that choosing to be a mother is not well looked upon in any environment you used to be a part of: in business, politics, society or your family…
Can you imagine it?
Now imagine in that emotional, physical, anaemic and social chaos, you get a job offer.
Imagine some head-hunter has seen your professional profile and offers you a much better job than the one you gave up.
Imagine when you hear how much you will get paid, you cannot help but thinking about how many months you have been buying clothes in department stores, buying own-brand labels in the supermarket, and the closest you have had to eating out is going to a fast food restaurant with the kids.
Imagine you dream about that chance to regain your life, your autonomy, your freedom, your independence, your status, your recognition, your voice, which has become muffled by the children’s cries and demands.
Imagine you think about it and decide that it is not the time yet, that your children are still young.
Can you imagine the feelings you meet?
Can you imagine the sense of guilt this generates?
Feeling guilty for wanting to accept that offer
Feeling guilty for being sad when turning it down
Feeling guilty because this occurrence troubles you, it makes you angry and it frustrates you, and you have let it all out by shouting at your kids, which makes you feel you are a failure of a mother or a fraud to the upbringing you want to provide them with.
Feeling guilty because at the end of the day, that is all we have learnt as women: to feel guilty for everything, about everything and about everyone.
We carry the heaviest load of society, which nobody recognises, appreciates or remunerates. In times of electoral campaigns it is frustrating to see how nobody is interested in our situation. We are fed up of seeing that the only option available to us is to resort to nurseries since birth, or that the father requests half of the maternity leave.
Mothers are constantly giving up: ALL OF US.
Some give up their lives, some others give up their children.
Some try to balance it all out and give up having time to themselves, having private time with their partners, spending time with their friends, or investing in their own health by exercising… who knows…
The truth is that any mother you know is so at the expense of giving up.
Next time you come across a mother please do not criticise her.
Do not tell her what she should do or how to do it.
Do not ignore her just because you know she will not be able to come to your evening party. Invite her along all the same.
Do not state the obvious or use set phrases.
Just tell her:
“You are very brave, you are doing very well and I admire you”.
PS: Dedicated to A. and all those beautiful mothers who have decided to live intensely this long, beautiful, and sometimes hard and lonely journey, which is bringing children up. I have learnt so much from you, from all of you, that all I can say is THANK YOU.