Parents are Human Beings too

I was sitting outside a coffee shop this morning with my husband and son, and I happened to overhear the following snippet of conversation:

1st woman: “I saw x last week, she was complaining about the children.”

2nd woman: “What was she saying?”

1st woman: “She said she would do anything for a lie-in, and I thought, well you did choose to have them!”

2nd woman: “What can she expect?!”

I don’t know if these women have children of their own but they didn’t have any with them.  Abundantly clear, however, was the assumption that because the woman under discussion had chosen to have children, she had automatically abdicated the right to desire anything for herself.  The tacit agreement between the two women seemed to be that, because we have chosen to have children, we are automatically forbidden from embracing in life anything other than childcare and domesticity.

Of course we know that life is never going to be the same again and of course the welfare of our children must and always will come first with the majority of parents.  But that shouldn’t mean that there can’t be space in our lives for the little things.  Maybe, just once or twice in the next 18 years, we would like a lie in or a night out.   Or have 5 minutes peace.  Or maybe all three!  Not all in the same day, of course.  I used to wonder why women would smoke when they had children in the house, even if they went into the garden.  Now I understand completely; it’s five minutes of peace and quiet, time to themselves.

I wonder what the women would have said if it had been a father voicing this need for more.  Do we say to fathers, ‘well, you did choose to have them?’  How outraged are we when a father expresses the wish for a lie-in?  And how much more likely is he to be facilitated in that, do we think?  I don’t know the answers to these questions.  What I do know is that this woman was voicing only the desire for a lie-in, not a fortnight’s holiday in Barbados, just a lie-in, every now and then: a little thing.  Even if it’s practically difficult to organise, perhaps as a single parent for example, she should still have the right to express her need without this kind of smug reaction from other women.

All parents are different and some aspects of having children will bother us more than others.  For example, I don’t mind the early mornings and don’t particularly crave a lie-in, but I do find that the chronic lack of even a few consecutive minutes of peace and quiet does bother me.  I have a friend who doesn’t seem to be aware of the noise level produced by her children but does notice the state of constant disarray into which her house has descended since their arrival.  Another doesn’t care about the chaos but does mind the early mornings.  Different things will push different buttons in different parents and I do not believe that having a child automatically means that we no longer have any right to the things that once made us feel human and grown up.

I think this is why I’m so irritated by the phrase ‘stay at home mum’ when it’s applied to me (others are entitled to use it if they wish).  Stay at home is the last thing I do, with or without my child.  It feels like a judgement and makes me sound as if I have opted out of the world and chosen only the safe domain of my own four walls.  Good luck to anyone who has done that and is content, it doesn’t suit me.  I may be a full time mum, but I’m still a social human being too.  At least I was, the last time I checked properly.  Poorly informed comment of the kind displayed by those women this morning only serves to indicate how much retaining an identity of our own really matters.

This entry was posted in Bit of Me Time. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Parents are Human Beings too

  1. Susan Mann says:

    This is very true were are human beings x

  2. It’s very true and it’s an indication of how our society views mothers as former human beings.

  3. Gemma says:

    Wow – I agree, this is so true! I’ve recently written a post about how I kick myself when someone asks me what I do, and I say that “i’m JUST a stay at home mum”. It’s as if I admit that this is a menial job before they can make a judgement themselves. I know it’s blimming hard work and the most important job in the world, but people around me do seem to think that I have taken the easy option! And I am not doing any of us any favours by belittling myself and my choices!!
    Brilliant post, by the way, which has really got me thinking.x

  4. older mum says:

    So so so true. Really great post. Just because we subsume our needs by tending to those of our child does not mean we don’t have needs and that they should be ignored.’ Stay at home mum’ – you are right – it is demeaning – after all even if we are ‘at home’ we are doing a multitude of creative things.

  5. Well said! I couldn’t agree more about the stay at home label too, although I always use it to take the piss out of myself, and as a way-in to talking about my proud record of underachievement! But deep down I feel very peeved about the lack of status sahms are accorded. I also feel that sahms should be paid some kind of minimum wage. If the evidence is correct (see a report called The Next Generation by the Centre of Social Justice), we are engaged in an extremely economically productive role, as we are raising kids who will be confident, and secure, and therefore contribute economically to society (as opposed to being a burden on the state). Also, if you paid women or men to stay at home (if they want to) and look after their kids, then you also create vacancies in the job market and take some of the burden, for instance, off the welfare state? Hey, as you can probably tell, I’m no economist! blah, blah, blah, pass me the gin and tonic, it’s gone lunchtime … only joking!!

  6. Alexandra says:

    I recently wrote a similar post titled ‘mums are people too!’
    You’ve worded this perfectly. I learnt after writing my post that the positive thing out of this is that ‘parents get other parents’ – so there is always another mum or dad out there to support you because they understand. I love this about parenthood! Great post xx