|View of Halifax, Nova Scotia|
Last week, I returned to a rainy UK from my annual summer visit to my homeland of Nova Scotia. The weather there was beautiful and sunny while it has been rainy in the UK so I'm feeling very grateful that at least I have enjoyed some summer sun.
This week, I've been struck by the number of articles and writing on mothers who regret being mothers. It's almost as if the media has just discovered that some mothers might experience a sense of loss of their identity and sense of self when they have children! As I've mentioned elsewhere on the blog, it's a topic of concern for many of my clients.
I do find the way the debate is often framed highly problematic however. This article recently published in Australia called Anyone Shocked by Women Who Regret Motherhood Isn't Listening made many interesting points about the structural nature of discrimination against mothers.
In the article, writer Amy Gray looks at the response to some of the recent writing on women who regret becoming mothers.
'Reaction to this [mothers who regret becoming mothers] has been mixed – a combination of recognition and personal revulsion towards the women. When we hear something veer off from society's tightly-held script, there's always an immediate emotional reaction which seeks to minimise the shock. Surely there is something wrong with these women, hushed shock that anyone could question the benign glow with which we paint motherhood.
Invariably, these women are painted as mentally ill, because people can think of no other reason they would find fault with motherhood. It must be the mother, who must have post-natal depression that has somehow lasted for 9 years or more. It's the mothers who are judged, and not the systems that oppress them.'
As I wrote about in an earlier blog post called Regretting Motherhood, writer Rachel Cusk also talks about how the adverse reaction to her seminal book 'A Life's Work' which was one of the first books to talk about the issue of regret in mothers, was very judgemental of her.
As Amy Gray points out, the reality faced by many mothers is that they find themselves responsible for.....
'doing the majority of child rearing and home chores. You won't be paid for it, you won't be respected for it and it won't pay into your super [pension].... Not only are women expected to do this, they're expected to love it. This is despite the fact women are often unsupported and feel isolated if they don't fit the ideal picture of motherhood – the woman who can attend school meetings at 2pm, has a clean home, dotes on her children and anyone passing by. Who wouldn't be isolated by an identity that ignores who they are but continually judges what they can do for others?'
I think it's very important as a coach to help my clients challenge and disrupt these assumptions and 'norms' of what motherhood should look like. This is because I think that what women are regretting is not having children.... but having accepted society's uncomfortable vision of motherhood.
We want to examine the 'tightly-held script' that writer Amy Gray describes, look elsewhere and see if we can create a version of motherhood that is more realistic, that is away from the ideal picture of motherhood. If you were to do that, is becoming a mother a decision that seems more plausible and less fraught?