Love, not less

I am always saddened to hear motherhood referred to as a beautiful club that opens up previously unachievable levels of love.
It is not a contest. It is love. We shouldn’t measure it in these terms. ‘I love more than you love.’ ‘My love means more than your love.’ No. Love is personal and can’t be measured against itself.

So when Twitter started rumbling about the article in the Telegraph where Amanda Craig claims that motherhood gives you ‘a deeper understanding of human nature’, I read the article for myself. And then I got angry. There was the same old claim – ‘No matter what your experience of adult love, there is nothing as strong as the bond between a mother and a child.’ I had an emotional response to the article that was fed by my own experiences and of those of my friends. I had a bit of a rant on twitter, Stella Duffy wrote a very articulate response to the article and I congratulated her and let it go.

Except that I couldn’t. It bothered me for the rest of the day.

When my daughter was born I lost count of the number of people who exclaimed about the immense, overpowering love that I must be feeling. But I didn’t feel love. I felt broken and resentful and sad. And terribly, terribly guilty. And it was made so much worse by the huge expectation that a mother should love her child immeasurably and uncontrollably. It was also made so much better by my hugely supportive wife, and by close friends who were honest and open and admitted that they had felt the same way. It would come. It was okay.

And it did. But it was far from the uncontrollable passion held in such high regard. It was a gradual love, a learning of this new person in my life.

So, according to Craig, am I less of a mother? Less of a woman? Less able to experience human emotion? Less able to write about the human condition? Am I a bad parent because I wrote about needing my own thinking space during the summer holidays? Is my wife less able to understand human emotions because she isn’t the biological mother of our daughter? Or is she one of the chosen ones because her love for our daughter was so immediate and obvious and open?

Of course not. That’s what these horrible articles and this awful debate do. They make you feel less. And I am sick of feeling less.

I gave it some space and then read the article again. I was still angry. And confused. She seemed to be saying that as a mother you won’t be able to write properly because you won’t have the time or the energy, but if you are not a mother you won’t be able to write well enough because you won’t have a deep enough understanding of human emotion. So that leaves… men? Why must women always be categorised and challenged against their parental status? And why so often by other women?

I understand how lucky we are to have our daughter. Not that long ago two women would not have had that choice. A lot of women who want a child are not able to. We are lucky. But equally, I’m still a woman. Still a person. Still an individual. Not any more for being a mother and not any less.

Everyone writes from their experiences to some extent, but to say that you can’t write outside of them, and miss out on something essential if you don’t have children is ridiculous and really very sad. You don’t have to be a mother to experience motherhood. It’s all around us. And being a mother doesn’t have to define you or limit you. Everyone has something that gets in the way of their writing. Children, parents, work, illness. It’s called life. Virginia Wolf is set up as an example of the perfect woman writer. Childless of course. But her own mind got in the way of her writing. There is always something. Will always be something. The key is wanting it enough to find a space to make writing a part of your life. The key is knowing who you are and not allowing others to make you feel less.

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Inspiring a generation

Mollie is in love!

With Miss Gabriella, one of the performers from the circus we visited last week. Since we watched Gabriella spin from the trapeze and somersault on the Russian bar, Mollie has been jumping around the house and spinning from everything that can be spun from. Including me. She has pranced about ‘being Gabriella’ and spent lots of time on her head with her bum in the air, trying to do a handstand.

But the real revelation came from the Circus Wonderland souvenir brochure. Miss Gabriella was an olympic gymnast in the Hungarian team. And, oh look, Mollie! The olympics is on the tv, in your lounge, every day! This has opened up a whole world of joy. No more early morning Fireman Sam. Now Mollie asks for the gymnastics every morning and has decided that, more than anything else in the world, she wants to be a ‘gymnasticer’ when she grows up. She has watched the gymnastics. A lot. And swimming, rowing, athletics, and tennis. She has a little flag that she waves while she cheers Team GB and jumps up and down, wearing her plastic medal with pride.

It’s a shame that Mollie isn’t old enough to have watched and understood the importance of the opening ceremony and last night’s successes. But if she has developed this level of passion from watching daytime events with a 3 year old’s understanding, think what the older children are learning. They are the children who will be Mollie’s role models at school, her future babysitters, mentors and friends. The Olympics really are inspiring a generation.

More than a generation. Mollie is inspired. I am inspired. Watching along with Twitter last night showed a whole timeline of inspiration. Twitter was a giant group hug, celebrating diversity and talent and hope for the future. We were all full of Olympic spirit. Team GB has given us positive role models who, rather than trying to be famous, are working hard to be the best in their chosen field. What a wonderful legacy to leave to our children. It’s not about what you look like, what size clothes you wear, how many people vote for you, who you love, where you come from or how much money your parents have. It’s about finding something you love and following your dream. And anyone, everyone, has the potential and ability to do that.

So we will continue to empower Mollie with as many experiences and skills as we can, start her with some gymnastic lessons, and see where she flies.