You know how all girl babies are born with squillions of eggs and how that number starts to decrease the second they’re born? Turns out that something similar happens when women become mothers, except it’s not eggs, it’s scorecards, and the numbers go down a whole lot faster. Motherhood is a competition, my friends; a full-blown contest between those who are the bestest mums and, well … the rest of us. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably scraping bottom.
I had my first inkling that something was going on after my emergency c-section when the woman in the bed beside me explained how I hadn’t given birth naturally because she had. Or something like that. It’s all a bit blurry. But my point is, she was definitely competing with me on some level because she made sure to tell me again the next day. Which was nice.
Very soon after that, I discovered that I had lost copious marks for the use of drugs in labour, even more for struggling with breastfeeding, and more again for switching to formula. And that was just the first few weeks. The competition intensified when The Others discovered that I had admitted to another human being that I didn’t know what I was doing and that I was encouraging others to admit the same.
And a riot almost erupted in my Mother&Baby group when one of the better mothers commented that my baby had yet to master the art of lifting his head unaided and was very upset that I didn’t seem too bothered. (I’m not going to talk about what happened when they all found out that he wasn’t showing any signs of walking at 15 months. Suffice to say there were mutterings of “Fake!” and “Failure!” and something about being Irish … but I might be mixing that up with a very drunken Paddy’s Day that we shall never speak of.)
I fell further down the ranks by allowing my child to cry for more than two seconds at a time, moving him into his own room at ten weeks, giving him a dummy, giving myself wine, and putting him into his baby chair directly in front of the TV. Every day.
And a mere three years later, I had made matters even worse by having two more kids, giving both formula from the get-go and dummies and then encouraging them all to play in the mud in the back garden when they were toddlers. It was at this point that I began disguising myself as a Dad. I just wanted to know what it was like not to have a constant onslaught of guilt-laden motherhood research fired at me daily. (Just kidding, Dads. I know you guys have your own competition going too. What? You didn’t know? Hmmm. Interesting.)
My liberal use of boundaries during the childhood years almost had me arrested by the Parenting Police who are very big on letting kids do whatever the hell they want. (No, I don’t get it either.) And that pretty much brings me to the present day with what is currently being referred to as “The Lowest Motherhood Score Evah!” At least, that’s what it says on the t-shirts they sent me.
So, maybe I’m not the best person to tell you how to win this Motherhood thing. Maybe it’s not even winnable. Come to think of it, maybe it’s not even about competing. Maybe – just maybe – if you’re out there doing what you feel is best for baby and best for you … you’ve already won?
This article first appeared in the Aug/Sep edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!
Want to read more from Orla Breeze? Find out why she thinks there is a baby conspiracy and asks are we making our children’s lives too complicated?