In the age of social media, what’s next for women?

I am a mother, and I am tired.

I’m not tired of getting up in the night because other people need to use the bathroom. I’m not tired of tying shoelaces, wiping faces and pairing hundreds of tiny socks, all while being interrogated by two small but relentless torturers. And I’m not even tired of the exhaustingly perennial clutter.

Well, I am, of course, tired of all of those things. But you know what I’m even more tired of?

Talking about it.

For decades, centuries, millennia, the stories of women have been routinely swept under the rug, shut out of mainstream media, consigned to the ‘no further interest’ file.

Appropriating space

But social media has somewhat shifted that; now women’s stories are everywhere. Women are sharing, collaborating, arguing, talking about what the Tories are doing to the most vulnerable in our society, how to Mumsnet the fuck out of a chicken, and counting dead women.

And I love that; I love that we’re appropriating space whereas once upon a time we had none. I love that we’re taking control of conversations, publicly, and not just in our living rooms. I love that the minutiae of women’s lives are suddenly of interest – from what it feels like to run a meeting on no sleep, to how it feels when someone grabs your arse in the street, to how annoying it is to be halfway through a blog when your three year old spills porridge all over the kitchen floor. Excuse me.

The motherhood blogerati

And yet, I also find myself getting a bit bored of the conversation. There are what feels like 77 billion blogs by mothers floating around out there, from the earnest to the honest. We talk amongst ourselves endlessly about motherhood; what it’s like to be a working mother, a stay at home mother, a mother of boys, of girls, of both, of kids with challenges, extraordinary talents and everything in between.

But now that women’s opinions and feelings and passions are out in the light, I find myself a little disappointed that what we’re talking about so much is…ourselves. Or, more accurately, ourselves as mothers. Perhaps this is just the ‘Caitlin Moran’ stage of working out what it is we want to talk about, to shout about, to discuss. According to Moran…

‘(Women have) had to spend years kind of patting ourselves like we’ve just recovered from an explosion and going, are we okay? And once we’ve established that we’re okay, then it’s like, well what do we want to do?’

Motherhood is wallpaper

In this ludicrous, but sadly quite typical example, the level of angst involved in mothering is in overdrive:

And when you’re on the receiving end of great deluges of this type of over-analysed drivel, it becomes possible to think of mothers as a group of people struggling with a uniquely difficult and specific set of problems. And of course, some of us are.

However, given that over half of US women between 15 and 44 have had children, it’s actually, for most of us (dare I say it) a completely normal experience.  One that is, variously, hard, boring, tiring, stressful and wonderful. Often, motherhood is wallpaper; it’s the constant background, the spine that runs through life while lots of other things are going on.

And now, like Caitlin Moran asks, I want to know what’s next, for all of us?

I’ve got lots of things I want to do. One of them is being a good mother to my children. The other 47395 have nothing to do with my children. Maybe one day I’ll write about some of those other things.




I’ll hold your hand if you’ll hold mine…

The first time I held your hand was the day after you were born – the first full day of your life. I think. If I’m honest, I was drugged up to the eyeballs, attached to a catheter and half-crazed with exhaustion on your first day, and I struggle to remember all of the details. I do remember a nurse sticking a massive needle right into my thigh muscle without warning, and rolling her eyes when I cried out in pain –that, I remember.

But back to you. Truthfully, I was a little bit scared of you. You weighed less than eight pounds, smelled like strawberries, and had the tiniest pout I’d ever seen, but at the same time you were the human equivalent of a nuclear bomb that had just gone off in the centre of my life (and other places, but let’s not think about that right now.)

So, Day Two. Your Dad had gone home, laden with bags of washing, to get the house ready for us. You were in your little plastic box, blinking and stretching. I contemplated you from my bed. What was I supposed to do with you? You didn’t seem to want anything in particular. But in that moment I recognised the need to take control of what was beginning to seem like an overwhelming new life, so I lifted you up, sat back and rested you on my chest.

I said your name, over and over, until it really felt like yours. It’s a strange thing, naming a human, and I needed to embed it, both in your heart and mine. And so we just lay there together, quietly sowing the little seeds of your life, and of my life as a mother. I rested my finger in the curled up palm of your hand, pink and delicate as seashells, and you grabbed it.

Looking right into your eyes, I actually gasped – I remember it still – and I felt the connection that I had been evading since the moment you arrived. We held hands, that first time, and it meant everything to me.

We’ve held hands a million times now. Taking your first steps. Walking on the beach. Holding you up as you skate around the garden, always landing on your bum with a shout. Walking the hospital corridor with you after you’d been to visit your new baby brother. Every day. Going to the shops. It’s nothing special, but it’s forever special.

And so tomorrow, I’ll take your hand again, and walk you to school. School! When you were a baby I’d stand outside those gates, watching the mothers of giant children in bedraggled uniform, and look forward to your turn.

Now it’s here, I’m so full of pride that my throat feels like it might burst. I’m so full of sadness that you’re not that tiny baby any more, looking to me for everything you could ever need. I’m so full of excitement for everything you’re about to learn. I’ll hold your hand if you’ll hold mine, and that’s how it’s always been.