Actress Sienna Miller is the latest in a string of high-profile celebrities to declare the ecstatic joys of motherhood. She was pictured in a London newspaper with her fiance after his first night in a new play at the Royal Court. The line she threw to journalists was that ‘everything was great’ about motherhood. She became a mother to baby Marlowe in July.
Now, I know that she can hardly go into a thesis about early motherhood with journalists standing outside a theatre on a celebrity safari hunt and nor would she want to. But can we be honest here and really ask ourselves if everything is great about motherhood.
Can’t a celebrity come clean and tell like it is occasionally? There are a fair few things I won’t miss, particularly in those first months:
- Leaky boobs and maternity bras
- Expressing milk with a machine
- Lack of sleep
- Feeling like a zombie
- Feeling like your life is suddenly suspended and not entirely yours
- Thinking your body has suddenly become your enemy
- Losing a scary amount of hair from my head
- Blending combinations of vegetables into unidentifiable mush
- Getting a stroller on a crowded London bus
Now that the kids are slightly older, I have a new list:
- Making dinner every single night after coming home from work, often with no idea of what’s in the fridge or how I will assemble it.
- Bath time, a half hour of screaming and chaos.
- Lack of sleep
- Picking up toys, picking up clothes and picking up cat hair. I’m always stooping.
- Brushing hair and teeth – more screaming, more chaos.
- Repeating myself endlessly.
- Illness every few weeks, sometimes accompanied by spontaneous vomiting.
- Picking the kids up, on foot, after a long day at work, dragging them home with the enthusiasm of a criminal being dragged in front of an execution squad.
Sure, I have loved aspects of motherhood. Yes, there are some amazing things about it. But I’d be kidding myself if I thought it was all some life-altering experience. It’s not.
Drew Barrymore recently said: ‘The best thing about being a mom is just what a better person it makes you on a daily basis.’
Really? I’ve had days when I’m pretty convinced it has made me a lunatic. The worst part is when you hear yourself sound like your parents. ‘You better not to do that or else you will regret it,’ I holler. I realize, as the words escape my mouth, just how powerless it makes me sound.
I’m guessing Drew hasn’t got to the bit where they talk back to you and try to hit you during a tantrum. Has she experienced an 11-hour plane ride with a frothing, furious child? That particular joy is probably yet to come or handled by the nanny.
It’s no secret that celebrities have it far easier than us ordinary mortals. They can pick and choose which bits of motherhood they like or how much of it they can handle in one day. They probably have a chef on hand to make meals. They don’t have to scratch their heads at lunchtime, wondering if pitta bread and hummus is too cruel several days in a row.
For the stay-at-home mother and the working mother, life can feel like a succession of chores sometimes.
So here’s the thing: I’m pretty convinced that as mothers we have to continuously wipe our memory banks clean of the messy, mucky parts of our job. No wonder they say that new mothers have terrible memories. It’s a coping mechanism or a survival strategy. If we remembered everything about motherhood, the species would probably go extinct.
I have asked my mother many times, ‘How did you cope?’ She often replies, ‘Oh, I don’t think you were that demanding. I don’t remember that much crying.’
She’s clearly completely wiped the experience from her memory – and I probably will too. It was Matthew Arnold who said: ‘And we forget because we must.’