Being a mother can mean always feeling like you need to be somewhere else. This is a line of discussion that came up at a recent talk between Annabelle Crabb and Kate Grenville. For mothers who work outside the home they feel like they should be at home with their children. Or their mind is often turning to how their children are. For mothers at home with their children and taking time away from a career they feel like they should be at work, keeping up with their professional development and bringing in income to support the family.
While the experiences of mothering have changed over the years it still seems like mothers are tough on themselves. They feel guilty when things go wrong, they blame themselves when they don't live up to expectations - their own or others. They take responsibility for what happens to their kids and often give up meeting their own needs to prioritise their children's needs. Of course children need their mothers- but the question arises about the role of others in supporting mothers - fathers, extended family members, community members.
Fathers can often go to work and leave their children's needs behind at home. I overheard a father once say that he must be a disengaged father because he didn't want to know about details of his teenage daughter's life. It's unlikely that a mother would say that. Mothers aren't expected to be disengaged from their kids. What does it say about fathering that a father is comfortable saying that he is disengaged? What would his daughter think if she heard that? Would her mother be compensating? What does that mean for her? What is he missing out on?
The mothering experience is a privilege and it's easy to take it for granted and focus on what is hard and exhausting about parenting. For those who can't have their own children or have lost a child it must sound insulting to talk of the challenges. It's only through raising and talking about the challenge that we can truly understand the experience of mothering, give it its true value and reach out to mothers.