When I last wrote I was waiting for scan results. They were mixed. I was obviously hoping for a miraculously clear scan but instead faced the news of a little bit of regrowth on my liver. A spot on my lung which we were watching has shown it’s hand – cancer. It’s very small and I’m hoping chemo will blast it. On the scale of things I remain much less cancery and in better health than at diagnosis which I am trying to focus on, rather than on the spread to my lung. I’m currently having round 17 of chemotherapy and am hoping it is still kicking those abnormal cells.
Now that is out of the way, I wanted to share some thoughts on motherhood which have been heavy on my mind lately. I’m doing so with a degree of trepidation as there have been some not very nice happenings in blogland over these issues lately.
For a few reasons I’ve been doing a lot more of Violet’s day to day care lately and I am loving it. We’ve been having a grand old time going to the park, doing the groceries and playing with our new puppy Laika. I can quite honestly say that this is the happiest I’ve ever been. Despite the spectre of cancer I’m feeling pretty well at the moment (chemo aside), emotionally pretty strong and loving being a normal mum. There are things I don’t enjoy about motherhood– number one of which is the seemingly never ending cleaning of the high chair. But on the whole I love it. Violet is amazing. Sometimes she’s a human bulldozer but no more so than your average senior public servant or ministerial staffer.
It seems fashionable lately to complain about motherhood and to almost celebrate and revel in sloth and laziness. There is a wonderful quote – health is a crown that only the sick can see – which has been coming to me often as I’ve been pondering this currently fashionable view of motherhood. To put it bluntly, from my perspective, whinging about your children implies a confidence that both you and they will always be there – a crown of certainty that I no longer have. I feel nervous writing this, as I know motherhood is hard. There is a lot of drudge and some loneliness and repetition, all overlaid with some serious tiredness. But I think it might be best to acknowledge these aspects and then move on, rather than making it the dominant narrative of the parenting experience.
As someone who has a tendency to slothfulness, over-sharing and a near enough is good enough mentality I can appreciate it to a degree. But I think being sick has changed this for me. Every choice and action feels weighted, every moment counts – that you might have only a much smaller number of days left to bring up your wonderful child and to imprint on her as best you can your love and your values.
It’s a heavy burden. When it was determined that my lung was indeed cancer I had a very low period where I felt like my life was shrinking – not just in length but breadth. No more career to go back to, no more financial independence or sense of my own agency. They were dark days – I flapped around looking for a lifeboat in the form of distraction. And I’m not sure what ultimately made these feelings pass, except perhaps that it is impossible to live in emotional extremes continuously.
And so I was cheered to see this post by The Sharpest Pencil, one of my favourite voices, on Facebook:
I understand the move away from the expectation of “perfect” parenting. I stand firmly against the soft focus picture of motherhood as the fulfilling and all consuming role of a woman. I advocate for the warts and all truth of what it’s really like to bring up small (and big) people. Honesty is important and support essential.
The Facebook/Instagram phenomenon means we once got to peek into other people’s lives and we only saw their trophy cabinet and not their wastepaper baskets. Now we seem to be seeing a lot more of the rubbish and not so much of the shiny stuff.Of course we see the curated images, the perfect meals and the happy kids but so much of the content seems to be about how boring, difficult and downright tedious it is to be a parent. And it is. But it is also life affirming and glorious and funny and when your kids grow up you realise how very short that time was.
Sometimes I think the pendulum has swung so far it’s going to hit us. While we’ve been so intent of making sure we are “real” and “authentic”, it seems that the moments of joy found in parenting are derided.
We are bombarded with articles affirming our right not to enjoy playing games with our kids, we tell each other all the time that it’s okay not to want to spend time at school sports or concerts. We are encouraged away from being “helicopter” parents to being “free range parents”. Some days it seems it’s all about getting your children grown and out of the house before they inflict too much of a mark on your personality, or your home.
Going forward I am determined to accept the drudge and focus on the joy. Best kid in the world! And best puppy – although getting a good shot of all of us is a challenge.