So, I’m going to preface this blog by saying I have a wonderful life. A life full of love, babies, children, family and much, much more. But it’s not a life I don’t question.
To me, being a woman in the world today comes with great contradiction. Contradictions in the home, contradictions in the workplace, financial contradictions, and a multitude of physical pressures.
I’m the primary caregiver for our three (soon to become four) children. Most of my days are spent in the home. So you would think that spending that amount of time at home, my house would be spotless, the meals all prepared, everyone neatly clothed, homework done etc etc etc. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. I do my best, we keep our heads above water in what I’d say is about an ‘average’ standard. I’m so grateful to be carrying our forth baby, but sometimes I wonder if I’ve just put the final nail in the coffin, solidifying myself to endless amount of years of washing, nappies, cleaning and cooking. Sometimes I draw immense satisfaction from simple things like cleanliness, tidiness and something yummy for dinner. But then I also feel so frustrated at myself for being so satisfied at something so seemingly menial. Raising little people is my greatest honour, there’s no doubt about that. But it has to be said that the repetitive, relentless, thankless grind of it all gets tough! How can something that is your greatest honour also be so disregarded by not only yourself, but society as whole? Anyone else grimace when filling out paperwork that asks for your occupation, and you write Mum? My greatest achievement, right there on paper, so disregarded. Without a doubt, the primary caregiver becomes the glue of the family, and when glue doesn’t stick, shit falls apart. The burden of the emotional labor of motherhood can’t be underestimated, nor understood by many.
I often feel marginalised in the workplace. I have two university degrees, I have worked hard my whole life, yet my ability to actually go to work and earn an income is compromised. Having said this though, I’m exceptionally grateful for a trade that will take me anywhere, and has given me flexibility to come and go, to run other side businesses and to have a family. But more than that, a profession where I get life experiences everyday, where I get to care for people in need, a job where I have to be empathetic and compassionate while still being extremely efficient and having to think on my feet. However, in order to go to work, I need to line up multiple people to look after the kids, get a roster going, pre prepare everyone’s meals/school needs/after school activities etc before I even start my shift. The mind boggles and it’s exhausting. THEN, when I get to work, I’m in a workforce thats probably 90% female – nursing. Yet, we operate in a system where we need to take direction from the few males that do exist in our arena. For the most part, the doctors I work with are great. The young ones especially have a lot of respect for the experience, knowledge and capabilities of nurses. But just last week, I was spoken to in the most appalling and degrading way, IN FRONT of the patient I was there to advocate for, by one of the most senior Consultants in the department. Humiliating was an understatement. Furthermore, my pay is at a level where it will go no higher (other than the agreements bought about by the union). So, regardless of my experience, knowledge or level of responsibility, I will earn no more than the rate I’m currently on. That’s it, I’ve made it. Unless I take up an admin role, and move away from clinical care giving, I will earn no more. Often the pressures of being a nurse are huge – you are teamed with junior graduate staff, and often have a student nurse to take under your wing and teach along the way. Both of which are absolutely necessary, but you still have a heavy, and often complicated patient load. The ceiling of the profession, and earning potential is sometimes so low that I could poke it with my finger, and I’m short! I’ll also add to that, that I’ve been underpaid since 2014 – yet I still front up to work when I’m rostered on – because when you say you’re going to be there as a nurse, you be there! The camaraderie runs thick and deep. But I would love to know what would happen to the pay structure if the profession was male dominant. Would we get a bonus every time we dressed a wound? Emptied a catheter? Held someone’s hand as they took their last breath? Sometimes I envy people who’ve chosen a corporate path. One of the ones that involves nice suits, travel, hotel rooms, boozy lunches, bonuses, client dinners and a large income that never stops growing. I don’t even think you need to go to uni to get some of those jobs! More fool me hey? But where’s the human spirit in that? It amazes me what we ‘value’ in this society. It amazes me what and how we reward ‘work’ financially.
When you become a mum (or primary carer for little one/s), your ability to earn an income becomes compromised. I found this transition hard. I probably wasn’t able to pin point this as a frustration for a few years, but the transition to not earning, yet being the primary spender is difficult to navigate for both parents. Noone tells you this when you have a baby! Also, how can someone who works so hard day in/day out, without breaks, without days off, often without thanks or recognition not earn a single penny for any of it? How do you and your partner create a completely equal and neutral financial playing field when your day to day lives are so different? Often only one earner. Your ability to make decisions, your autonomy, and your independence often disappear. This is something we all manage so differently. All I can say is, keep the communication lines open, talk it through with your partner, work it out as you go along. I’m simply just putting this one out there, cause it seems to be one of those tricky things we just don’t discuss.
Physically – as a mum – you’re screwed really! Sorry, but you are. First you have to be in a state to get pregnant. For some, this comes easy for some it doesn’t. That in itself can be a horrendous and heartbreaking journey. I’ll leave that one there though. Then you’re pregnant, and you can’t do the things you’re used to doing. Be it sport/training, work demands, whatever. At some point, you cannot do what you used to be able to do. Shit some days, I can’t even hang out the washing. I can’t roll over in bed, I can’t get off the couch, and adding to that, I can’t even go for a wine with a friend to laugh about how ridiculous it all is.THEN, if you’re fortunate enough to survive birthing your baby, however you do that, the next few months/years will be spent recovering! The multitude of injuries you could obtain are too many to list, but you get where I’m going with this. As if 40 weeks of pregnancy wasn’t enough, BOOM TAKE THAT! Pelvic organ prolapse! That will be sure to lock you down for another 12 months – shit it may even land you back in hospital for some surgery if you’re lucky enough (at least there are beds there and all meals are provided, there’s drugs too). Then, somewhere in amongst all of that bonanza, you’re supposed to have slipped back into your probably 20y/o skinny jeans and cleavage revealing tops! SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE FUCK?!
I definitely know that being able to rear children, and being able to birth them naturally is endlessly empowering to me. I love it, and I wouldn’t change it. I yearn for that love, that connection, the strength and the vulnerability. It is something experienced for a brief moment in time, but provides me with so much strength. Enough to propel me for years to come. But, I’ve said what needs to be said, it’s hard going and it’s unforgiving. It takes immense inner strength, grace, patience and dignity. That’s why only females can do it!
I love being able to do motherhood in this time, despite the immense pressures it brings. I’m so proud to have come from a long line of feminists. I have watched the women around me achieve great things. Things beyond my wildest dreams. I have watched them pursue these dreams gently and quietly, aggressively and loudly, tirelessly with passion, with strength, and with self belief. Some are still here and some are not. Every day I am thankful for the smart, kind and resilient ladies in my life.
These days, the experience of motherhood is different. Social media is huge. It’s the vehicle to connection in a time where we are isolated in a way we’ve never been before. But it’s also the window to infinite insecurity and subsequent comparison. Good? Bad? Hard to say.
Sometimes I look at other mums going about their daily business and I wonder whether they are all as happy and fulfilled as they seem, or if they question this gig as much as I do?
If I could change one thing it would be this – I’d bring back the village. The real village. A village where the friendship, support, family, love, trust, laughs and wine flow just as freely as the children do between houses!