I’ve been hearing a lot of women talking smack about mothers lately. It started with a comment on the SBS show Insight, where having children was described as “a way of feeling like you’ve achieved a lot in life without doing much” and really snowballed with Soraya Roberts’s brilliantly written but utterly annoying story “How My Best Friend’s Baby Pulled Us Apart.” Her essay seems to sum up something stewing in the zeitgeist: a simmering tension between the happily childless and mums with kids.
The gripes directed at mums seem to go beyond a simple annoyance the author has felt toward her best friend. The suggestion, and cultural rhetoric backs it up, is that once you have a kid your brain—and everything you previously valued—goes out the window. That, at the core of it, you become incredibly selfish.
Seriously? The exact opposite is true.
Beyond the birth and the breastfeeding, what parenting really is to me is about putting someone else first. Not because I desperately loved and was obsessed with my children at first look—despite what the nappy commercials said. The truth is, children are people—and people can be horrible. No one will hurt you (physically and emotionally), disappoint you, manipulate you, humiliate you, and take your broken shards of a personality and shatter them to atoms more than a child.
Of course, they’ll do the opposite too. They will surprise you, support you, pay attention to you, and love you more than anyone else on the planet. Children are the weight that pushes your elastic band of a heart to its limit. They stretch you and challenge you in ways that are inconceivable. But at the end of the day, when the results are all in, there’s just one crucial difference: parents have lower expectations.
For Roberts, it seems like idea that a best friend would let you down or suddenly not put as much into the friendship as she would was a deal breaker. As a parent, the fact I even have a friend (someone who doesn’t follow me to the toilet and scream for a drink of water) is awesome.
It’s a divide that can seemingly only be crossed—hell, understood!—by experience. Don’t have that? Then compassion and empathy do a pretty decent job also.
Patience, on both sides, comes in handy too. The fact is, life is impermanent. Everything grows and changes and ceases to be what it was, even female friendships. The difference between having a baby and not is often only a few years, if it’s a path you choose or if one that chooses you. At the end of the day, after the babies have come and gone, you are left with each other, and the things that first brought you together once again have the time and space to thrive. It’s a shame to give up on something so special before that can happen.
Have you lost some female friendships once you became a mum?
image: Getty/Emrah Altinok
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