Tag Archives: Motherhood

Intriguing New Book About Mothering

11 Sep

During our undergraduate days my then-fiancé and I had a tradition of spending one weekday morning every week sitting in our university’s guild of students reading the paper. At lunchtime we would have a pannini (then a novel and highly exciting foodstuff) and then go to our seminars. Nowadays, sadly, I don’t have time to read newspapers, so when I have a minute here and there I catch up with the Guardian on my phone.

That’s how today, while waiting for my soup to warm up, I came across this article about Naomi Stadlen‘s new book. I’d been intrigued by her previous book What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing for a while as it usually comes highly recommended by Mumsnetters and, again, the Guardian. Of course the title is just brilliant, making you wonder if reading the book will finally give you an explanation as to why you feel so knackered all the time.

What I really like about the review of Stadlen’s new book is that the significance of mothering is highlighted while the necessity of a father’s love is also acknowledged. Annalisa Barbieri, who wrote the review, notes the curious popularity of the term ‘parenting’. It might be easy to slide down the slippery slope of generalisations when talking about what mothers are like, what they do, and what they should do compared with fathers. All families are different. But I’m really glad that attention is given to the role which mothering, a mother’s love, plays in a child’s life because while most Western societies have evolved past the nuclear family of a SAHM/WOHD, in my view, mothers still play a special role, and this shouldn’t be forgotten (Stadlen has more detail regarding this on her website). I think I’ll have to order both of these books to find out more.

Feminism in unexpected places

6 Jul

Through reading blogs and thinking about feminism in relation to motherhood, I realised something, and I’m almost ashamed that I didn’t notice it before. Since my daughter was 8 months old, so for over a year, we have been attending a seminar at the university together. It all started when I was strongly encouraged to come along by a fellow student. I actually felt like she was pestering me and like she didn’t understand that with a husband who worked 9-5 and no childcare I just would not be able to attend a seminar. She discussed things with the semi-official seminar leader, also a student, and he sent me a very kind email explaining that I would be very welcome to bring my daughter, and that everyone would be willing to cuddle her while I presented my work.

Since then we have been attending this two-hour seminar every other week during term time together. It takes a lot of organisation: precise nap-timing, lunch-timing, packing snacks, toys, books, nappies, wipes, practising my non-chalant ‘why yes of course I’m on campus with my baby’-face… and crossing my fingers that my daughter stays acceptably quiet during the seminar. When my daughter turned 18 months, she started going to nursery, but the seminar happens to be on a non-nursery day. As I have gotten to know the people better, I have relaxed slightly, and now I find them a lot less intimidating. Since we started going to the seminar, several people have finished their PhDs, so now there is only a very small group of us. They always comment on how well-behaved my daughter is, they talk to her, ask about her and are generally lovely. (And my daughter really enjoys going to ‘nooni’ [uni] with mummy.)

But their demographics are quite surprising: there’s the recently separated childless Dr Martins-wearing goth bloke in his 50s who supposedly has never cooked a meal in his life, the ex-schoolteacher childless lady in her 50s, and the childless carefree students in their 20s and 30s from multiple different countries; all extremely academically minded. So then I realised that what they did and continue to do is actually quite advanced and feminist. Although the seminar is organised and led by a student, we do serious work and discuss complicated theories. Not really a place in which you would expect to find a toddler, or expect anyone to explicitly invite a toddler. But without their generosity, I wouldn’t be able to go to the only seminar which is offered for students in my discipline, and before my daughter started nursery it was a lifeline – adult company, interesting discussion, hearing others’ comments on my work, learning more about my subject. Without it, I would have been a lot less motivated and a lot more lonely. I think I really have to keep going with my PhD so I can thank these generous and kind people in my acknowledgements.

The nature of luck

5 Jul

I thought that was an apt title, because the German word for ‘happiness’, ‘glücklich’, includes the word for ‘fortune’ and ‘luck’, which makes you wonder about the nature of luck and happiness, and whether they are both fleeting and perhaps bestowed upon us when some cosmic balance works out in our favour.

Yesterday was the start of our first proper week in the new house. Our new freezer was delivered at 8am (my new letting agent is awesome!), and I spent about 20 minutes being extremely pleased with my good fortune: the move couldn’t have gone better – I wasn’t even tired afterwards thanks to amazing helpers, the new letting agent organised someone to sort out the garden, install a shower screen, remove the washing machine (I was out at this point, so my own washing machine was connected for me!), fix the shower, and they ordered a brand new freezer which was delivered in time for us to get to nursery.

But then! The buses struck! For one day only the local bus company decided to divert the buses due to roadworks, and sheer chaos ensued. It hadn’t been announced anywhere – the first anyone knew about it was when a bus driver going in the opposite direction from nursery invited everyone he could see waiting onto his bus in order to take us into the town centre so we could catch a bus from there.

We bumped into another nursery mum who I knew from seeing her in the corridor occasionally, and we introduced ourselves to each other briefly. The whole bus chaos could have been really stressful as we were late and I had to fold the pushchair for the first time on an overcrowded bus while hanging on to an escaping toddler, a heavy bag, two teddies and a book. A nightmare situation. But this other mum, despite having two children with her, helped me lift my pushchair into the storage rack, and then took it off the bus for me at the other end when said toddler decided to run to the back of the bus. It was really amazingly lovely of her. I looked her up on the university website later, and she seems to be a very experienced lecturer with numerous publications under her belt. If I had known any of this on the bus I would have been very intimidated, but for a little while we were equals, both mums on the way to nursery, and she helped another mum who she saw struggling.

As well as being generally nice, I think there is also something feminist about this – no glaring at each other in competition for the pushchair space on the bus, or looking down on someone obviously younger, less experienced and flustered, no blanking the vaguely familiar person in case you might have to talk to them. Instead there was a kind of solidarity.

Although the buses have been a nightmare so far and I thought that I had perhaps used up all my good fortune at once and ruined things by being too happy, this encounter restored my trust that things can be managed, and all will be fine. We have only been here one short, chaotic, unstructured week, but it is as if a huge weight has been lifted.

Feminism is…

13 Apr

…finding it odd when the single dad is invited to a party, but the single mum is not because “we thought you’d have to look after your daughter”.