This probably isn’t the week to be reading about motherhood. The secondary school offers came out and, inexplicably, one of them had Pippin’s name on it. The toddler is toddling off to big school. So it’s no surprise that this collection of essays about motherhood left me feeling a bit tearful about the inevitable passage of time. That’s not to say I’m planning on following in Jodi Bartle’s footsteps and having a brood of six (why would you stop one short of a full Von Trapp?). But the stories about birth and the early days made me more than a little sentimental.
There’s a lot of variety in here, with women writing on all aspects of motherhood including veering towards the less discussed motherhood roles – the adoptive mother, the stepmother and the tragedy of a mother who never carried a baby to term, to borrow editor Katherine May’s words. There were some I connected with on a personal level – especially Saima Mir’s “Maternal Rage” – whereas others were interesting because they were so different to my own experience. There were essays about cross-cultural families and a mother dealing with her own autism, which I found fascinating. One essay on gender by Michelle Tea threatened to raise my eyebrows so far that they zipped off the top of my head but I ended up nodding along. I too reject the oppression that gender roles impose on children, or I would do if my children weren’t so goshdarn gender stereotyped. So I was relieved that even the most militant rejecter of gender roles has found herself in a similar predicament and has taken a similar journey to be at peace with that. I thought I was going to be lectured on how I shouldn’t let my girl wear tutus but it turned out to be one of the essays I had most empathy with. As Michelle Tea says “Acting as though the dismantling or upholding of the patriarchy rests on the shoulders of my two-year-old is madness”
What I liked most is how open and honest the writers are. Every one of the darkest moments of motherhood appears here – cracked nipples, birth injuries, postnatal depression. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for someone who is tentatively considering trying for their first child….it might make them run a mile. But for the battle-scarred among us who recognise all of this with a wry smile, it’s a good read. You might not agree with every opinion in every essay but whatever form your motherhood takes – conventional, adoptive, step – there will be something for you in here. Enjoy it.
“The Best Most Awful Job” is released on 19th March and available for pre-order now.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own.