For the past eight years, I’ve been a mum. For most of that time I’ve worked from home, sometimes only small amounts, sometimes a lot. I started this blog just after the birth of our third child. With three kids under five, it was either blogging or scrunching up into a ball and rocking in the corner. During this time I’ve also volunteered a little for charity, I’ve mentored some other women and I’ve rediscovered my love of rollerskating.
In comparison to other mums out there, I’ve seriously underachieved, I’m not the CEO of a multinational company or foreign correspondent. I haven’t run a marathon or launched a hugely successful music career. I’ve not taken in foster kids or nursed a seriously ill parent or singlehandedly been responsible for the physical therapy of a disabled child. I have not had to negotiate welfare bureaucracy, fighting for the ability to feed, school and house my family. I have not had to walk the streets to pay for my education or dodge bombs or the fist of my husband. I have raised three kids in a middle class, white Australia.
I’ve sobbed on my lounge room floor, feeling crippling self doubt and loneliness, as my newborn babies have wailed into the night. I have crouched next to my child while she gasped for breath, asthma sucking the life from her before my eyes, before doctors pumped the air back in. I have driven through the streets, my whole body shaking with fear as my third child vomited from her hive swollen lips, after peanut butter was ingested for the first time. I’ve cried in the school yard as I’ve watched one of my girls struggle with anxiety. I’ve sat at home too many nights, drinking wine and watching TV, while my kids have slept and the world has done interesting things. I’ve born the scars of three c-sections. My boobs nearly scrape the floor while I walk the familiar school, shopping centre, washing machine route.
I’ve grown three human beings. I feed them, dress them, teach them, care for them and love them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With my husband, I guide three people in the journey of life. There is no greater responsibility.
Yet for eight years, when I meet new people and they’ve asked me what I do, I tell them: “I’m just a mum”.
I shrug my shoulders, I quieten my voice and I state the fact quickly before deflecting to another topic. Sometimes the conversation continues. How many kids do you have etc? Sometimes the conversation ends. Sometimes the duck and weave tactic works and I then stand listening to an in-depth description of someone’s job which I, at times, have to pretend to be very interested in, unless of course they actually do something interesting.
I’ve been trying not to react with embarrassment anymore, like I am in some way less valued because I took myself out of a traditional working environment to raise kids. I am trying to reply with pride and joy, as I should, that I am a mum. I am a woman, with many varied interests, a bourgeoning career and philanthropic pursuits, who has three children, who I adore. They are my greatest achievement, for to be able to grow human beings is a pretty fucking big deal. To be able to raise children, even if you did not grow them, is a pretty fucking big deal. Being a mother is a pretty fucking big deal.
Us mothers are undervalued. We are often patronised. We are, at times, ignored or overlooked. We are made to feel less worthy as we do not financially contribute to the economy through “simply” mothering. We “do not work”. We are selfless, shells of ourselves, with baby brain and floppy mid-sections. Unless of course we post instagram pics of our amazing post-baby bellies to somehow hide the fact that we birthed children or are in fact mothers at all. Even when we do “work” we are forever reminded of what we’ve sacrificed or the many ways we should feel guilt or shame for “abandoning” our precious babies. And for those mums who do successfully “juggle” the work life balance and become leaders in their fields of business, law, politics, entertainment, art, construction and sport they are forever referred to as the “mum of two kids” or the “mumpreneur” or “mummy blogger“. And the women with no children are all referred to as “childless” which is just as irrelevant to their success. Unsurprisingly, their male counterparts do not ever have to discuss their marital or parental status. No-one ever asks them.
You are always just a mum, regardless of your professional success or your personal struggles. Somehow your greatest achievement is always downplayed.
We are not “just” mums. We are mums. We are freaking super heroes.
From this point I will no longer to refer to myself as “just” anything.