Two moms sharing their woes
When my first was born in 2001, there was no Facebook. There were no online conversations. There were no smartphones.
I had to actually go ‘out’ for people to ‘like’ my baby and besides, none of my friends had babies yet. So I dropped out of our social circle.
An intelligent, beautiful, very hip young woman I know has a 5-month-old baby. We’ve been exchanging emails and suddenly, 12 years after my first baby was born, I’m suddenly stuck by how hard mamas work and how lonely it can be.
Those early baby weeks, sleep deprived in your pyjamas, days that go by in a blur, the 30 second showers, the tea gone cold, the dictator you must carry around and feed and pray it naps so you can do the laundry… Constantly depleted, you don’t have anything new to say. After nine months of pregnancy, even your own body is a stranger.
Meeting other mothers doesn’t always solve the problem. I was once on the outskirts of a 20-minute conversation about cheese sandwiches between three mums. Trying to change the topic, but stay within the ‘mobile snacks’ parameters, I recounted an amusing and enlightening news item about mommy rage and how a woman threw a can of soup at a rash driver.
Then, I joined a baby-mom class. I found, like with the inability to non-ironically sing the Happy Birthday Song, I just couldn’t do the weird pantomimey Voice of Gleeful Encouragement necessary while singing Patty-Cake-Patty-Cake ensemble. I went to the park and found the PhD-in-Childcare and Our Lady of No-Vaccinations as exhausting as DaddyPlayInTheSandPit despite the obvious piles of stray-cat poo. I’m not even going to tell you what I said to MyChildIsTheCutestEverEver mom.
Meanwhile, at home, managing the cooking and laundry and freelance writing and the kids, life became a relay-race of one, where I’d be speeding round the track, leaping obstacles, coming up to pass the baton on to myself…
My husband would come home to a harpy almost every day, gritting her teeth from where the end of her tether had snapped. It began to seem that his day, even if it was stressful, featured different situations, locations, characters. I had the same one sad song to sing. On the days I had a meaningful interaction with the bhajiwalla, I’d drag it out into a 3-minute story.
Motherhood was one of the loneliest places I’d been.
Sure, some people will say, you asked for this, it’s your child. Hire a nanny? Get a flexi-time job? Meet someone for coffee? Kindly suggestions. From people who have no idea what they’re saying.
Nannies don’t always work out. Employers and employees sometimes have different ideas about what flexi-time means. And there are days, weeks even, when your children take turns getting ill, having asthmatic attacks, being up all night coughing, throwing up and crying. There’s no getting away from those days. Even if daddy, granny, nanny and everyone is hands on, you’re on your own.
Around 2007, I got Facebook. It helped that some of my friends also got Facebook and then proceeded to do the right thing and have babies whose photos they could upload. It all got better after that.
If I was having a bad day, I posted a funny status update that didn’t have to wait till my husband came home, rotting quietly in it’s own sarcasm until it was too bitter. If someone was having a rough time, we could compare strategies. We could all ‘like’ the at-that-time-new-style posts on renegade mamas bucking conventions and refusing to be guilted into being domestic goddesses or super moms.
The mommy-bloggers began to type their way out of the woodwork. Some of them were hilarious. Some of them were barking mad. Some of them were wise and older than their years. All of them were responding and writing back and to each other and making conversations.
I deleted my Facebook account a year ago but now in addition to the women I know and love and meet in real, I have Twitter mummies, Whatsapp mummies, email mummies… It’s not all circles… I have a few mummy-triangles and a lot of us are pretty square.
You’re still physically alone on most days, especially when the babies are very small. But if you reach out, not even too far, you may find a mum of 4 in Australia, a mum of 3 in New Delhi, a mum of two in America, a mum of one just a few kilometres away… they will offer you advice and support and wisdom and encouragement. They will make you laugh and cry and suggest lifehacks that may do the job.
Motherhood is a club you pay to get into with your stretch-marks, your dark circles, your bruised career, your day-time sweats. Online, it’s converting to a sisterhood that everyday becomes more important to me. My lovely young friend is working harder than she ever has but as we trade baby photos and chat about things outside the mummysphere, she’s being co-opted into the club. It’s not so lonely anymore.
Here have a Kool-Aid and a cuddle.
Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty images
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