Do you ever have random thoughts crop up at you from nowhere?
I most certainly do. And so it was that last night, I was lying awake in bed, watching the rhythmic rise and fall of my three year old’s chest when my thoughts, as they tend to do, turned towards the concept of motherhood. Anyone who knows me or has read a few of my blogs would know that I’m fascinated by the topic of motherhood. It intrigues me – the politics, the intrigue, the martyrdom, the drudgery, the misconceptions, the mummy wars. All of it. I often find it consumes my thoughts and, perhaps I’m simply a boring conversationalist, but yes, my conversations with people generally tend to navigate back towards motherhood too. It doesn’t help that my work revolves around motherhood and mothers. So I’m surrounded by it. Obsessed, my husband says.
But back to last night. At 2.30am, I was for some reason, comparing in my mind motherhood to other formal professions. And I came up with this random analogy of the role of a mother in comparison to an architect.
Bear with me here.
I was thinking about the theories, concepts and rules that underpin all those things good mothers “should” do. And I began to wonder about how many of these “shoulds” are actually 100pc essential, must have, must do, non-negotiables. And how much of motherhood is completely up to us? Totally at our own discretion, upon which to exert our own creative licence, to adorn with our own preferences and beliefs, and to orchestrate according to our own wants and needs.
And it made me think of architecture.
Granted, most of my architectural knowledge comes from binge watching Kevin McCloud on Grand Designs, but here’s how I see it:
Architects have a few rules they MUST stick by. They have to make sure the creation they design abides by the laws of physics, that it is structurally sound and safe. That it’s stable, and won’t all come crashing down with the first winter downpour.
But apart from that, they have creative licence. They can do what they want. And they are applauded and lauded for it. In architecture, creativity and design flair are commended. Sure an architect works to a brief set down by their client. But within that brief they can go for broke. Try something out. Client doesn’t like it? Grab your eraser and try something different.
So why not Mums?
Why can’t we value and express our individuality and creativity. Why can’t we curate our own style of motherhood and implement it with confidence and flair? We have clients too. In our case, the clients are our children. And bet your bottom dollar your child will let you know if they don’t like your style of motherhood.
But I have a feeling that most of us never let our creative motherhood flag fly. Not for fear of what our pint-sized clients might say. But for concern about going against what the “experts” recommend, getting some cardinal rule of motherhood wrong, and being judged harshly by the “Mummy Mafia” – whoever they are.
We’ve lost our ability to mother intuitively, from our own hearts and minds, and so defer our parenting decisions to others. Why?
It’s because we don’t have rules. Sure we have morality and tradition and research and guidelines galore. But all of those things differ across the globe, and have so many motherhood theories have been muddied and altered and bent and broken over the decades. Certainly there are some theories that hold more weight than others – I often speak about them here on this blog. But theories aren’t rules. And they are still always open to interpretation.
So as it stands there are no set rules in motherhood.
And there’s the major difference between architects and mothers – at least the major difference in regard to this analogy. An architect’s “musts” are set in stone. I’m sure there’s a bunch of engineers and some sort of giant building quality standards rule-book document that outlines beyond a shadow of a doubt just what it takes to ensure a structurally sound design under the laws of physics. (Because unlike the “laws” of motherhood, the laws of physics haven’t changed at all in the past few centuries). Here’s another difference. Architects have a bunch of useful tools to help them abide by their musts, to check all the necessary angles and physics calculations, to make sure their design is up to scratch. Those fancy calculators, the good old protractor, and don’t forget all those computer assisted drafting software programs. And then I bet they have to get whatever they design checked off by someone before it gets built. I don’t know the name of the man or woman with the red rubber stamp. But I know they’re there. Giving a definitive yes or no.
Mothers never get a definitive yes or no.
That’s what makes motherhood hard.
Sure, there will be an expert for every situation to give you an absolute yes or no. But take two steps to your left and you’ll find some other expert who will give you the exact opposite response for that particular situation.
There’s very few “musts” that 100 percent of experts can agree on when it comes to motherhood. And that’s what makes motherhood hard.
So in an effort to make it a little easier for you, here’s my list of motherhood “musts”:
1: You MUST figure out what works for you and your family – try a hundred things – always with the best of intentions – and figure out what does and doesn’t work.
2: You MUST go into motherhood with an enormous sense of compassion – for yourself, for your child, for your husband or partner, for your own parents, for the family dog. For everyone. Compassion is like magic dust. Worth it’s weight in gold.
3: You MUST realise that no one thing works for 100pc of people, 100pc of the time – nothing.
4: You MUST live a life according to your values – those guiding principles by which you aim to create a richer, fuller, more meaningful life, for you and your family – figure out what the are and live by them in all that you do – including parenthood.
5: You MUST have confidence in your ability to know what’s right for you – you’re the expert in your own life. After all it is YOUR life.
6: You MAY disregard any of the above advice – because, see point one again.
So there you have my “musts”. I hope they help. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check ABC iview for the latest episode of Grand Designs.
Until next time,